How Sydney's AMP Quay Quarter Tower went above and beyond - and onto the world stage
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How Sydney’s AMP Quay Quarter Tower went above and beyond – and onto the world stage

The landmark building has been awarded an international architecture prize for its ‘radical sustainability’

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Nov 9, 2022 9:49amGrey Clock 3 min

T o understand the level of detail involved in the design and construction of the 50-storey Quay Quarter Tower, you need to know about the cab ride Dan Cruddace, project director from BVN, and project architect Fred Holt for 3XN took early one morning across Sydney Harbour Bridge.

“It was 2016 and we were trying to address solar radiance from the building,” Dan says. “We realised that for two hours from 6am from April to September, the reflectivity in one spot of the tower could potentially blind some of the drivers on the bridge.”

After their run across the bridge, they modified the design of a select number of windows on the upper block of what was best known to most Sydneysiders as the AMP building, now Quay Quarter Tower.

“We developed a system of tilting the glass on the upper block by 2.3 degrees which resolved that issue,” Cruddace says.

It’s a testament to the attention to even the smallest details of this complex build that appears as a series of five stacked ‘boxes’, each slightly pivoted to manage light, connectivity between floors and the challenging topography of the Circular Quay site.

Award-winning local architectural firm BVN were chosen to partner with Danish firm 3XN, who won the international design competition for Quay Quarter Tower, partnering with construction giant Multiplex, to transform the AMP building, constructed in 1976, while retaining as much of the original building as they could. 

Now the building has been recognised for its approach to sustainable building practices, with the announcement of the International High Rise Award in Frankfurt overnight. Rather than demolish the building completely, as part of the construction process, 7500 tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions by saving the southern side and core of the building.

Although AMP is the ‘anchor tenant’ for the building, several businesses, including Deloitte, have signed on to lease space, with the building expected to be fully occupied by mid 2023. 

Cruddace says the team were very aware of the building’s place in Sydney’s story, in every sense.

“It’s at the front door of Sydney and Australia in terms of world precincts and connectivity to the harbour – it had that kind of gravitas,” says Cruddace. “It’s a once-in-a-generation project.”

Positioned in front of the historic Museum of Sydney, with the newly opened Quay Quarter Lanes to its left, visitors and office workers within are always aware of their neighbourhood, thanks to a skilful manipulation of levels and glazing so carefully crafted to control the worst of the summer sun from every angle that no blinds are required. Instead, occupants of each floor can appreciate views of nearby buildings – historic and contemporary – as well as through lines to the harbour and the iconic bridge.  

“It’s an amazing site but the original building had so many problems with it in terms of layers of poor planning and permeability and there were real issues with the topography,” Cruddace says.

The rotation of the ‘boxes’ also allow for outdoor terraces populated with landscape design by ASPECT so that, even on the 30th floor, bees can be seen hovering over the flowering plants on the terrace.

If there is a recurring theme in this project, it’s connectivity. Every aspect of this building, from the market hall designed by UK designer Tom Dixon at street level, to the natural site lines to surrounding buildings and the harbour, to the stunningly sculptural spiral staircase that links several office floors, has been considered in terms of its relation to  the other elements.

At the same time, spaces allow for intimate gatherings, private meetings or even solitude. It’s clear that at the heart of this project is the people who use it, whether they’re staff familiar with the layout or casual visitors to the retail spaces at street level. 

Holt says it has raised the bar for what high rise buildings can and should be.

“The expectation previously for high rises was that they were just for providing efficiently stacked workspaces,” he says. “And they still have to be there. But users are expecting the experience to be engaging and to have spaces for collaboration and all those things that make us feel human.”

The team of BVN and 3XN have also won the design competition for Sydney Fish Market, an equally complex site due for completion in 2023.

For more stories like this, order your copy of Kanebridge Quarterly magazine here 



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Playful 1950s style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances

By TRACY KALER
Mon, Apr 22, 2024 6 min

The 1950s spawned society’s view of kitchens as the heart of the home, a hub for gathering, cooking, eating and socializing. Thus, it makes perfect sense that the same decade could inspire today’s luxury kitchens.

“The deliberate playfulness and genius of the era’s designers have enabled the mid-century style to remain a classic design and one that still sparks joy,” said James Yarosh, an interior designer and gallerist in New Jersey.

That playful style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances—all of which are a conspicuous rejection of the sterile, monochrome kitchens that have defined luxury home design for years. One of the hottest brands to incorporate into retro-style kitchens, SMEG is turning up more these days. But the question is: How do you infuse a colourful refrigerator and other elements from this nostalgic era without creating a kitschy room?

“The key to a modern, fresh look in your kitchen is to reference, not imitate, signature looks of the 1950s,” said New York-based designer Andrew Suvalsky, who often laces retro style throughout the rooms he designs. He said using the period as inspiration will steer you away from imagining a garish space.

“When it comes to incorporating that retro-esque look, it’s a fine dance between looking beautiful and looking kitschy,” added Lisa Gilmore, a designer in Tampa, Florida. Gilmore suggested balancing contemporary pieces with vintage touches. That balance forges a functional yet attractive design that’s easy to live with while evoking a homey atmosphere––and ultimately, a room everyone wants to be in.

Colour Reigns Supreme

Suvalsky said one way to avoid a kitschy appearance is to mingle woods and colours, such as lacquered base cabinets and walnut wall cabinets, as he did in his Montclair, New Jersey, kitchen.

“Mixing colours into your kitchen is most effective when it’s done by colour-blocking––using a single colour across large areas of a space––in this case, zones of cabinetry,” he explained. He tends to lean toward “Easter egg colours,” such as baby chick yellow and pale tangerine. These soft pastels can suggest a starting point for the design while lending that retro vibe. But other hues can spark a vintage feel as well.

