“One of the most interesting aspects of the project was working with each of the architects on the interfaces to their buildings and of course working with the remarkable Jonathan Jones who is a First Nation artist of significant repute who has integrated his artwork within both the architecture and the public domain’’. Quote by Sacha Coles, ASPECT Studios.

Quay Quarter Lanes with its associated developments represents an historic change in the built form and character of the greater Circular Quay area producing a new landscape and taking the city into a new era. It is an urban revitalisation project both economically and socially and one which respects history and past building. At its heart it is for people, a major pedestrianisation project. These outcomes are the result of an intense and sustained design collaboration with the public interest in mind, along with an enlightened developer/client and creative city government.

About the Authors

Sacha Coles is the Design and Strategy Director of ASPECT Studios and the Project Director of Quay Quarter Lanes and 50 Bridge Street.
Contact: +61 2 9699 7182

Bianca Pineda is Senior Associate and Project Lead of Quay Quarter Lanes.
Contact: +61 2 9699 7182


Loftus Lane photography – copyright Florian Groehn

The completed Quay Quarter Lanes project is part of a larger Quay Quarter Sydney precinct development due to be completed in 2022.  This major urban revitalisation is located on the south side of the multi-modal transport terminal at Circular Quay and behind Sydney’s first skyscraper in the international style at 33 Alfred Street about to undergo a remake.

ASPECT Studios, a Sydney based global design practice specialising in landscape architecture, urban design, wayfinding, and urban strategy, was involved from the very early stages. They were engaged by the client AMP Capital to work with the Danish firm 3XN Architects, the winning designers for the adjacent AMP Quay Quarter Sydney tower, on the Stage One Development Application to the City of Sydney for the entire 2 blocks and surrounding streets of the city precinct.  That first stage DA established the framework for the public domain and the ground plane throughout. ASPECT was then commissioned to work alongside five selected architects (SJB as coordinating Architects, Silvester Fuller, Studio Bright, Carter Williamson, and Lippmann Partnership) for various building projects to develop the precinct design all the way through to construction. There are five artworks scattered throughout which tell the story of a First Nation’s man Arabanoo who was central to the fist engagement with the European people. https://en.wikipefdia.org/wiki/Arabanoo

A new laneway with a public artwork by Jonathan Jones

Quay Quarter Lanes, as a component of the larger Quay Quarter Sydney entity is bounded by Customs House to the north and Young and Loftus Streets to the east and west respectively.  It has Loftus Lane running down its length as the framed urban centrepiece for the project.

Loftus Lane photography – copyright Florian Groehn

Loftus Lane was a landlocked former service laneway like many in the city, not memorable for anything other than its primary role for drop-off and logistics. This hidden gem has been redesigned and upgraded as the central pedestrian spine of the large city block to form a connective public space at the centre of the Quay Quarter Lanes development project. Quay Quarter Lanes includes all of the buildings, the retail developments, and the interfaces to the upgraded Loftus Lane.   

The transformation of this city block comes at a time when the whole of Circular Quay is being refocussed as a pedestrian oriented place. Following the building of the George Street light rail from Central Station down to Circular Quay and government plans to develop the ferry wharfs and promenade, there has been an incremental upgrading of Alfred Street (alongside the elevated Cahill Expressway rail and roadway parallel to the quay) together with improvement to the north-south streets that feed into the basin of Circular Quay, namely, Young Street, Loftus Street and Pitt Street.

All of this development is coupled with a once in a generation major infrastructure commitment by the New South Wales Government with its building of a new Sydney Metro.  This subterranean fast passenger rail system crosses the city on an east-west north-south axis at Hunter Street delivering people more seamlessly into the city close to Quay Quarter

Along with these infrastructure and public space changes has been a series of private developments that include: The transformed AMP tower building at 50 Bridge Street; upgrade to the Gateway retail complex at 1 Macquarie Place; developer LEND LEASE’s 180 George Street tower; developer Mirvac’s new commercial tower at 155 Pitt Street together with the new hotel/mixed use development at 1 Alfred Street (These sites located within the city block bound by Alfred, Pitt, Dalley and George Street are known as the APDG Block. The block is currently in transition with a number of large redevelopment projects under construction to the north of the subject site as a result of alternative controls included in the LEP) and, further back, the recently proposed City of Sydney’s high-rise tower cluster around Bridge Street through to Hunter Street, with the renovated sandstone buildings in between.

This is a massive building program by any standards showing a city really on the move with consequent changes to its form and character.

