New York-based firm, REX Architecture, has won an international competition to contribute to the redevelopment of Perth’s waterfront. The proposed design will transform the iconic tourist hotspot of Elizabeth Quay into a ‘vertical suburb’, comprising apartments, restaurants, offices and a hotel.

Although design guidelines for the Elizabeth Quay precinct indicate a maximum of 30 storeys for build sites, proposals have been submitted for one 51-storey tower at Lot 5, and another 52-storey tower at Lot 2. However, there is still hope for approval; the guidelines specify that height variation may be supported wherever “innovation and exemplary design quality is demonstrated”.

The submission for the 51-storey tower was part of a proposal by developer Brookfield for a two-tower project called PERTH+. The project would take up Lots 5 and 6 of Elizabeth Quay, and include a 19-storey tower in addition to its taller twin. Although the height of the latter is almost double the guidelines’ recommendations, Brookfield regional director Nicholas Ozich points out that, in terms of total square metres, the “overall built form” of the two towers adheres to the planning framework for the area.

The taller of the two Brookfield-developed towers, if approved, will measure 220 metres, making it Perth’s third tallest tower. Ozich has called REX Architecture’s design “iconic”, specifically referring to modelling that shows the tower will allow 75 percent sunlight across the quay’s public realm throughout the year. The design – which features a striking mid-air cantilever that cuts through the tower in the direction of the river – includes space for roughly 200 apartments, a hotel, restaurants and commercial space. The 19-storey tower has been designated as office space.

Another 52-storey tower has been proposed by developer Adrian Fini for Elizabeth Quay’s Lot 2 – a site initially approved for just 20 storeys. Plans for the project, known as EQ West, include space for 484 apartments overlooking the Swan River.

Late last year, the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA) granted “in principle approval” for 50 storeys on Lot 2 – more than double what was originally planned for the site. Fini is claiming additional exemption for EQ’s extra two storeys on the basis of the project including a top-floor ‘sky deck’ and art gallery.

“There is no more suitable location for iconic international architecture in Perth,” says Fini’s company, CA & Associates. “[EQ West] is the building that Perth has been waiting for to showcase its growth as a global city.”

The proposal for EQ West also includes a 25-storey tower with 190 hotel rooms for the neighbouring Lot 3 site. The City of Perth will today decide whether to follow recommendations to approve the project, which will come at an estimated cost of $300 million.

Although the rapid-fire and residential-heavy development of Elizabeth Quay does not come with any plans for public housing, the acting director-general of the Housing Authority, Paul White, says that taxpayer money will be recouped through shared-equity sales or affordable rentals.

“This would give first-homebuyers or lower income earners an opportunity to buy a home in a high-amenity location close to their place of employment and transport links,” says Whyte.