From the design stage of the Ark project, Rice Daubney’s main focus was to ensure that the new structure blended in to its context, responding to the specific conditions of the site whilst retaining a sense of individuality. In an effort to meet these high standards, Ark's podium uses sculpture, art, landscaping and heritage interpretation to engage public interest, which is further fuelled by a public forecourt at the eastern end of the site. This interactive space has been included to allow overlapping activities to occur throughout the day, providing a vibrant pocket of public space to the precinct. Rice Daubney suggest that the other buildings in the street ‘step in and out from their boundary with a series of bays that range in height as they move up Mount Street’. Ark responds to this with ‘a series of vertical zinc framed boxes against an angled wall of glass, building a relationship with the heritage buildings both in form and reflection'.
Towering above the podium is a delicate glass wing, which makes Ark instantly recognisable within its heritage-rich location. Cranked in the middle, the design provides more area on the upper and the major building expression – an imaginative response to a council control for a 5m weighted average setback. The design has been awarded a 6 Star Green Star Office V2 Design rating from the GBCA and is the first completed high rise commercial building to achieve such a rating in New South Wales. Green elements of the design include tri-generation power supply, grey and storm-weather recycling systems and a fleet of electric cars for use by the buildings tenants.
The artistic license infused in this building is not confined to its architectural design. Constructed on the site of an old Telephone Exchange, sculpture, art and landscaping with a nod to the location’s own heritage have been incorporated into the design. These include ‘1936’ – an artwork by Rice Daubney model maker and artist Simon Grimes which uses original letters for the Telephone Exchange to act as a shadow play on the concrete blade wall in the lobby. Such works are a subtle indication that whilst the structure itself may be brand new, its site has just as much historical value as its more neighbours.