Smart city plans usually involve new infrastructure and sensor technology, but investment in public art is also a vital part of Sydney, Australia’s vision of the future connected city.

As reported on Australia’s Visual Arts Hub site, Sydney launched the City Art Public Art Strategy as part of its transformation into a more livable and sustainable smart city.

And considering the smart city data flood that threatens to overwhelm Australia’s future broadband network, supporters say there’s wisdom in using a data-light public art to enhance smart cities.

As part of the strategy, the city commissioned 16 new permanent public art projects, which will add to the existing 266 works already scattered around the municipality.

A key rationale behind Sydney’s strategy is to express the uniqueness of place through culture. This is being achieved by supporting local Sydney artists and highlighting art that discusses such locally distinct topics as Aboriginal stories and heritage.

Municipal officials say public art is especially positioned to emphasize the individual culture of the city in order to make the place more liveable for residents, while enhancing desirability for those who may wish to visit or relocate.

“We are really committed to building a city that is liveable and a city that reflects the culture that shapes it and we think artists have that unique capacity to tell stories, to bring distinctiveness, and to bring identity to a city,” says Sydney Design Director Bridget Smyth.

“We sincerely believe that cities around the world today are becoming increasingly more homogenous, where one city can look like any other,” she adds. “You can pass from one city to another and not really even understand the culture.”

Sydney sees the power of art of connect citizens

Sydney’s investment in culture recognizes the power of public art to increase the connection of citizens to their city and to transform it into a place to linger for tourists, rather than a brief-stopover.

“Public art that does engage with people and resonates with the city will create a kind of tourism product because people will want to go and see it,” says Smyth.

One public art project that exemplifies Sydney’s smart city strategy is Agatha Gothe-Snape’s work ‘Here, an Echo’, which will launch in 2017. The art installation is incorporating public input gathered during a series of walks, where citizens generated information through the very act of walking the streets of the city.