Hybrids - New Town


Project background

During the engagement process undertaken by the City of Hobart to determine the scope, priorities and design direction for the New Town retail precinct upgrade, the community have expressed their wish to have an artwork which would bring life and colour to the space and at the same time be functional and practical.

To meet the needs of the community, the City of Hobart has commissioned an artist to create an engaging and enduring public artwork that reflects the identity of the area, appeals to people of all ages and remains contemporary and relevant for the long term.

Matt Drysdale, a Tasmanian-born artist from the Office for Collective Design (the OCD), has been chosen through a nationwide selection process for his concept Hybrids. The concept offers a series of sculptural landmarks that offer other functions, including seating, planting and places for posting community notices. Matt developed the Hybrids as a result of analysing of the streetscape and gaining an understanding of the community desire for a bold work that defined the New Town retail strip.

Matt Drysdale is working closely with the City of Hobart Design and Planning team adjusting various aspects of the concept in order to develop the final version of the artwork to be delivered in 2020.

Public artist selection process

Once community priorities were established for the overall New Town Retail Precinct Upgrade project, a commissioning brief was advertised nationally.

The panel for selection of both the shortlisted and the selected artist comprised members of:

  • Public Art Advisory Panel (four representatives)
  • New Town Community (four representatives)
  • City of Hobart Public Art team (three representatives)
  • City of Hobart Planning and Design team (four representatives).

Three artists were shortlisted by the selection panel. The selected artists participated in a comprehensive briefing day that included sessions with the design team, the public art team, the children and families team, the community engagement team and the community, and also a site walk.

Matt Drysdale was selected as the public artist to develop, fabricate and install his concept Hybrids.

With recognition of both the scale of the precinct and ambition of the selected concept, the total budget for the project has been set at $85 000 with funds from the Public Art Budget and the infrastructure budget.

Commissioning brief

The commissioning brief required the artwork to satisfy three key criteria:

Be integrated: the rejuvenation will include a range of changes to the road, paths, lighting, street furniture and street planting. Elements of the public art response can be physically integrated with this work, or carefully developed to be complementary with the overall retail precinct design.

Engage creatively with the notion of a shared movement corridor: After the refurbishments, the precinct will remain a key transport corridor for pedestrians, cyclists, buses and vehicles. Given the length of the project area and importance of this function, strong artistic responses will engage with these qualities and contribute to a rich experience of passing through at the speed and attention of a walker, driver or passenger. The urban design concept – that has evolved with the City of Hobart working in collaboration with the Project Action Team – has established a series of nodes along the road that defines the retail precinct and the artwork can respond to these points through a series of public art elements.

Provide opportunities for urban play: As an area for regular use by families, the refurbishment of this precinct offers the opportunity to incorporate urban elements that are playful and engaging for all ages, but particularly children. An artwork might introduce playful, surprising or curious elements that are integrated in the streetscape and enjoyed by all people including children as they transit through the precinct. The City of Hobart is interested in increasing the opportunities for children and their caregivers to interact meaningfully with their city, from the central business district to the surrounding suburbs and also recognises that a playful city can be enjoyable for everyone. 

Download the New Town Retail Precinct Upgrade: Public Art Opportunity Brief(PDF, 814KB).

About the artist

Matt Drysdale is a well-acknowledged, internationally acclaimed urban designer. The Office for Collective Design studio (the OCD) founded by Matt is approaching its ten-year anniversary providing successful design solutions in Australia and abroad.

Matt has extensive experience working as a major projects designer for an Australian designer and master planner Daryl Jackson, International practice Woods Bagot, as well as holding design consultancy roles for several additional architecture studios.

Matt describes the OCD studio's work:

“Most of our work exists in a realm caught somewhere between the landscape and built environment. My thinking is beginning to question the apparent disconnect between habitation and our landscape, meaning and place-making”.

For more information, visit the OCD studio website.

About Hybrids

"We all want visitors to pause and explore, children to play and interact, pedestrians to rest and friends to meet and mingle". – Matt Drysdale

Working with all of the briefing information provided, Matt Drysdale developed the concept Hybrids that responds to:

  • The physical characteristics of the space itself – The length and scale of the retail strip, the eclectic nature of the buildings.
  • The character of New Town – as gauged from the briefings with local community members and the documented consultation with children.

Matt heard of a community desire for:

  • Bold, multi-purpose and functional public art that would define, enhance and identify the gateways.
  • Colour and life for the public space.
  • Cohesion and identity in the streetscape.
  • Green open spaces for children that could be incorporated as a seating and/or a cemented performative area for skating.
  • A poster pole in the Cross Street, New Town Road and the Valentine Street junction area.
  • Street planting and street furniture.

Extracts from Matt Drysdale's concept presentation

Hybrids – Statement

Our sculptures are a strategic abstraction with a purpose.

They are artistic chameleons fulfilling a practical use:

to provide shelter, shade, rest & fun

to become backdrops for a diverse community,

whilst becoming a threshold to welcome & inspire visitors

and to serve and inspire the imagination of all ages.

Background of approach

Building on the concept of threshold, I have explored many ways to signify or express an artistic and sculptural identity for New Town whilst understanding some key criteria as outlined. I've learned that there is an opportunity to provide an integrated series of public sculptures that not only attract and inspire, but also provide a series of functional purposes.

Strategic approach

The key strategy for this proposal is to design and deliver an integrated public sculpture that serves a hybrid purpose – Exciting the senses, while performing additional practical functions. The designs are modular and can be implemented as a cohesive whole, independently and also in staging.

The sculptures are intended to be integrated into the retail precinct upgrades as reflected by the attached site plans and have the flexibility to be refined, revised and developed with involvement of the HCC urban design team. This also provides an opportunity for seeking potential additional funding to provide additional functions. These sculptures need to be legible and interactive at varying levels of urban scale.

Urban design

The precinct spans approx. 1 km, which is a 10-15-minute walk with a mixture of typologies. There are obvious nodes and what could be perceived as the centre of the precinct at the intersection of New Town Road with Cross and Valentine streets. I have identified potential locations for artworks derived from site investigation and the proposed retail precinct upgrade works. The sculptures are to be located in visible areas as well as at the key entry nodes.

Hybrids design

Design approach

It is proposed that the easily recognisable elements are positioned along the precinct corridor. These elements are designed to provide an exciting artistic point of difference for Hobart, rarely experienced before that contribute to defining New Town. The elements could be experienced at a local intimate pedestrian level or contribute to the greater artistic city language that is developing around Hobart over recent years.

New Town artwork locations


Some key things picked up from our site visit were a lack of public street trees because of existing infrastructure and site constraints, the opportunity for annual community street parties and how the sculptures can be integrated within this, the importance of legibility at varying distances and also experiencing the sculptures both night and day.

We all want visitors to pause and explore, children to play and interact, pedestrians to rest and friends to meet and mingle.

When thinking about how to possibly introduce trees and landscaping along the street, I explored the use of planters and how the planters themselves become objects of interest. The other key influence was that together with street trees and landscaping it would be nice to introduce seating and reclining opportunities within the art work.

Sculpture with a purpose

A key inspiration was to explore public sculptures that have impact at a civic and urban level and also perform additional functions in the urban realm that are useful.

Images: Extracts from the Hybrids concept, Matt Drysdale

View the Hybrids concept presentation(PDF, 11MB).