A new landmark on the city waterfront, on the edge of Darling Harbour
One Barangaroo is the tallest building in Sydney, Australia. The sinuous tower designed by WilkinsonEyre and architect partner, Bates Smart, stands on Darling Harbour surrounded by water with Sydney Bridge in the foreground. The 275 meter [902 feet] tall tower and podium include a luxury resort hotel with 349 rooms and suites, waterfront restaurants, cafés, bars and high-end shops, together with 76 luxury residential apartments above.
The words inhabited sculpture come from Constantin Brancusi who once said that architecture is inhabited sculpture. Chris Wilkinson explained, “and I rather like that.” The surrounding buildings are 1950s, 1960s and 1970s rectangular buildings and “I wanted something special and sculptural on the site.”
The brief came out right before the Christmas holiday and Wilkinson had a chance to think about what the shape could be. He looked at a sculpture that he designed with his wife and son for a design competition that was about 100 feet tall. He thought if that were made into a building with the idea of three interwoven petals that twist ninety degrees as they rise form the ground, that would be elegant on the site. There were many iterations of sketches. For the sculpture to be inhabited he needed to join up the corners. To accommodate the brief, the angles changed from ninety degrees to sixty degrees. Then, to accommodate the site, more of the shape was rearranged. That is how the design gradually emerged.
After Christmas break, Wilkinson went to his team with his sketches and asked them to model it on the computer. This is when it started becoming a building and quite interesting in its own right. The complexity of the structures was one of the first things they addressed with a central core and perimeter columns on the outside of the curved walls. This was quite complicated, but they were able to solve it. Because the brief was very tight, they had to be very careful to have all of the rooms they needed.
“In my opinion,” Wilkinson explained, “towers need to look good from space and looking up, but they also need to look good on the skyline.” The three petals come together at the top of the building terminating its sculptural form.
First, the context of the building is important. “It is just on the edge of Darling Harbour which is one of the most beautiful places in the world, I think. I have been known to call it Venice on steroids,” Wilkinson laughs. He wanted to make this building interesting in this particularly beautiful context. The continuous curving façade is made up of three different glazing systems, which require a high number of bespoke glazed panels to accommodate its curvature. The panels are also highly insulated to reduce solar gain and provide a continuous glazed form that captures and reflects the light – really a living building that changes color in response to the sunshine throughout the day.
Second, when people approach the building, they almost forget about the tower. The tower rests on a four-storey podium which has cafés, bars, restaurants, a small casino, gyms, back-of-house functions etc. The client wanted the architect to consider the exterior character of this lower level. Wilkinson drew his inspiration from Gothic marble tracery, the sort of stone tracery found in Gothic cathedrals. This treatment makes the podium look lighter, and creates a base with its own particular architecture. It draws people in and acts as a destination place.
Finally, the upper, large terraces on the podium have pools, saunas, gyms and tennis courts — it is really a resort hotel. These terraces are quite spectacular and serve as a leisure facility overhanging the harbor. Considering the context is that of a city, these terraced amenities make it an exciting place to be.
Wilkinson added, “I am very keen on the idea of bridging art and science. What started as a piece of art, as it were, the sculptural element of it, has ended up as a piece of science. Because in order to create something like this we’ve had to use the latest technology to construct it. I’m very interested in the idea of pushing the boundaries of technology to create a piece of art. And also, to make it as sustainable as we could. It is a very efficient and sustainable building. That includes, the energy source [that] comes from the water.”
Location: Sydney (Australia)
Client: Crown Resorts Limited
Architect partner: Bates Smart
Interiors: Meyer Davis, Bates Smart and Blainey North
Photographer: Tom Roe