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University launches new digital placemaking Footbridge Gallery

26 February 2019
Is this the new global model for urban art galleries?
The University of Sydney has launched the Footbridge Gallery, a digital placemaking area embedded in the landscape of the University using light, sound and music to create an open, shared space.

Global urban galleries

The Gallery is a hub for showcasing dynamic, experimental content by artists, including staff and students, pioneering the emerging model of urban galleries proliferating around the globe bringing together creatives from many disciplines and communities.

The Footbridge Gallery is the brainchild of Dr Luke Hespanhol and Associate Professor Martin Tomitsch from the University’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning who worked together at the Design Lab, an interdisciplinary research group within the school, exploring interactions between people and digital technologies.

“We’ve been working on the University's broader placemaking initiatives, following on from a study conducted by Gehl Architects, which identified key precincts on campus for activation into lively and shared public spaces open not only for the University community but also to the general public,” said Dr Hespanhol.

The Footbridge Gallery brings together the work of all its communities – students, staff, alumni, creatives, and residents in adjacent areas – for all of those who feel a sense of place and belonging on these Gadigal lands that have for thousands of years been a gathering and journeying place.
Professor Richard Miles, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education – Enterprise and Engagement)

Placemaking on campus

“The findings and recommendations of the study were consolidated into the Gehl Public Realm Strategy for the University of Sydney, which has since informed key pilot projects with a focus on placemaking.

“We’ve been working closely with the University’s Campus Infrastructure Services for the past 18 months on the development of the Gallery.

“A core objective, from the outset, was to enable learning and research displays, using the public realm for the exhibition and promotion of work developed by University of Sydney students, researchers and staff,” said Dr Hespanhol.

“We chose to situate the Footbridge Gallery in the area of the ‘Footbridge Plaza’ – the space leading up to Parramatta Road’s footbridge – abutting Holme Building, Footbridge Theatre, Old Geology Lecture Theatre and Edgeworth David Building, as a literal and metaphorical link from community into the learning and research at the University,” explained Dr Tomtisch.

For the first 12 months of operation, Dr Hespanhol, who is also a practising artist and has just held a prestigious residency in China will be managing those platforms, providing technical support and curating the content.

Bringing our communities together

“In addition to displaying works by our Architecture, Design and Planning students, we will be collaborating with other faculties and external communities – Glebe and Redfern initially – so that works by all of our communities can be displayed in the space,” says Dr Hespanhol.

“The Footbridge Gallery brings together the work of all its communities – students, staff, alumni, creatives, and residents in adjacent areas – for all of those who feel a sense of place and belonging on these Gadigal lands that have for thousands of years been a gathering and journeying place. The original Blackwattle Swamp – on which this area of the University is built – has important ceremonial and spiritual connections,” said Professor Richard Miles, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education – Enterprise and Engagement).

“The development of the campus as an open, creative space is a key pillar of our strategic themes, engaging with our communities, showcasing our teaching and research and building a generational sense of community and belonging,” concluded Professor Miles.

Living lab

The Footbridge Gallery currently offers three main “living lab” spaces, as well as a stage for performances:

  • The Dash Wall a fully-programmable low-resolution LED media façade on the wall of the Holme Building. The system running the façade is based on software and hardware platforms taught to our students in the Master of Interaction Design and Electronic Arts and the Design Computing degrees.
  • Flicks On Bricks is a projection-based show of short videos including digital artworks, data visualisations and other material highlighting student and staff work.
  • Moodulation is an audio-based installation converting the noise of Parramatta Road into sounds of waves and birds positioning the Gallery very much in its environment but modulating and transforming its aural landscape.
  • The Footbridge Stage, a timber stage equipped with high-quality speakers, facing the grassed area outside the Old Geology Lecture Theatre.

The Footbridge Gallery welcomes suggestions for events and projects.

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