A contemporary interpretation of an old industrial site may soon join the $8 billion Green Square Town Centre in Sydney, after its architects MNH Design Union won a design competition run under the City of Sydney’s Design Excellence process.

The project, part of an upcoming transformation of the old Waverley Council works depot, is said to eschew the ‘egg crate’ architecture commonly found in Sydney. It will rework a 4,800sqm former brick manufacturing site, with the winning design reverting to traditional red brick, blue collar values, a celebration of its links with the past.

“We broke the design mould of tight, repetitive grids by creating an emotional and evocative link to the solid, red brick buildings of yesteryear which every Sydneysider can relate to,” said Brian Meyerson, a director at MHNDU.

“We felt that the client, Bridgehill, may have been searching for something more meaningful than the typical apartment offering these days, which is commonly designed with rendered walls and random splashes of colour.

“Fortunately for us, the jury recognised the importance of architectural diversity and maintaining some link with the area’s industrial heritage.

“If each building in Green Square were to scream too loudly there is a danger it would resemble an architectural Disneyland.”

The nine storey residential building for Geddes Avenue features vertical masonry columns which replicate the look of the old chimney stacks. These columns also serve a practical purpose of concealing the building’s mechanical services while forming a protected colonnade along the street, which will become an integral thoroughfare as dictated in the City’s vision.

The façade is broken into strong vertical masonry elements with deep recesses that will allow light and ventilation to penetrate into the apartments, corridors and lobbies.

Sliding metal screens, polished concrete floors, and exposed timber and brickwork further serve to build connections with the area’s industrial past.

“The robust, traditional materials we’ve selected will endure, much like the inter-war warehouses that gave the neighbourhood its character,” adds Meyerson.

Some of the other design initiatives include a community garden on the roof for the cultivation of vegetables, herbs and flowers, as well as a central landscaped area for passive recreational use.

A series of enclosed and semi-enclosed communal ‘cubes’, including an acoustically insulated music room, are also positioned on the rooftop.

The building will have an underground connection with nearby sites – a City of Sydney initiative to reduce the interruption of building frontages for service and vehicular access. Two levels of basement parking are planned for more than 200 vehicles, with visitor parking to be created under new roadways.

Bridgehill is expected to lodge the DA for the project in the coming months.