A Design Excellence Competition for the proposed redevelopment of the former Penrith City Council Chambers at 129-133 Henry Street has named Woods Bagot’s world class design as the winner.

The project aims to reinvigorate the site as well as the Penrith CBD with a new commercial building offering approximately 8,000sqm of flexible commercial space, ground floor retail, on-site parking and a building façade that activates both street frontages. Woods Bagot’s design also incorporates best practice principles of environmentally sustainable design and is targeting a minimum of 5 Star Green Star rating in line with the Council’s ‘Cooling the City Strategy’.

Located in the heart of Penrith’s CBD, the proposed commercial building will offer future occupants the ease and convenience of retail, restaurants and major public transport links on their doorstep, while also being adjacent to the future City Park.

According to Penrith Mayor Karen McKeown, the winning design offered an innovative architectural solution that responded to the competition brief and future urban character of the Penrith CBD.

“We are thrilled to start working with award-winning architects Woods Bagot to deliver a highly advanced workplace at 131 Henry Street, which will feature a sustainable design, and activated public and retail spaces for the community,” McKeown says.

“The redevelopment of 131 Henry Street will set the benchmark for future city developments and be the catalyst for the revitalisation of the Penrith CBD, alongside Council’s investment in a new City Park and transformation of Soper Place.

“The new building at 131 Henry Street will help address the limited supply of A-grade commercial space in Penrith; it will also strengthen Penrith’s role as an employment and service cluster within Western Sydney, creating in excess of 150 jobs through construction and a further 430 jobs upon completion,” she added.

According to Woods Bagot’s design statement, three key ideas underpin the architectural design: being of its place, creating a landmark, and serving as an extension of the landscape. Architecturally, the form is composed as three distinct smaller forms, each of which emphasises one of the key ideas. The three forms allow the floors to be programmed separately or entirely, and create better natural ventilation than a uniform box, enabling the building to flexibly adapt to changing future needs.

Woods Bagot principal Jason Fraser explained that the scheme for 131 Henry Street was uniquely focused on both community and workplace to create a building that benefitted the public and delivered a commercially viable workplace of the future.

“Deep analysis of both the progressive changes underway in workplace design and the impact of COVID-19 on how people work has generated Woods Bagot’s scheme for a diverse and adaptable, breathable workspace that promotes different ways of working for different people. The design also responds directly to post-COVID workplace conditions by providing a porous, activated ground plane with multiple entry points to prevent bottlenecks of people using the space. There are also diverse and adaptable spaces, natural ventilation and access to greenery,” Fraser says.

“This building is fundamentally different from commercial buildings of the past. It will offer a diverse range of experiences where people can work one day in a garden in the sun, the next at a quiet indoor location and the following at a rooftop overlooking the park.

“Reinforcing its place in civic life by providing a multitude of public uses, green space will flow through the site and connect it with the future City Park, creating a heart to the civic and education precinct,” he added.

On behalf of the Design Excellence judging panel, Kim Crestani, director Order Architects, said: “This project is yet another exciting example of the innovation and high-quality outcomes that result from the Design Excellence Competition process. The Woods Bagot scheme envisions the future of commercial workplace design, and also responds carefully to the surrounding context, in particular the climate and public domain outcomes.”

The winning design will undergo further design development and refinement with the development application to be lodged by the end of 2021.

Images: Woods Bagot