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Touch the sky

Inspired by Sydney’s streetscape of archways and textures, HIA’s 2020 Australian Apartment Complex winner, Arc by Crown Group, is a multi-level ascension to luxury living with a homage to heritage.

Photo: Martin Siegner, frmez

Author

Gabrielle Chariton

With its seamless duality and masterful use of materials, Arc by Crown Group honours Sydney’s traditional architecture, while simultaneously setting a new benchmark for futuristic design. At 28 storeys high, the mixed-use development comprises 220 luxury apartments (residential and serviced), a retail/dining precinct and a variety of recreation areas. 

Located at the western end of the CBD, the building is anchored at the pedestrian level by an eight-storey brick podium, the two halves of which flank a historic laneway, Skittle Lane. Balanced atop this podium, glass-and-steel construction of sculptural curves soar 88 metres into the city skyline. 

The development was completed in 2018 by Crown Group, an Australian company co-founded by Iwan Sunito and Paul Sathio almost 25 years ago. Specialising in lifestyle-oriented urban developments with an emphasis on architectural excellence, Crown Group has ‘carved a reputation as a global property game-changer’.

‘Our developments have become talking points worldwide because we like to approach each project with a mission to create something that hasn’t been done before,’ says Iwan, who is the company’s Group Chairman and CEO. For the Arc project, he says: ‘We asked ourselves, how can we create something that gets everybody talking that inspires people that becomes a piece of art in itself – not just a building? We wanted the design to recognise the historical context in which the building is placed yet have it look to the future.’ 

 
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Arc by Crown Group honours Sydney’s traditional architecture, while simultaneously setting a new benchmark for futuristic design.
Photo: Martin Siegner, frmz
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The rooftop garden provides turquoise water features, frangipani trees and jaw-dropping city views.
Photo: Martin Siegner, frmz

Crown Group engaged architect Koichi Takada, Director of internationally acclaimed practice Koichi Takada Architects, to transform these ideas into a cohesive design. Koichi’s architectural philosophy is underpinned by a rare sensitivity; his signature curvilinear forms and manipulation of materials effortlessly capture the beauty of nature within the urban environment. ‘Koichi will always bring an element of inspiration to each project that goes beyond what has been done before. This is why his designs marry so well with the Crown Group vision,’ Iwan says. 

Conceptually, Koichi’s design response for Arc by Crown Group was based on creating unity within opposing elements: earth and sky; past and future; tradition and innovation. Visually, he drew inspiration from the site’s historical and geographical context. 

The podium is a forward-looking reinterpretation of Sydney’s unique built history, its aesthetic informed by the masonry construction of the neighbouring nineteenth-century buildings. ‘It was really a respect and homage to the heritage context,’ Koichi explains. ‘It was about trying to make it almost invisible in terms of relating to the heritage next to us. And the result is interesting to us because a lot of people asked, “Is this building new?”’

Playing out as a series of intricately detailed, stacked archways, the podium was painstakingly constructed from 300,000 handcrafted bricks. ‘We meticulously mapped all the existing arched windows from the heritage buildings of the neighbourhood…to study the proportions,’ Koichi says.

These proportions were then transposed into a recessive stepped formation, which creates an unexpected dimensionality. ‘It’s got that sense of depth, it’s not a superficial attachment but it gives you that invitation to the internal function of the development. So the depth allows us to bring in more light and also create beautiful deep shadows onto the facade.’ 

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A series of intricately detailed, stacked archways was painstakingly constructed from 300,000 handcrafted bricks. 
Photo: Martin Siegner, frmz 
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Koichi’s signature curvilinear forms and manipulation of materials effortlessly capture the beauty of nature within the urban environment.
Photo: Tom Ferguson

The restoration and integration of Skittle Lane (known for once being used by nineteenth-century wharfies and sailors for games of ‘beer and skittles’), adds to the development’s historical integrity. Studded with an appealing array of retail and dining venues, the laneway sits within an imposing eight-storey, brick-pillared atrium, providing pedestrian links between King, Clarence and Kent Streets.

