The forgotten lane,

made alive

In the 1880s, Fish Lane (formerly Soda Water Lane) existed as the keystone portal to South Brisbane’s docks. Until the city evolved, and didn’t take the laneway with it.

The lane disappeared from public record for over a decade. It was 16 years before it reappeared on public register. In the years that followed its reemergence, the laneway lived many lives.

For a period, it was home to a string of small businesses. It served a stint as a service entrance for Melbourne Street businesses. And for more than a decade, it existed as a 38-space private car park.

The laneway existed for businesses; for deliveries; for cars. Until it was reimagined as a place for people.

Today, Fish Lane is
brimming with life.

Restaurants line the lane, tables occupied by diners eating, enjoying, connecting. Thousands of subtropical plants hang, crawl, and creep through the architecture. People wander through on their way to work while others find an in-between moment below the canopy – to sit, read, or watch the world pass by.

The beating heart of the laneway is Fish Lane Town Square, a shared space made for the entire community.

Reviving forgotten space

Nestled between major thoroughfares and sitting beneath tonnes of railway concrete and steel, Town Square was once defined by infrastructure.

Previously a fenced off car park and bin storage area, Town Square has evolved into parklands, retail pockets, and event spaces brought alive with ambient lighting and public art.

It is a transition zone connecting the bustling CBD to Brisbane’s most densely populated and fastest growing residential area, South Brisbane.

Designed for pedestrians, the narrow channels between buildings reveals itself as a lush, subtropical refuge. Mixing welcoming communal areas with cosy intimate zones, Town Square takes advantage of every nook to provide a series of spaces with endless uses.

Bespoke signage:
Placed throughout the Square are attribution plaques, wayfinding signage, and custom pictograms.

Public charging stations:
Built into the Square’s hardwood benches are 15 free public charging stations.

Demountable design:
To allow railway maintenance access, Town Square’s pavements, gardens, and cafe pavilion are demountable.

Rainwater irrigation:
Rainwater irrigation systems and custom misters keep the green spaces thriving.

Public artwork:
Three public artwork vitrines adorn the laneway, showcasing the work of six artists each year.

Below the railway,

a Summer sanctuary

Town Square’s design embraces the existing railway underpass as an industrial canopy. With the railway’s shelter, the Square becomes a place of refuge from Queensland’s weather. It keeps visitors dry in the wet and stays cool on sweltering days.

On average, it’s five degrees cooler below the underpass than above it. This is made possible by the concrete shelter and the 3,485 native plants which counteract the urban heat island effects and absorb atmospheric pollutants.

At a glance


Native trees and plants


Construction waste recycled


Public recreation space


Average interactions per day

The laneway exists at the intersection of past, present, and future. Nods to its history are expressed through wall plaques; ‘The Timeline’, which shares the site’s history through poetry etched onto walkway pavers; and clay coloured brickwork, which references the precinct’s legacy aesthetic.

The Square embraces its past, but exists for the city Brisbane is now, and the city it will become.

Over the next 20 years, South Brisbane’s population is predicted to increase by 312.5%. As the population grows, Town Square’s public infrastructure becomes increasingly integral to shaping a healthy, thriving community.

Created and maintained with deep care, the welcoming, engaging space of Town Square shows what’s possible when “What should this space be?” becomes “Who can this space serve?”


November 2020


Richards & Spence


Brisbane City Council


RPS Group


Aria Property Group




Cieran Murphy

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