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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds ROSS PALMER: The bulk and massing of the development of the three buildings that Foster and Partners are looking after in terms of the design really came about through the Masterplan process. So the concept Masterplan revisions included the introduction of some key aspects. And one of the ones that we called was the city datum line. And the city datum line wraps around the corner of Abercrombie and down Broadway, and is really a recess in the building massing that was designed to mediate between the heritage building, and the key one being the Australian Hotel on the corner of Abercrombie and Broadway, and these large building masses located above them. And that datum line relates to the height of the Australian Hotel.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds And the massings of the towers above are seen to then sort of hover above that heritage building. And we felt that was a good way to deal with the challenge of how you design large buildings within an urban context, and yet are sensitive to heritage buildings existing on the site. We really do test significantly with physical models. We build either by hand or in three-dimensional printings as a tool today. We test at various scales, and I think particularly with the Australian Hotel, we were very sensitive with how the massing was going to look above this building. And essentially the way that the final designs developed it is like a cantilevered floor plate.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 seconds And the building’s almost designed to be - it’s divided into two separate elements, and one of the two elements sits above and hovering above the Australian Hotel. And the key that we thought was important to the design was that the Australian Hotel has some space around it, some freedom around it in terms of the area, an envelope, such that it would look right in context with the new development. I think the development of the elevations and the facades have been done really in response to a sense of place. What we tried to do is to deal with very significant building masses and try to create elevations that look in some ways light.

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 seconds So we’re very interested in the way that the daylight reflects off them, the materiality. We’re looking at using silvers in a very kind of modulated facade in terms of its details. So we’ve got strong horizontality joints and we’ve got flowing lines at corners. So those ideas really came from looking at the heritage buildings on the side. So we have Australian Hotel, which was designed and built in 1938. And what we liked about that particular building was the flowing lines and the corner details. We look very carefully at the functions of the spaces behind. So whether it’s an office space or whether it’s a hotel space or whether it’s residential.

Skip to 3 minutes and 21 seconds We are then interested in what it’s like for the people to use those interior spaces. And those set up really principles to do with, where we position glazing, how much glazing is incorporated to do within the facade, and how we plan - whether it be an apartment or an office zone. And we’ve used those to sort of then influence the entire facade design. So it’s kind of like merging all those design influences into the final product.

Design with heritage architecture

The Australian Hotel, Chippendale was constructed in 1938 and is a key heritage listed building on the Central Park site. This created challenges for Foster + Partners, who were given the task of designing new buildings around it.

Foster + Partners is a well regarded international architecture and integrated design practice, based in London. The firm has produced notable work across 6 continents. In addition to working on the masterplan for Central Park, Foster + Partners designed 3 buildings on the site.

In this video, Ross Palmer, a Partner at Foster + Partners, discusses how his firm addressed heritage considerations through the idea of a city datum line. This datum line is expressed as a recess in the building that acknowledges and expresses the Australian Hotel’s original height. He describes the design process that considered sensitivity to scale, a response to a sense of place, and influences of function and light for the facade.

In May 2016, Solotel Hospitality Group purchased the Australian Hotel and Abercrombie Heritage Terraces. As discussed in a news release: “Solotel will deliver a contemporary expression within the original heritage character of the pub reminiscent of this bygone era whilst ensuring its seamless integration into the broader Central Park precinct.”

Talking Points

The architecture designed by Foster + Partners around the Australian Hotel (called Duo) has been hotly debated in relation to its sensitivity to the heritage building, as seen in the ‘See also’ resource link below. What is your view (up to 150 words)?

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This video is from the free online course:

Re-Enchanting the City: Designing the Human Habitat

UNSW Sydney