The Urban Taskforce, an organisation made up of property developers and equity financiers, has called for taller buildings in Sydney in a bid to maintain the city as a global hub in the future.

“For Sydney to remain as Australia’s number one city we need to plan for doubling the height of our skyscrapers by 2050,” says Chris Johnson, CEO of the Urban Taskforce.

“Melbourne, Brisbane and even Parramatta have taller buildings than Sydney planned as they lift their global standing.”

The Urban Taskforce says their assertions come off the back of data from a Price Waterhouse Coopers report indicating Sydney’s annual economic growth over the last 10 years.

“Sydney grew economically each year at 2.2per cent while Brisbane grew at 4.4per cent and Melbourne at 4.7 per cent each year,” says Johnson.

But whether high-rise development is the answer to Sydney’s comparatively small economic growth is up for debate. Liberal Party Councillor, Edward Mandla, has previously disagreed with claims that Sydney needs to build up by suggesting the city already has the balance between building heights and amenities

“Getting good design outcomes is much more important than building taller skyscrapers,” said Mandla.

“There are lots of boys with penis envy when it comes to skyscrapers.Unlike Melbourne and Brisbane, Sydney doesn’t have an inferiority complex – we don’t have to prove ourselves by building taller buildings.”

Arguments can also be made that tall buildings are not necessarily indicative of global presence.
According to the Skyscraper centre, an online database that compares the world’s tallest buildings, Australia has taller structures than the international cities of London, Paris and Tokyo.

The Urban Taskforce, however, believes Sydney’s out-of-date planning rules and lack of residential spaces in the CBD are holding the city back from progressing or even maintaining its position as Australia’s global city.

“Sydney is being held back by out of date planning rules that set the underside of Sydney Tower, designed in the 1970s, as the cap on height for new buildings,” says Johnson.

“The world now has dozens of high-rise towers planned or built that are double the height of Sydney Tower. Across Asia many cities are building towers that are symbols of the prosperity and the optimism of that city’s economic growth.

“The Urban Taskforce urges Sydney siders to think big for Sydney’s future so that we keep ahead of Melbourne and Brisbane as they push forward. Even more important is that Sydney is positioned in the Asia Pacific region as one of the leading cities along with Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.”

In their contribution to the debate about the necessity of urban growth in Sydney, The Urban Taskforce asked three Sydney architects to create their visions for what the city should look like in 2050.

Architects Richard Francis-Jones (fjmt), James Fitzpatrick (Fitzpatrick+Partners) and Philip Vivian (Bates Smart) were briefed by The Urban Taskforce to think laterally and “not be constrained by the current planning rules for the CBD of Sydney.”

The Urban Taskforce says:

“Behind these three visions is a question of where we all see Sydney into the future. These designs clearly support strong growth in Sydney as a leading city in the Asia Pacific region. They see Sydney as a place of confidence in the future and as a place that supports and urban lifestyle.”

“Sydney’s future will not be advanced if we think of ourselves only as small villages. We must have big visions for the future so that Sydney plays an increasing leadership role as one of the world’s leading cities.”

The plans:

Richard Francis-Jones has proposed new green parks that even cross the Harbour Bridge, with funding to come from dramatic new high-rise developments within solar access planes.

Image: The Urban Taskforce

James Fitzpatrick’s design shows a series of centres including North Sydney, Glebe Island, Central Station and Woolloomooloo all connected by a new circular metro line.

Philip Vivian also calls for a new metro system that crosses the harbour and believes funding for this could come from the development of super tall towers around the proposed new metro stations.

Image: The Urban Taskforce

All Images: The Urban Taskforce

For more information about their plans, please visit