A mid-century-inspired kitchen by Blythe Interiors.
Natalia Robert

“Shades of green and blue are a timeless base foundation that work for a 1950s vintage look,” said designer Jennifer Verruto of Blythe Interiors in San Diego. But wood isn’t off the table for her, either. “To embrace the character of a mid-century home, we like a Kodiak stain to enhance the gorgeous walnut grain,” she said. “This mid-tone wood is perfect for contrasting other lighter finishes in the kitchen for a Mid-Century Modern feel.”

Since colour is subjective, a kitchen lined with white cabinetry can assume a retro aesthetic through accoutrements and other materials, emanating that ’50s vibe.

“The fun of retro designs is that you can embrace colour and create something that feels individual to the house and its homeowner, reflecting their tastes and personality,” Yaosh said. He recommended wallpaper as an option to transform a kitchen but suggested marrying the pattern with the bones of the house. “Wallpaper can create a mid-century or retro look with colours and hand-blocked craftsmanship,” he said. “Mauny wallpapers at Zuber are a particular favourite of mine.”

Suvalsky suggested Scalamandre wallpapers, for their 1950s patterns, and grass cloth, a textile that was often used during that decade. He also likes House of Hackney, a brand that “does a great job reinventing vintage prints in luscious colours,” he noted. “Many of their colourways invert the typical relationship between light and dark, with botanical prints in dark jewel tones set over light, more playful colours.”

Materials Matter

Beyond wall covering, flooring, countertops and backsplashes can all contribute to the 1950s theme. Manufactured laminate countertops, specifically Formica, were all the rage during the decade. But today’s high-end kitchens call for more luxurious materials and finishes.

“That’s a situation where going the quartz route is appropriate,” Gilmore said. “There are quartzes that are a through-body colour and simple if someone is doing colorued cabinetry. A simplified white without veining will go a long way.” She also recommended Pompei quartz Sunny Pearl, which has a speckled appearance.

A kitchen designed by James Yarosh that incorporates pops of yellow.
Patricia Burke

But for those who welcome vibrant colour schemes, countertops can make a bold statement in a vintage kitchen. Gilmore said solid surface materials from the era were often a colour, and quartz can replicate the look.

“Some brands have coloured quartz, like red,” she said. But keeping countertops neutral allows you to get creative with the backsplash. “I‘d pull in a terrazzo backsplash or a bold colour like a subway tile in a beautiful shade of green or blush,” Gilmore said. “Make the backsplash a piece of art.”

Suvalsky also leans toward bright and daring––such as checkerboards––for the backsplash. But depending on the kitchen’s design, he’ll go quieter with a double white herringbone [tile] pattern. “Either version works, but it must complement other choices, bold or simple, in the design,” he explained.

Neutral countertops with a bold backsplash, designed by Lisa Gilmore.
Native House Photography

Likewise, his flooring choice almost always draws attention. “My tendency is more toward very bold, such as a heavily veined marble or a pattern with highly contrasting tones,” he noted. Yarosh suggested slate and terrazzo as flooring, as these materials can make an excellent backdrop for layering.

Forge a Statement With Vintage Appliances 

As consequential as a kitchen’s foundation is, so are the appliances and accoutrements. While stainless steel complements contemporary kitchens, homeowners can push the design envelope with companies like SMEG when making appliance selections for a retro-style kitchen. Although Suvalsky has yet to specify a SMEG fridge, he is looking forward to the project when he can.

“I think they work best when the selected colour is referenced in other parts of the kitchen, which helps to integrate these otherwise ‘look at me’ pieces into the broader design,” he noted. “They are like sculptures unto themselves.”

“For our mid-century-inspired projects, we’ve opted for Big Chill and the GE Cafe Series to bring a vintage look,” Verruto added. Similar to SMEG, Big Chill and GE offer a vintage vibe in a wide selection of colours and finishes, alongside 21st-century performance.

Can’t commit to a full-size appliance? Sometimes, a splash is enough. Gilmore tends to dust her retro kitchens with a coloured kettle or toaster since her clients are likelier to add a tinge with a countertop appliance or two. “Mint green accessories make it pop, and if in five years they are over it, it’s not a commitment,” she said. “It’s a great way to infuse fun and colour without taking a major risk.”

Deck out the Breakfast Nook

Kitchen dining areas present the opportunity to introduce retro lighting, furniture, and accessories to complete the look. Flea markets and antique markets are excellent places to hunt for accompaniments.

“Dome pendants and Sputnik chandeliers are iconic styles that will infuse vintage charm into your kitchen while also easily complementing a variety of other styles,” Verruto said.

A retro breakfast nook desinged by Andrew Suvalsky.
DLux Editions

Suspend a vintage light fixture over the classic Saarinen table, and you can’t go wrong.

“Saarinen Tulip Tables are almost always guaranteed to deliver a home run in nearly any interior, especially a 1950s-themed kitchen,” Suvalsky said. “The simplicity of its form, especially in white, makes it nearly impossible to clash with.”

To really channel the vibe of this era, Verruto suggested local vintage stores and brands such as Drexel Heritage and Lexington. Dressing the windows counts, too. “Cafe curtains in a chintz pattern will make for a fabulous finishing touch,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yarosh delights in selecting tabletop items, including novelty stemware and other trappings ubiquitous in the 1950s. “Mid-century kitchens also need to have pedestal cake plates and maybe a cloche to keep a cake,” he mused. “I love the opportunity to curate these details down to the correct fork and serving pieces.”

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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