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Quay quarter tower 5

‘World-First’ Vertical Village in Sydney Wins International High-Rise Award


Convincing a panel of internationally renowned architectural experts that your building is the best in the world is no easy feat, especially when you’re up against a selection of equally phenomenal examples of human engineering in the final adjudication. It’s even more remarkable since the building is located right here in Sydney, Australia.

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Quay Quarter Tower | Image: Quay Quarter

Amalgamating a good chunk of the original AMP Centre at 50 Bridge Street, Quay Quarter Tower is the winner of the International High-Rise Award for 2022/23. Described as “an innovative solution for sustainable building in a time of increased ecological challenges,” the Danish-designed skyscraper beat out a total of 34 other projects.

While the competition was as stiff as the steel used to construct these behemoths, 3XN, from Copenhagen, Denmark, has claimed the top spot with its 206-metre tall, 49-story world-first tower transformation, receiving €50,000 (AUD$77,500) to donate to a charitable cause.

Completed in April 2022, Quay Quarter Tower was dubbed “an identity-generating part” of Sydney’s CBD redevelopment by the international jury, not just for its stunning facade but for its “radical sustainability concept”, which helped save close to 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Or, about 10,000 one-way flights from Sydney to Melbourne.

Previously occupied by outdated office towers of yesteryear, the decision was made to “upcycle” and integrate large parts of the original structure to support the new building and avoid demolition. “Rather than simply tear it down and start over,” remarked 3XN on their website, “the project team set out to reach an ambitious goal: to reuse as much of the existing building and set a lofty new standard for what is possible for adaptive reuse in architecture.”

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Quay Quarter Tower | Image: Quay Quarter

Taking to Instagram to celebrate the recognition, 3XN Architects described the project as “the world’s most comprehensive upcycling of an existing tower.”

“With this recognition, we believe we are taking issues like #AdaptiveReuse, #Decarbonisation and #Transformation of #TallBuildings beyond the edges – and help shape the vision of the future high-rise.”

The innovative tower transformation project maintains over 65 per cent of the original steel beams and columns, floor slabs, and 95 per cent of the building’s core circa. 1976. Additional levels, the expansion of existing floors, plus a new podium, added 45,000 square metres of floor space, which is just larger than Melbourne’s Federation Square. All up, Quay Quarter Tower doubles the floor plate from 1100m² to 2200m² and the user population from 4500ppl (people per level) to 9000ppl.

A process described as “humanising the high-rise” by 3XN partner Fred Holt, refurbishing old buildings rather than demolishing them could pave the way for more sustainable high-rise building projects. Or, in other words, breathing new life into old towers around the world.

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Quay Quarter Tower | Image: Quay Quarter

Complimenting the building’s assimilation with the former structure are cantilevered modules on the façade. Designed to reduce direct sunlight by up to 30 per cent, they eliminate the need for internal blinds, giving those inside unobstructed views of the stunning Sydney Harbour. Sunlight was critical to the building’s design, with architects considering lighting conditions and sightlines while also adhering to numerous Australian Building Code requirements.

With a formal silhouette derived from the surrounding context, Quay Quarter Tower is a stack of five building volumes, with levels towards the harbour connected to multi-story atria. Developed around the concept of a “vertical village”, floors within each building volume are “threaded together by a spiral stair”, enabling seamless access from the open atrium. There’s also a publicly accessible parkscape atop the dual-level podium rooftop with a cafe that extends from the tower lobby.

“By dividing the building into five separate volumes and placing an atrium and terrace at the base of each one, said Kim Herforth Nielsen, Creative Director, 3XN Architects, on the building’s website, “the columns become smaller, more intimate social environments, making it easier for employees to connect and interact with one another.”

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Quay Quarter Tower | Image: Quay Quarter

Operating since 1986, 3XN is a Danish architectural practice based in Copenhagen, “advancing a Scandinavian tradition of clear functionality and simple beauty.” According to ARUP, it’s the latest Danish collaboration since the Opera House in 1973. The Danish designers have also recently presented designs for the new Sydney Fish Markets redevelopment. While this project won’t be implementing “adaptive reuse”, the relocated Sydney Fish Market is similarly aligned with the sustainability and community integration goals of Quay Quarter Tower.

Among Quay Quarter Tower were four other marvellous examples of human engineering.

  1. The 178m tall Singapore State Courts, completed in August 2019, was a preservation project that tripled the size of the existing courts building.
  2. Designed by David Chipperfield Architects and finished on June 2021 at 115m tall, The Bryant is a homage to the “classic tripartite composition” of the New York tower.
  3. The TrIIIple Towers in Vienna, Austria, feature a diagonal high-rise ensemble of three residential towers connected by a two-story podium.
  4. The weirdest-looking tower on the list, Vancouver House in (yup, you guessed it) Vancouver, Canada, gives the leaning tower of Pisa a run for its money. Its unusual shape is due to various building limitations, resulting in a curved silhouette that widens upward, fitting the definition of the word precarious to a T. “ looks as if someone was pulling aside a curtain to welcome Vancouver’s visitors.”

Two other Australian nominees, the Collins Arch in Melbourne and One Barangaroo (also in Sydney), were also selected for this year’s International High-Rise Award.