My University Project: Commercial Design Proposal, Sydney

“Brisbane is leading the pack when it comes to architecture; Melbourne is close behind… Sydney? Well, that’s another story” | Rosemary Neill July 04, 2009. Over the past 12 weeks i have been developing a commercial building for a site located in Sydney CBD.

My conception of Sydney planning is that for too long the architectural problems and lack of character is defined by big property developers who exercise political clout to rob the city of its Architectural opulence.

1. Sydney lacks fine grain; our buildings cover entire city blocks which in turn neglect pedestrian interests. Sydney as opposed to other great cities has little capability for derive and little concept of exploration.

2. Sydney has generic and loose planning controls which ensure that a low quality building is common practice.

3. No Sun is delivered to public space because of tall square buildings which cover entire blocks.

4. Strong Wind Tunnels are also created by square buildings which cover entire blocks.

5. Sydney has a Failed transportation system, in turn Sydney relies heavily on the private car which creates fumes and unpleasant environments at ground floor. For example Sydney’s main artery is heavily congested and dominated by the car.

6. Sydney lacks livability, its identity is defined by tourism, the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, it fails to engage the locals.

7. Sydney lacks public culture, our soul is defined by the public sector.

8. Sydney Lacks of Beauty and creativity, due to poor development standards and expectations.

Sydney needs to not only focus on new growth but should learn from and renew the problems which have resulted from our rapid growth (particularly post World War 2). Another missed opportunity for Sydney is the Barangaroo development has been placed in the hands of the private sector. A visionary government would have seized on this opportunity to build a cultural infrastructure.

The following project was developed over a period of 12 weeks, the project sought to consider the larger problems of Sydney which were not mentioned in the brief, the site has a major connection to Sydney Harbour.

001- Site-Location-Plan

The site is surrounded primarily by heritage buildings and strong stone facades. This provides an opportunity for the development to express the surrounding context; the building is situated as an object within the formal square. The building as an oval begins to deal with issues of wind tunneling and downdrafts created by square buildings, the oval separates the building as an object of beauty.

002 - context_process-diagram

At present there is no physical connection between Martin Place (located to the South) and Chifley Plaza (located to the North). Martin Place primarily functions as a transitionary element, while the arrangement of Chifley Plaza is introverted. The site provides an opportunity to visually and physically connect the two sites; the building is lifted off the ground to open up the site to public activities. The connection between two sites deal with issues of public culture, the city should be connected, not transitonary and not introverted.

003 - Connection_process-diagram

The disconnection between the site, Martin Place and Chifley Plaza is further escalated by heavy movements of traffic. The focus on pedestrian amenity and public space meant that redirecting and lessening traffic around the site is important to my scheme. Public, Retail and commercial activities are located in the ground floor underneath Phillip Street; Chifley plaza is redeveloped as an extension of the site. Transportation is secondary to public amenity. The proposal recognises our failed transportation system and seeks to place great interest in the reduction of the private car and provides a focus on walking and cycling.
004 - Amenity_process-diagram

The site currently has no access to winter sunlight. By pulling the building forward towards Martin place and by reducing the mass of the building, 50% of the site and Chifley Plaza will have full access to winter sunlight. Sydneys lacks sunlight at ground level, the proposal places great interest in the need for sunlight, fine grain is inserted at ground level strongly connected to the human scale, it encourages livability and public activities.
005 - Solar-Access_process-diagram

Currently the site has expansive views to significant areas and landmarks. The core is detached from the floor plate to maximise views, while the building is made narrower at the bottom to extend the building higher. The orientation of the building is directed to the most prominent view of the harbour. The building pushes local planning controls to respond to specific and non generic gesture.
006 - Views_process-diagram

Temperate winds to the site come from the North East, the East West and the South West. The direction of temperate winds delineate the most effective location for naturally ventilated atrium and wintergarden spaces which are located to the North and South of the floor plate. Local climatic conditions are used to respond to issues of ESD in the most passive way possible.
007 - Ventilation-diagram

At ground level the site functions as an active civic square, it is both formal and temporal. The outcome of opening up the site, by removing built mass is that the adjacent buildings have more prominent street frontages, this increases their property value and provides an opportunity for them to respond by activating their own frontages. Various Public activities are placed on the Ground floor including the Channel 7 studios, temporary art/gallery spaces, cafes and restaurants, retail or commercial function. The site begins to read coherently from ones perspective but creates diverse variations of activities in specific sectional cuts through the site. Fine Grain is encouraged at ground level which is open to the public, protected from downdrafts and exposed to the summer sun.
008 - Ground-Floor-Plan-and-Sections

