We were searching for a title to the new film short we have directed and produced on 8Chifley in Sydney. In the end the not entirely original, but entirely appropriate, 'Transformer' came to us. Here is a tower with a much smaller than usual footprint - one that doesn't seem to swallow a whole city block. There's plenty to like about a tower that doesn't hog its site or repel the passer-by with a blank anonymity where small shops once stood. Designed by Sydney's Lippmann Partnership in association with Rogers Stirk Harbour of London and ARUP (Sydney), this is the kind of tower that is wonderfully site and climate specific. Hopefully it's a game-changer and rewards the team behind it with similar opportunities.
Why don't we see more towers of this spirit? Basically the fund and superannuation managers demand more of the same. They're risk averse and don't especially like genuine difference. 8Chifley should reassure them of what's possible with a series of wonderful voids and platforms that open and engage with the place like few of the neighbours. And guess what? The anchor tenant loves it.
We have become accustomed to the big sealed box as branding statement and yet 8Chifley indicates a fresh new direction. Yes, it's big enough, but only 30 storeys and inventive on so many levels. Ground floor for a start is open and transparent with plenty of scope for passers-by to relax in the sunshine or take shelter. And it's a strategy continued throughout with tenant decks and open, connected work areas.
In all it's a mighty achievement and a delight to document on film. You can check out a building of wonderful difference at YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haZcmMbshmM&feature=youtube_gdata
I was recently reminded of the contribution great buildings make to cities compromised by bad buildings. All cities have their share of lame ducks. It seems to be a case of developer-led mediocrity in many instances where all manner of trade-offs are made in the name of progress. I was recently asked what was so special about the three best towers constructed in Australia in the past couple of years.
We have documented each of them on film and still image and the projects are 1Bligh St. Sydney, 111 Eagle St. Brisbane and 8 Chifley Sydney. My reply covered three critical areas: they touched the ground lightly with a ballerina's footprint, on sites hardly bigger than a suburban house block. In other words they didn't swallow the neighbourhood, they all provided a very open, permeable ground plane that included rather than excluded the passer-by, and that they were reinventing the office space away from the cellular hierarchy of old.
An added bonus is their energy performance and clarity of glass so that the black box syndrome occurring with cheap, expedient development is entirely avoided. Our 14 minute clip on the work of the brilliant German design practice Ingenhoven Architeckten who partnered Architectus Sydney, reveals how seriously good design can help create sublime cities rather than the conveyor belt tower built to the lowest common denominator.
I hope you find our program on 1Bligh St. Sydney - Heart of Glass - a reminder of just how great buildings can occur when enough people care about the work they leave behind: http://www.ingenhovenarchitects.com/en/office/filmsvideos/16122011-heart-of-glass.html