Yagan Square embodies a new urban typology, fusing culture, history, art, food, architecture and landscape. A captivating civic landmark, the new world-class cultural and civic space has revitalised the heart of Perth.
With a renewed sense of place and position, Yagan Square is located within one of the city’s busiest pedestrian zones, establishing a major transit hub linking to the central Perth Train Station and Busport. Urban connections are forged, realigning the city with its prior landscape and linking the city to Northbridge for the first time. The $73.5 million, 1.1 hectare project, four years in the making, was delivered by the Western Australian Government through the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA). It is the result of a pioneering collaboration between Lyons Architecture (lead consultant), iredale pedersen hook architects and ASPECT Studios and the Whadjuk Working Group.
Importantly, this land once formed part of an extensive wetland system which was a significant meeting and food gathering space for Aboriginal people. Yagan Square forms a critical piece of Perth’s decade-long City Link redevelopment plan to address the separation of the city centre from Northbridge by sinking railway infrastructure and in-filling with commercial redevelopment, entertainment precincts and public open space.
Yagan Square is a convergence of geologies, tracks, narratives and cultures. Named for Whadjuk warrior, Yagan, the early stages of design created opportunities for involvement by the Whadjuk Working Party and South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council. The project has established an inclusive and welcoming destination with a focus on reconciliation, culture and urban repair. The project has formed a place of recognition for the Whadjuk story, creating a meeting place for people from all walks of life.
Everything at Yagan Square has been designed with intent: from the custom grown Eucalyptus trees and wildflower gardens, to interpretations of former Indigenous tracks through the site and the digital canopies (shade) symbolising the area’s once-present lakes. The digital tower is designed to symbolise the bulrushes once found on the lake system in the area, while the 14 surrounding bulrushes that propel into the sky from the tower represent the 14 Noongar language groups.
Capable of seating over 2,000 people, Yagan Square’s amphitheatre’s generous scale is broken down through plantings, lawn and a monumental metal canopy which floats over large sections of the steps and ramp. From this elevated position, the space catches cooling breezes, while the high canopy, referencing past wetlands, modulates light throughout the day.
Offering a range of experiences, from green spaces to market halls, eateries, immersive public art and digital media, Yagan Square is intended as an ever-changing civic centre where Western Australia’s cultural past, present and future collide.
ASPECT Studios worked with a range of artists on the project, including multi-disciplinary artist Jonathan Tarry, whose sculptural water feature, aptly named Waterline, is informed by the Western Australian landscape and water formations and reflect the site’s past landowners.
Providing urban definition, with inflected spaces, the civic presence of Yagan Square has resulted from the underlying systems of place. The small site footprint with its associated challenges has resulted in a design response that has delivered cultural density within the constraint of spatial density. The result is an iconic destination that showcases West Australian heritage, environment, produce and culture, and which is embraced by locals and visitors alike. The new heart of Perth, Yagan Square stands as a global blueprint for successful public realm design.