Architectus has won the design contract for Auswin TWT’s mixed use development project in Ultimo, impressing the judges with a striking multi-layered building design.

Strategically located opposite the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre and next to the Ultimo Community Centre at 495 Harris Street, the 5,322sqm site was previously the headquarters of Tabcorp and is expected to have an end value of around $300 million.

Five of Australia’s leading architectural firms were invited to compete for the project, with the 4-member judging panel consisting of an Auswin TWT representative, another appointed by the City of Sydney and two independent experts. Acclaimed architect Tony Caro chaired the jury.

Architectus’ winning design shows a multi-layered building that steps down from nine storeys along Harris Street to six levels facing Bulwara Road, and features a total of 213 apartments ranging from studios to three-bedrooms, including two-level terraces with street level access. The mixed use development will also include retail/commercial space on the ground floor and two basement levels for vehicles and bicycles, bringing the Gross Floor Area to around 20,000sqm. 

The jury was impressed by Architectus’ contemporary interpretation of the site’s semi-industrial history, which includes a large open air courtyard and a purpose-built pedestrian laneway running from Harris Street through to Bulwara Road.

A series of vertical masonry ventilation pipes, which draw hot air in from the courtyard and expel it naturally, is an innovative inclusion, which will help cool the building and allow it to ‘breathe’.

The Director of Urban Design and Planning with Architectus, Michael Harrison, said his firm had previously been engaged by a group of local residents who were initially concerned that a new building on such a prominent site could impact their amenity.

Architectus had the advantage of this knowledge, enabling them to give due consideration to many of the residents’ wishes for a development that didn’t overpower the neighbourhood or compromise their privacy, while also minimising the chance of overshadowing their properties.

Designing for a complex in-fill site flanked by historic terraces and a large community centre, Architectus conceptualised a layout that would have a group of buildings set around a courtyard rather than one amorphous structure.

According to Architectus Design Architect, Brendan Randles, the design features a number of ‘slots’ and walkways into the development that allow passers-by to see in, and residents to look out, and which bring light and sunshine into the courtyard.

Architectus’ design uses a blend of traditional forms and modern detail for the architecture, comprising of contemporary elements and traditional craftsmanship. Brick is used in the lower levels of the building to project a solid look and feel in keeping with the former warehouses that once dotted Harris Street, while the upper levels seem to ‘float’ above the base with a linear form defined by metallic blade walls, silver-grey aluminium window frames and louvres, expanses of glass and recessed balconies.

Randles explains that the development will offer a variety of accommodation types to cater for a range of occupants, from singles to families, including wide-fronted apartments and ‘through’ apartments with dual aspects. He added that the terrace-style apartments along Bulwara Road and the new lane provide a visual and emotional ‘connection’ to the suburbs’ existing terrace homes.

General Manager of Auswin TWT, Stephen Fitzpatrick says the new project is named New Life/Ultimo, implying that the development will help breathe new life into Ultimo on one of the suburb’s most important sites.

Image: Concept external image for 495 Harris Street, Ultimo (Architectus)