The heritage setting of a contemporary 14-storey commercial and residential building in Sydney presented multiple challenges for architecture firm Tony Owen Partners.

Located at 273-279 Sussex Street, Kaz Tower sits amidst several historic brick buildings. The highly creative design by Tony Owen included a glass façade and an objective to maximise sunlight through each street-front window. The architect also had to meet a City of Sydney heritage requirement to build a brick podium for the first three floors

Employing parametric architecture – a computer-aided design using digital technology – Owen managed to capture every bit of sun that was reflected off surrounding buildings.

Tony explains, “At different times of the day, the sun hits different parts of the building. So, we angled the windows in each part of the building according to where the light was coming from at a certain time of the day. And we ended up with a building that had patterned glazing where every window was at a different angle, because the different height would get sun at different times, and at the different times, the sun would have a different angle.”

Tony took his ingenious idea for an angled red, yellow and white glass façade, reflecting this design in a three-storey brick podium and side brick façade. While traditional face bricks were selected to construct the podium, a brick inlay façade was the system of choice for the side walls.

Looking to ensure continuity across the podium and façade, Owen sought a brick tile for the brick inlay façade that would exactly match the face brick for the podium.

“We just couldn’t find a brick tile in an appropriate colour. We had many samples that did not satisfy anyone. Then Robertson’s Building Products came up with a solid brick and brick tile, which was extremely attractive for us. Colour wise, it was comparable to the desired look because it was dark – a grey/brown – and not a uniform colour on the face, which was very attractive as well,” says Marianna Mioduszewski, director, Tony Owen Partners.

Once the material choice was sorted, the next challenge was figuring out the practicalities of creating the angled façade with bricks.

“We thought putting the side façade together would be very difficult, but Hanson Precast suggested that with Robertson Façade Systems’ brick inlay, anything is possible. We went to the factory to see how individual panels are formed and shaped, and gained a lot of confidence that these panels would be well done. So, we were very confident from day one, and they have proven that it’s definitely the way to go,” comments Mioduszewski.

The final design outcome was stunning. The brick inlay system from Robertson Facade Systems provided a time- and cost-effective way of ‘laying’ bricks on the Kaz Tower façade, easily creating the desired pattern.

According to Owen, what’s amazing about the side brick façade is that each piece is angled in different directions, using several different shapes, which are then mirrored across the façade. So every brick façade and every brick face visible is sculptured. The end outcome is an incredibly interesting patterned façade on the side.

Laying face bricks on the podium proved more complex since the geometry of the structure had 3D curves. Owen invested considerable time to simplify the process for the bricklayers to realise his design. “The fun part of constructing a building that’s a very unusual shape is figuring out how to get it built in the real world using traditional technology. So we have to be innovative and clever about it, but at the same time you’re heavily reliant on a computer that allows us to locate complex shapes in space fairly easily,” Owen says.

Very importantly, it needed a team of professional bricklayers to achieve Owen’s vision for the podium and façade. Brian Freeman and his team from The Country Group did an amazing job. “We’re very happy with the job the builder and bricklayers have done, and we’re very happy with Robertson Façade Systems as well,” Owen concluded.