Taylor Square’s historic Underground Conveniences will be activated as an exhibition space for adult themed content as yet another satellite space of Qtopia Sydney’s Centre for Queer History and Culture.
The Underground Men’s Conveniences at Taylor Square were constructed in 1907 as part of Sydney’s response to the bubonic plague of 1900, replacing an earlier above ground steel structure, and the site has been a designated public urinal since 1883.
It was also a popular beat in the heart of gay Sydney for decades until its closing to the public in 1988 and the first exhibition to fill the space to be known as “The Toilet Block” will explore gay beat, sauna and cruising culture.
The Toilet Block will be accessed separately to the main Qtopia building in Forbes Street and will require visitors to present a proof of age for entry.
The addition of The Toilet Block to Qtopia Sydney’s raft of spaces was revealed at a Community Leaders Forum in December in which delegates from many of Sydney’s community organisations were given an exclusive tour of the spaces inside the old Darlinghurst Police Station that will house exhibitions telling the story of LGBTIQA+ Sydney.
Biggest in the world
The cultural activation of the northern half of Taylor Square from The Substation and The Toilet Block will see the square become the gateway to a cultural and artistic precinct that includes Qtopia and its The Loading Dock and The Bandstand theatres, as well as the National Art School inside the Old Darlinghurst Jail, the Sydney Jewish Museum, the Eternity Playhouse and Yirranma Place.
Only the ground floor of Qtopia Sydney will be open to the public when it first opens to the public on February 23 for the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival as an elevator still needs to be built into the building to make the second floor fully accessible for all visitors.
But when it occupies both floors it will have 1,500 square metres of exhibition space.
Including The Bandstand, The Toilet Block and The Substation, Qtopia Sydney will fill 1,750 square metres of floor space, making it the largest LGBTIQA+ cultural institution of its kind in the world.
Ongoing community engagement
Only 30 percent of the exhibitions in Qtopia Sydney will be permanent with the rest changing seasonally so that different themes and communities can be platformed and explored and so visitors have reasons to return to Qtopia Sydney again and again.
“Qtopia Sydney will actively and continuously seek feedback and ideas from the community about the kinds of exhibitions they would like to see,” says Qtopia Sydney CEO Greg Fisher.
“We’ve sought this feedback via social media, written input at our varying venues, multiple community engagement sessions and an online survey.”
The organisation has stressed that this will be an ongoing conversation with community going forward.
Qtopia Sydney will not function as a repository or archive for the LGBTIQA+ community in Sydney as this would see it rapidly lose exhibition space to storage space.
It will, rather, showcase exhibitions put together from material from a range of different archival institutions and the archives held by the many Sydney community groups.
Qtopia Sydney is also exploring partnerships with other similar cultural institutions around Australia and the world in relation to having exchanges of travelling exhibitions.
Qtopia Sydney will also explore developing age-appropriate programs for visits by high school groups and corporate organisations as part of educating students about the history of civil rights struggle for LGBTIQA+ people in Australia.
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