A dramatic new civic centre and library called The Exchange has opened in Sydney, and its eye-catching circular design includes an outer layer of 20,000m of wooden screen wraps.

The Exchange building in Darling Square
The design includes an outer layer of 20km of wooden screen wraps © Lendlease

The Exchange is a six-storey building located in Darling Square, a new neighbourhood connecting Darling Harbour with Chinatown, Haymarket and Ultimo. Darling Square is being developed by property company Lendlease as part of the New South Wales government’s 20-hectare revitalisation of the area next to Haymarket and Darling Harbour. It is Japanese architect Kengo Kuma's's first building in Australia.

Lunar New Year Festival at The Exchange in Australia
Lunar New Year at The Exchange © Lendlease

The spiral-like building is wrapped in 20km of sustainably-sourced timber ribbons, which offer passersby glimpses of the action inside and filter natural light into the building. Kuma has studios in Tokyo and Paris, and he is known for his playful use of timber. He has designed many iconic buildings and was chosen to create the latticed-timber national stadium that will be the centrepiece of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

People sitting outside The Exchange in Australia
The Exchange has a food hall offering a casual dining experience © Lendlease

"Our aim is to achieve 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 recognisable from multiple directions," says 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 "The wooden screen wraps the exterior of the building in a dynamic and exciting manner, a historical reference to Darling Harbour originally being a hive of business activity and a focal point as a market exchange."

People sitting outside The Exchange in Sydney
The Exchange is in Darling Square © Lendlease

Now open to the public, The Exchange is the home of Darling Square Library, a childcare centre, a market hall called Maker’s Dozen and an Ideas Lab, where collaborators can innovate, learn new skills or take their first steps to setting up a business. It also has XOPP restaurant by Golden Century on the mezzanine and a rooftop bar that offer views over the Chinese Gardens, Tumbalong Park and Cockle Bay.

People in Maker's Dozen Food Hall in The Exchange
Maker's Dozen food hall in The Exchange © Dallas Kilponen/Lendlease

Sydney architects, Bligh Voller Nield, designed the modern interiors of the library, which feature a collection of over 30,000 items, including an Asian literature collection, a dedicated children’s area and space to read, work or study. It has replaced the former Haymarket library, which has now closed.

Further information on The Exchange and Darling Square can be found here.

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