Darlinghurst Law Courts to become centre of new cultural precinct

Its multi-million dollar masterplan expansion, which requires NSW budget approval, provides for double-height studio and gallery spaces under its unique model of small atelier-based classes and intensive tuition.

NAS’s chief executive Steven Alderton said he would like to see some kind of entry to the art school from the main thoroughfares around Darlinghurst Road.

“As well we would like to be able to do something with the law courts into the future, but that is not for us to decide. We would put our hand up as a major arts tenant on-site to see how we can make art accessible for more people as a 21st-century art school.”

He said the key to revitalising Sydney was repopulating the increasingly gentrified inner-city suburbs of Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, and Paddington with artists, musicians, and other creatives.

“From my perspective the most exciting thing we can do for urban renewal is to bring artists back talking about art, making art. It’s the people that make a suburb or community, not buildings.

“Certain entities would like to see a quiet suburban Darlinghurst. We need to be an energetic, vibrant arts-led city where we can enjoy our 24-hour economy with arts important to that rather than watching TV in an inner-city apartment.”


Apart from opening up NAS and the Law Courts, council wants to establish an innovation and design precinct in Pyrmont and Ultimo, a performance precinct in Kings Cross, and a 24-hour precinct in Alexandria.

Warehouses in Alexandria are considered ideal for design, production and manufacturing, experimental art spaces, and late-night venues.

These spaces could be secured using Creative Land Trusts, not-for-profit landholders that acquire and create property for creative and cultural purposes, the council’s strategy says.

London’s Creative Land Trust has secured its third property and wants to create 1000 new artist studio spaces within five years.

At last count four years ago, the creative industries employed 6.5 per cent of the CBD’s total workforce in 33,000 jobs, across 1,800 businesses.


It’s not known the extent to which the industries have contracted during the global pandemic but they “were one of the first sectors to close and may be among the last to return to pre-COVID levels of activity”.

New planning laws to be debated by council Monday would allow developers and property owners along Oxford St to trade additional floor space for cultural use and turn basements into entertainment venues and permit NAS’s studio ambitions.

Council has committed to finding at least 40,000 additional square metres worth of new cultural production space by 2036.

It was a target Sydney Fringe Director Kerri Glasscock said amounted to a call for action across government, landowners, property developers and the creative sector to build the spaces the city needs and wants.

Sustainable Sydney 2030-2050 Continuing the Vision will be exhibited for community feedback before being presented to council for adoption in June.

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