by Jimmy Thomson
What makes a fabulous apartment? Privacy, aspect, design and the way it can fit seamlessly into the neighbourhood, adding to the sense of community.
That’s what the jurors said at this year’s NSW architecture awards for multiple housing – or apartments – handed out by the state chapter of the Institute of Australian Architects.
The top prize, the Aaron Bolot Award, was taken by architects Studio Bright for a narrow nine-level, 31-apartment block in the new Sydney precinct, Quay Quarter, behind Circular Quay.
Quay Quarter Lanes at 8 Loftus Street was singled out by the judges for its quiet, stylish apartments, all with views from the balconies, but also for its building, with its bronze-coloured screens, that “sits beautifully within the surrounding historic fabric, providing high quality new residences and fine-grain retail.”
The apartment building also contributes to an energetic neighbourhood, the peer group of architects ruled, with two levels of retail at the bottom and “re-imagined laneways, new arcades, art and heritage, plazas and seating areas encourage socialising and networking.”
The site, next to Customs House, previously housed a small building that contained an old-fashioned shopping arcade. “The apartments all look west onto the park, and the small lift lobbies have natural light and look out to a little garden,” says director of the winning architectural firm Mel Bright.
“The apartments are private and quiet, with operable bronze screens that adapt to the seasons and filter the sunlight, and there’s a roof garden on top of the building for all the residents. At ground level, we’ve created a really porous pedestrian-friendly area with city links which make for a really interesting place to discover.”
Another prize was awarded to a nearby building in the same precinct, at 9-15 Young Street, by architects SJB. This residential tower is described as providing diverse residential accommodation, commercial space for financial/creative businesses with end-of-trip facilities and fine-scale retail premises that activate the streetscape.
“Its sienna-coloured masonry complements the surrounding historic fabric, its terraces offer residents beautiful views, daylight and connection to the harbour [while] the integrated concierge enables residents and tenants alike to engage in the new neighbourhood.”
SJB director Adam Haddow, whose firm designed the building as well as co-ordinating the other architects all working on the precinct, says it’s helped open up a new part of the city to residents.
“It’s difficult as it’s behind the Cahill Expressway and Customs House and there was nothing to signal that this part of Sydney was there,” he says. “But this building we hope will bring beauty and joy through its brickwork and detailing, as well as pedestrian links, and provide good homes for the people who live there.”
A third award for great apartment design was also won by SJB, along with Durbach Block Jaggers and Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, for Newcastle’s East End stage one development on four city blocks. This also took out the Premier’s Prize.
Stage one of the development was designed to set the tone for what would follow, with the group of three architectural companies appointed to collaborate and deliver developer Iris Capital’s vision for 28,000 sqm of residential, hotel and retail. This part includes 212 apartments, with key heritage elements retained, and producing a village atmosphere that respects the past, giving the impression that the buildings have always been there.
“I’ve been going to Newcastle for just over 10 years since we started the project there,” says Haddow. “The city has changed dramatically in that time, and good on the Government for taking the heavy rail out of the centre, and putting in the light rail.
“There are now some great new buildings in the East End, and the apartments are attracting a lot of empty nesters who no longer want the maintenance issues of a house but who still want to live close to the amenities of the city. But there’s a huge level of diversity in the people living in the apartments, from uni students to older people in their 70s or 80s, which is wonderful to see.”