The consistent reading of those various functions as a pattern are shown in the long site section; activities transfer from one function to another creating a diverse public environment. The ground floor functions in a number of ways, firstly as a social hub, secondly as an area with a focus on public transport; the exit from the underground train station has direct relationship to the buildings core. The site also seeks to be flexible, capable of supporting various activities and responding to temporal and future demand. The ground floor also has a direct relationship between the commercial activates of the tower, active balcony edges allow longer views into the building creating connection between those at ground plane and those above.
009 - Ground-Floor-Plan-long-section

Perspectives at Ground Floor show the human scale of activities tucked under Phillip Street. It also shows the connection through the building at ground plane, which opens up uninterrupted views between Martin Place and Chifley Plaza. The building seeks to express itself an object.
010 - Ground-floor-renders

A Typical Low, Mid and High rise plan shows the changing shape of the building, the atrium conditions and the NLA.
011 - Typical-Floor-Plans

The floor plate is 100% continuous, can easily be divided into 1, 2, 3 or 4 tenancies, and all fire egress requirements are met. The shape and orientation of the building provides 96% of the floor plate with useful light penetration of 250 minimum lux. The RCP provides an efficient arrangement of standardised services. Mechanical heating and cooling, and broken into 3 types. The ends of the floor plate, and the façade cavity is naturally ventilated, the perimeter is cooled via an active fan coil where loads are higher and the typical floor plate is a passive chilled beam system.
012 - Floor-Plate-Diagrams

The floor plate functions well in open plan and enclosed office arrangements. Arrival from the core to the floor plate provides visual access to the entire floor plate and also to external views.
013 - Fitouts-and-3d-typical-plan

Structurally the building is a diagrid solution which removes most columns from the footplate and seeks to emphasise the building as an object. It is also typically 20% more efficient than a traditional construction. The loads of the internal columns are transferred to the diagrid at the mid and low rise plant levels, this allows the ground floor to free from internal columns. The upturned edge beam allows a high floor to ceiling height of 3.1m with a floor to floor height of 3.9m.
014 - structural-diagrams

The structure allows the floor plates to appear as light as possible, the shape is also emphasised and the core and floor plate expressed as separate objects. The building has an overall efficiency of 83% NLA/GFA, and 93% efficient NLA/FSA.
015 - Elevation-Section-and-Perspective

The panalisation of external glazing is inline with the diagrid structure and requires 2 panel sizes per level, each level the panel size changes due to the varying shape of the building. Vertical and horizontal shading is inline with the exterior mullions. The building uses the double cavity between the structural diagrid to provide a fixed shading solution; the shading consists of primarily vertical, combination and primarily horizontal shading structures. The shading structure also acts as a light shelf to extend light into the floor plate. The double cavity is naturally ventilated to act as a climate buffer between the interior and exterior.
016 - Facade-Diagrams

The focus of my design project I was upon responding to Sydney’s local context, the building is an object within the square that responds to the city by providing a genuine opportunity and invitation to connect Martin place and Chifley plaza.
017 - Overall-3d-and-atrium-image

My design project focused on the larger issues of Sydney, fine grain, public activity, ammenity, culture and livibility, the building itself functions as a commercial building in the same manner as other developed sites in Sydney however responds much more sensitively to the local context, views, wind and Sunlight.

This post is an excerpt highlighting key components of a study I completed as part of my degree in Architecture. I would love to hear your feedback and your perspective.


17 comments for “My University Project: Commercial Design Proposal, Sydney”

  • Adam

    Linda, looks like a great success! Well done.

  • sharwe

    very cool!I want to know, what software do you use?

  • Linda

    Hi Sharwe,

    I used revit and photoshop for the project.

    I use revit at work which is a great documentation program but is sometimes a little harder than others to produce nice renders.


  • Dan

    Hi Linda,
    Strong diagram, designed with clarity… Nice one.

  • sharwe

    thanks!I like sketchup!I kown revit,but did not use it!

  • Marco

    Your building is rather elegant and rather tense and calm at the same time. It feels like you like both the modernist cleanness and plastic control – and anarchy and accident. How you will balance with these two in architecture can be interesting.

