The day of Barangaroo’s grand opening was grey with a light spitting of rain. Fortunately, a project on such a grand scale requires not just one day of grand opening, but an entire three-month ‘Welcome Celebration’, so a day’s worth of bad weather wasn’t the end of the world!
Barangaroo precinct is an ambitious (and fairly controversial) urban renewal project on Sydney’s foreshore, where what was once a shipping terminal is in the process of being transformed into a combination of commercial and residential infrastructure and a large public reserve. While not all of it is complete, the public spaces have now been officially opened and are celebrating with “12 weekends of Welcome Celebration” – a selection of free events occurring, as the name suggests, over 12 consecutive weekends (until the end of November).
We happened to be in the vicinity on opening day itself and decided that a quick stickybeak was in order. We found that Barangaroo Reserve was a masterpiece of landscaping and large-scale outdoor architecture – the open spaces looked like they would be perfect for picnics and general wanderings in the future (though they were rather crowded at the time, being opening day). Barangaroo places a considerable emphasis on the preservation of Aboriginal culture and heritage, as evidenced in, among other things, the name (which it shares with an Aboriginal woman who was known to the early British colonists), the use of Australian native plants throughout the landscaping and the traditional musicians and activities associated with the Welcome Celebration. I spotted a ‘Women’s Weaving Circle’ on my brief walk around the headland, and enjoyed some live music by Aussie musicians OKA, featuring a didgeridoo, saxophone, bass and drums – an unusual but awesome combination – as I went.
Food was also a theme of the Welcome Celebration. A number of temporary food stalls had been set up in the Cutaway – a huge cavern built into the new artificial headland – selling delicious goodies from a few Sydney food institutions (Bourke Street Bakery, anyone?), and outside I spotted the cutest retro-styled ice-cream van I’d ever seen!
Visiting Barangaroo was a pleasant diversion, even with less-than-ideal weather and a fairly large crowd. The sensitive and respectful treatment of aboriginal culture displayed in the Welcome Celebration was encouraging and I’m hopeful that Barangaroo will continue to develop, be widely used and be a great space for Sydneysiders to make their own.
Sydneysiders – have you visited Barangaroo yet? What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments!