The lowdown on Sydney’s Chippendale
THE TRAIN PULLS IN to Sydney’s Central Station surrounded by a framework of steel and metal; the tracks below, the beams above and the web of cables stretching this way and that. It’s a sight that barely registers with the average commuter; it simply blends in to the daily grind. But on this day, with my back facing my destination for once, the industrial surrounds fade into the background as a calming wall of greenery pushes to the fore. Defined by the largest en masse vertical gardens in the world, which cover 1100 square metres and beautifully dress the building’s exterior, Central Park is the multipurpose high-rise that stands proud in Sydney’s revived Chippendale precinct. The restorative sight is a fair metaphor for the regeneration of Chippendale itself; a revival that has transformed the small inner-city locale from seedy wasteland to creative epicentre. The Central Park development can take a bow for its role in the revival. So too can Nicky Ginsberg, who saw Chippendale’s potential when she opened NG Art Gallery in 2006. “Back then Chippendale was a cultural desert,” Nicky recalls. “You could hear a pin drop. Everybody thought I was mad choosing a location like Chippendale.” Nicky is now president of the Chippendale Creative Precinct, as well as creative director of Kensington Street, the suburb’s hallmark strip. ‘Creative precinct’ is a far cry from the suburb William Chippendale knew. Chippendale was a land holder in the area in the early 19th century. The suburb takes its name from the farmer who – side note – one night took to two petty criminals he found trespassing on his property with a double-barrel shotgun, killing one. Colourful characters are a trademark of the area’s shady past. Today’s characters are colourful too, although less shabby and more chic. But to pigeonhole the crowd would be an error; the diversity is part of the appeal. “Locals, visitors, students, commuters, business people and tourists all brush against each other here and the realness and open nature of the place instils a level of harmony,” says Timo Bures, general manager of The Old Clare Hotel. That harmony is emphasised when you’re spoilt for choice. Here are a few tips on where to start.