Underutilized for years, the huge cave beneath Barangaroo finally has a future

Written by Javed Iqbal

It has been underutilized for seven years: a magnificent hollow carved out of the harbor crevasse, best known as the backdrop for several car TV commercials and a venue for the 2022 Biennale.

The NSW Government is poised to announce a new layout to revitalize Barangaroo’s the Cutaway amid growing pressure to deliver an Indigenous arts and culture center at Barangaroo’s Headland Park.

Cutaway, Barangaroo is slated for a redevelopment.

Cutaway, Barangaroo is slated for a redevelopment. Credit:Infrastructure NSW

Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council chief executive Nathan Moran says it is a “travesty” that Sydney lacks an Aboriginal-staffed and managed cultural center or a permanent repository for Aboriginal cultural artefacts.

“It is a space as big as the main performance hall of the Opera House, and it is really sad that this space remains empty; available despite our best efforts to put together cultural projects of the highest quality. Leaving it practically empty is an embarrassment to everyone. I’m not kidding when I say we’d better use it as an indoor cricket room.

“At a National Indigenous Cultural Center in Barangaroo, we could show not only art and dance, but carving, weaving storytelling, the whole spectrum, and we could have exhibitions and displays and artists sharing their culture from all over the country.”

Cutaway, with its flexible shell space, 6500 square meter footprint and cathedral-like ceilings, is buried in a hill created by a flat quay – largely the result of Paul Keating’s vision to recreate the naturalistic headland.

Cutaway is carved out of sandstone with underground parking for 300 cars.

Cutaway is carved out of sandstone with underground parking for 300 cars. Credit:Infrastructure NSW

Infrastructure NSW identified a National Indigenous Center as a priority in 2016, a project that subsequently cost about $600 million. More recently, the agency developed concept plans to upgrade utilities and acoustics at Cutaway to create a multi-functional space and potential art gallery.

Asked about its plans, Infrastructure NSW declined to go into detail, but said the redevelopment would allow the Cutaway to realize its full potential as one of Sydney’s premier venues for national and international events.

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Javed Iqbal

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