Having already beaten a host of leading international architecture firms in a design excellence competition for the brief back in 2014, 3XN have now cleared another hurdle on their way to delivering a massive 200-metre-high stacked tower for Circular Quay in Sydney.

The Danish architecture firm has now received Stage 2 DA approval from the City of Sydney to develop their competition winning design, chosen from a pool of architects in September 2014 which included concepts from Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (FJMT) from Sydney; Ingenhoven + Architectus from Germany and Sydney; Morphosis from the USA; MVRDV from The Netherlands; and SANAA from Japan.

The approved 49-story high rise, Quay Quarter Tower will be defined by a series of five shifting glass volumes that are stacked irregularly upon each other, forming various overhangs and exterior terraces. A key feature of the build will be its core, which actually incorporates two thirds of the structure of an existing building located on the site (the AMP Centre) and will be used to provide four new elevator shafts for the building.

Given the solar envelope and other contextual restraints, 3XN’s design adds approximately 45,000sqm of new construction primarily on the north side of the existing building, optimising its embodied energy and inherent resources and resulting in what they call a “remarkably efficient plan”.


Commenting on their massing strategy, 3XN notes that the staked volumes on the lower levels of the tower are angled west to capture the energy and movement from the surrounding neighbourhood while the northern façade shifts to the east. 3XN says this rotation enhances views over the Opera House and Harbor and helps self-shade the northern façade from intense afternoon sun. The stacked volumes also reduce the perceived scale of building in the skyline while accentuating the ‘vertical village’ concept.

“Our vision is to create a building that brings the synergy, intimacy and connection to place found in a low-rise office building and stack it into a high rise,” said Kim Herforth Nielsen, Founder and Creative Director of 3XN.

“By dividing the building into five separate volumes and placing an atrium at the base of each, the volumes become smaller, more intimate social environments where it is easier for employees to connect and interact. This pairs the positive effects of daylight and views with social connectivity. Unlike most high rises, we designed the tower from the ‘inside out’ and ‘outside in’.”


By rotating the tower, 3XN have created a collection of exterior terraces that link directly to the multi-level interior atria, which will contain shared amenity spaces for tenants in each block.  3XN says their research on architecture and the work environment informed the interior design and as such the new offices will support modern work style, with ample daylight, exceptional views of the city and fellow tenants to foster a sense of connection while promoting collaboration and interaction.


By comparison to the ‘vertical village’ of the tower, the podium is conceived as a horizontal porous cluster of public volumes that will attract and enhance activity across the site. The expansive atrium lobby will provide an identifiable new access point to the commercial tower, along with an expanded retail and restaurant precinct that will enliven the existing streets, new arcades and through site links.


Five laneways will also be created including the reinstatement of Goldsbrough Lane, an east-west link between Phillip and Young Streets, providing a new public walkway with views towards the surrounding heritage buildings including the Police and Justice Museum, Customs House and Hinchcliff House

Construction is expected to take approximately three years to complete. 

Images: 3XN