Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, known for his innovative use of wood, has made a splash with his first building in Australia. Located in Sydney's Darling Square, The Exchange is a mixed-use civic building whose entire exterior is wrapped with timber to create a visually stunning nest around its windows. By using organic forms and materials, the Japanese architect places The Exchange in harmony with the nature that surrounds it, standing in stark contrast to the harsh geometric structures of the surrounding buildings.
“Our aim is to achieve an architecture that is as open and tangible as possible to the community, and this is reflected in the circular geometry that creates a building that is accessible and recognizable from multiple directions,” shared Kuma. “The wooden screen wraps the exterior of the building in a dynamic and exciting manner, a historical reference to Darling Harbour originally being a hive of business activity and a focal point as a market exchange.”
The Exchange is the heart of Darling Square, which was once the site of a parking lot and entertainment center. The seven-story building helps animate the pedestrian-focused area and includes both retail and civic spaces. Three stories are used for retail shops and restaurants, including a market, while two others house the Sydney Library. The last two levels, which are leased by Commonwealth Bank of Australia, are used for child care.
By extending the timber out into the square, Kuma gives continuity to the overall space and creates a shady pergola for visitors to lounge. The building is just one part of a larger project that aims to revitalize Darling Harbor. And as a focal point for the community, The Exchange is sure to attract residents and visitors alike.