Loftus Lanes is at a different scale to these major city shaping developments but nestles in comfortably with the whole. It creates an intimate city fabric that complements its surroundings. This is best experienced by walking through the arcades and public connections which lead into the Loftus Lane spine of Quay Quarter, and by experiencing the details, materials, textures, and multitude of spatial surprises that one finds in old European cities. Loftus Lanes, moreover, is a truly mixed development which gives the area its urbanism.

The first tranche of development comprises three new mixed-use buildings and two heritage adaptation buildings.  As a compositional whole they are the little sibling to the larger and more visually prominent tower redevelopment designed by 3XN at 50 Bridge Street and associated landscapes to the east of the Loftus Lanes block.  In the case of the Quay Quarter lanes, a cohort of emerging Australian design talent was selected in a unique design excellence process with the City of Sydney.

In programmatic terms the area contains residential, retail, heritage, commercial and special uses which help activate the area by day and night.  The design process, and associated design authorship, involved the five architects and one landscape architect coming together to design the place as a coherent whole.  Continuity of a landscape and urban design approach throughout the complex design process has delivered the Quay Quarter lanes, the first half of a cohesive and totally integrated public domain. The approach to landscape architecture and urban design has been to “stitch together, not stand out,” and to ensure a continuity in the quality of visual experience from the very south-west to the north-east corner.

In contemporary city design we have largely lost the art of designing detail, which enriches the pedestrian experience and also urban living. In Quay Quarter Lanes attention has been paid to detail. There is joy in the detail throughout.

An historically familiar material palette has been adopted, particularly legible in the two sandstone buildings fronting Loftus Lane, Gallipoli and Hinchcliff.  These two buildings have been completely renovated. The garden planting palette sets the tone for a lane to be enjoyed and delighted in, with the pockets of garden designed within the limits of municipal maintenance regimes. Precast concrete elements meet the challenges posed by local dogs, hot chips, and banh mi droppings. Filigree brass elements shine today but promise to weather with the passing of time to produce a future natural character.

Enmeshed within the landscape are artworks by Jonathan Jones. These reset the clock on the City’s origin story, beyond the timestamp of the treasured heritage building fabric. First Nations and Colonial heritage find their place within the built fabric of the laneway and ultimately rest in a quiet tension that challenges our minds.

Loftus Lane photography – copyright Florian Groehn

A new laneway with a public artwork by Jonathan Jones

While these rich and sumptuous details are to be celebrated and delighted in, they are anchored by the very serious ambition to contribute to a more walkable and welcoming city.  Perhaps the masterstroke, from the point of view of the pedestrian, is the rationalisation of vehicular building entries to one basement entry – liberating the lane for other uses. Quay Quarter Lanes has become a vibrant cultural hub of fine grain retail, world-class restaurants, cafes and pocket bars.  It also accommodates high quality apartment living appropriate for this location.

There are two important spaces to come in the next stage of development. There will be a publicly accessible rooftop on the 50 Bridge Street tower building, where views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a new artwork by the Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson have been designed as an integrated ceiling to ASPECT Studios’ roof terrace design.  Importantly, Goldsborough Lane will be reformed as a through-site link, thereby restoring the long-lost linkage of Young Street with Phillip Street.

The public spaces comprising Quay Quarter Lanes are an exercise in restraint and discipline. There has been an unwavering commitment to the design vision through waves of influence. This has left the place better, not battered by a process which could easily have diluted the vision of a pedestrian environment. Loftus Lanes has contributed delightful addition to public urban space. The city now has a lacework of lanes, streets and squares which work their way back from the water’s edge to right through the city, in a Quarter that nestles in between major surrounding urban developments and forms part of the city’s future.

Loftus Lane photography – copyright Florian Groehn

Success in delivering city-shaping architecture and urbanism requires patience, vision, a firm commitment to established design principles and an openness to adapt. These are the qualities which this project design team exemplify and for which the city has been richly rewarded.


The client for this project is AMP Capital. ASPECT Studios (Public Domain/Landscape) initiated the design process with Danish architects 3XN (who also designed the separate AMP tower building at 50 Bridge Street in partnership with BVN) and carried the project through to completion. Members of the design collaboration for Quay Quarter Lanes were SJB Architects (9-15 Young Street) (coordinating Architects), Silvester Fuller Architects (18 Loftus Street), Studio Bright (8 Loftus Street), Lippmann Partnership (Gallipoli Memorial Club building on Loftus Street), Carter Williamson Architects (Hinchcliff House the former Wool Store on Young Street), JPW (Johnson Pilton Walker Architects – currently undertaking upgrades to 33 Alfred Street) and Jonathan Jones (Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist).

ASPECT Studios may be accessed at: aspect-studios.com