As the brick gives way to the lighter, brighter skyscraper towers above, Koichi says the rigorously defined geometry of the arch motif evolves into a more asymmetrical ellipse which lends an exquisite fluidity to the built form. 

The gleaming glass towers are encircled in a series of 56 white steel arches (the largest of which weigh in at four tonnes) that curve over the building’s open rooftop garden, forming a graceful, domed crown – a distinctive addition to the city skyline. Here, high above the city, the visual reference is Sydney’s broader landscape and iconic structures of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

‘It became a conscious decision to crown the building with an architectural feature that relates to how people perceive Sydney,’ Koichi explains. 

With its turquoise water features, frangipani trees and jaw-dropping city views, the rooftop garden forges a true connection to nature – something Koichi believes can have a transformative effect on inner-city living and which he strives to achieve with all his projects. ‘When you go to the rooftop, finally it opens up and you start to see what’s beyond the CBD context, and this is a wonderful way to connect with the undulating landscape of Sydney Harbour.’ 

Iwan Sunito adds that this emphasis on lifestyle and amenity is a core element of Arc by Crown Group’s functional design intent. Throughout the interiors, the focus is on liveability, luxury and beauty. ‘At Crown Group we believe strongly in the need to create community and a lifestyle for our residents and hotel guests, and to add elements of nature,’ he says. 

 

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Throughout the interiors, the focus is on liveability, luxury and beauty. 
Photo: supplied
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Completely novel in its sympathetic yet bold approach to design and materiality, the project has received industry-wide acclaim.
Photo: supplied

The complex’s world-class facilities include a vaulted ‘ice-cave’ pool, spa and gymnasium; its walls and ceiling sculpted in undulating layers that echo the organic curved formations of the exteriors. ‘At all our developments we offer Crown Group’s signature resort-style facilities…with the aim of bringing people together. We have added a new hotel, retail and dining precinct to the heart of Sydney in a sophisticated style that brings a touch of the Manhattan lifestyle to its residents. Now more than ever people value this – they can go out yet stay close to home.’

Completely novel in its sympathetic yet bold approach to design and materiality, the project has received industry-wide acclaim (winning more than 18 design and construction awards), and has inspired a whole new conversation around the possibilities for urban residential development.

‘Arc by Crown Group as an architectural creation has become an icon in itself – a masterpiece in design that has added something to the cultural fabric and heritage of Sydney,’ Iwan says. 

Industry accolades aside, the apartment complex offers a unique depth of character that resonates with the wider population. ‘I was not expecting the extent of positive feedback that we got, especially on the podium, that brick component,’ Koichi Takada says.

He attributes this to its warmth and reassuring familiarity; something that’s often missing from contemporary urban environments. It’s this tactile, traditional materiality, he says, that ‘brings the continuity from the past into the present and then potentially into the future as a timeless piece of architecture. This makes me very happy as an architect’. 

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The complex’s world-class facilities include a vaulted ‘ice-cave’ pool, spa and gymnasium.
Photo: supplied
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The restoration and integration of Skittle Lane adds to the development’s historical integrity.
Photo: supplied
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Arc by Crown Group at a glance

DeveloperCrown Group

ArchitectKoichi Takada Architects

BuilderHutchinson Builders

Award: 2020 HIA Australian Apartment Complex

PartnerToyota

Location: Sydney

Materials:

  • Precast concrete walls: Nawkaw, supplied and installed by XL Precast
  • Dry pressed standard brick: Austral Bricks
  • Glazing: Akzo Nobel, Interpon
  • Roof: bracing stainless steel tension rods, Macalloy
  • Airconditioning and mechanical ventilation: Baratech
  • Apartment kitchens: reconstituted stone benchtops and islands
  • Flooring: tiles and carpets throughout
  • Appliances: Miele cooktops and ovens; Fisher and Paykel integrated fridges and dish drawers.

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