When we talk Barangaroo, we tend to talk about the triplet towers that have made international headlines for their sustainable innovations. As well-deserved as this focus is, it has meant the neglect of the smaller buildings that have gradually emerged between their larger neighbours.
R7 Barangaroo is one such “hinge” building within the redeveloped commercial precinct. Designed by architecture firm Durbach Block Jaggers, R7 forms part of the sequence of small buildings that create an entry point to Barangaroo; a hinge between city and harbour.
The project is connected to its neighbouring development – a thematically consistent structure called R1 – and is the result of a competition-winning scheme for the area between King Street Wharf and Barangaroo South.
According to the architects, their intention for the relatively diminutive space is to bring “the action of the building […] to the surface”. Primarily, this is achieved by means of an external, wrap-around staircase that links each floor to the ground plane, and which culminates in a rooftop restaurant and sheltered garden courtyard. This multi-level space is treated as a single built area within the architect’s project vernacular. In a design statement released after R7’s completion, the staircase is not referred to as a staircase, but rather as a “vertical overgrown promenade”.
Aside from the linked staircase, Durbach Block Jaggers’ façade design forms a robust and unified front from street-level perspective. Masses of stacked and offset timber columns – which range from lighter to darker, from top to bottom – seem to find their form in response to the staircase, resulting in a mixed-geometry building of deviating grid patterns. To emphasise this eschewing of pattern rules, the building culminates in a dipped, V-shaped roof.
What the staircase begins, the rooftop finishes. R7’s occupants are able to experience the blending of indoors and outdoors via a rooftop garden space, complete with full-size trees. Here again, Durbach Block Jaggers seem to frame their design around elements that facilitate small-scale enjoyment rather than elaborate gestures that neglect the human scale. For instance, a series of circular roof openings, carved out of the concrete ceiling, act as open-ended frames for rooftop plant life, as well as lenses through which to view the taller buildings that call R7 neighbour.