  • Yorik

    Very cool project…. I got a bit sceptic at looking at the first images, finding the proposal pretty obvious, but the work you put in the building itself and the simple and clean approach made me change completely my point of view. The volumetry is actually very strong (I loved the abrupt footing and capping of the tower) and looking at the context I think a simple and straight approach was very sensitive. Well done!

  • anis sofia

    hey..that was very exciting to read on your project. well done! (:
    by the way, i am wondering, would you help me define the ‘fine-grain’ term because currently im working on my university project also and specialize on commercial area planning. and i would love to know more on commercial area planning, but unfortunately, i am lacking of reference here. hopefully, you can help me out. nice project anyway. (:

  • Linda

    Hi Anis,

    Than you for your comment, the concept of Fine Grain is actually based on a report written by Craig Allchin as a revitalisation strategy for the City of Sydney. In summary, the author recommended that it would be possible to revitalise Sydney’s City Centre via lane ways, smaller spaces and narrow streets. Craig works for an Architectural firm called 6 degrees. I’m sure you can contact them for more info.

    My interpretation of fine grain in a site specific context is based on the insertion of multiple and public programs at Ground plane. The idea is that the very large site is not closed from the public but is highly activated through the insertion of dense and public program. In turn the site will begin to act by nature like a lane way. The strategy was about supporting local bars and various industries rather than privatising the ground plane which i believe should strongly belong to the public.

    Additional to this Sydney has a long history with amalgamating smaller lots into 1 large block of land. Traditionally architects will approach such a site with 1 large building, this in turn reduces the possibility of incorporating fine grain because it removes the lane ways between those previously smaller lots. It is the amalgamation and privatisation between those smaller lots which i was also opposing.

    I hope this helps. Best of luck with your studies, i hope the project goes well. Id love to see it when your finished.

    Kind Regards,


  • obor kahuripan

    Quick comment: i like it. The plan looks like one of Oscar Niemeyer tower. Great work.

  • Andy C

    Hi Linda,
    I like your radical analysis and your challenging attitude. How free were you in selecting your programme? I would love to see a design of yours for a park for this space without the need to make it stack up with commercial rental space : water, sunshine, trees, a bike rental stand …lots for kids, lots for the elderly, lots for those excluded people etc but hey maybe we need a revolution to get your urban priorities on and up the agenda. I’d vote for you!
    Well done.

  • Linda

    Hi Andy,

    Thank you for your feedback. The program had to be commercial (based on the assignment outline), I probably would have taken a fail if i didnt address commercial space.

    With that said, your idea sounds great, im looking at doing a design subject soon, where we acually define our own adjenda and id love to do something similar to what you recommended. Ill post that up on archi-ninja also.

    Awesome i have your vote! Thank you for your support.


  • Andy C

    Hi Linda,
    With that difficult constraint, you did great. It struck me that you
    had read the city and its defects to perfection, that you know the antidote, feel it so well, but seemed whistful in your assessment of your prescription, disappointed in how well you think you did : giving yourself credit only for having done a better job at a commercial space than most. You need to get yourself elected, convince the citizens that they are missing out on your vision, and design a Central Park for Sydney!
    Looking forward to seeing your free-style project, your vision when placed front and centre to decide both the what and the how-to. Subject and Object. It is rare in practise as you know to be allowed to serve the public as you would like to serve them, as you would like to see them served to make their city work better for them. But when you can, thats the acme of self-expression in my book. Power to your elbow, Linda.
    Kind Regards

  • Sameer Hajirnis

    Hi Linda,
    You’ve done a great job,liked your presentation.I have just finished my first urban design project/study at college .This site poses similar challenges that i’ve faced during my study.But do have any alternate solutions in terms zoning and is going vertical the only solution in this context??

  • baba cu

    The panalisation of external glazing is inline with the diagrid structure and requires 2 panel sizes per level, each level the panel size changes due to the varying shape of the building. Vertical and horizontal shading is inline with the exterior mullions. The building uses the double cavity between the structural diagrid to provide a fixed shading solution; the shading consists of primarily vertical, combination and primarily horizontal shading structures. The shading structure also acts as a light shelf to extend light into the floor plate. The double cavity is naturally ventilated to act as a climate buffer between the interior and exterior.
    oh! it is good
    i like.

  • shifa

    hey its a great work.
    superb visualization..
    even using this shape for the structure is not easy as compared to simple rectangular or square form….
    i liked d arrangement of floors.

  • Ali

    قشنگ بود ولی کاش کاملتر بود