A covenant with the environment

Rice Daubney's iconic Ark aims to be one Sydney's most recognisable and sustainable office buildings

by Claudia Challen 29 October 2010
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    Architecture at its best is always a little out on the edge, a little risky and as we all know with risk comes reward. The desire to build a building that responds to the specific conditions of its site, context, brief and moment in time has led to a building that is unique due to its specific place in the world and yet provides a high standard product to the market, being speculative commercial office space. Ark at North Sydney is such a building.

    Situated on the fringe of North Sydney’s CBD, Ark is bordered by commercial, residential and heritage buildings. From the outset the focus of the design has been to stitch in a piece of architecture that responds to the urban grain of this locality. To achieve this the building creates a dialogue with its context at both a macro and micro level, changing its form in a direct response to context, climate and aspect.

    The buildings expression stems from not only strong sustainable drivers from all concerned, Investa as owner, Rice Daubney as architects and a committed consultant team, creating a 6-star Green Star V2 Design, but also a response to the immediate context of Mount Street. Mount Street is defined by a collection of heritage buildings on its southern side that make up the Mary McKillop Place and the world class view that opens up once above these buildings.

    Integrated into this heritage precinct, the iconic form of Ark rises above its peers to create a new benchmark for innovation and sustainable design for the CBD skyline. The building is conceived as a set of layered elements which respond to the heritage street grain, natural environment, public domain, and city skyline. These elements are what give Ark a sense of place.

    Soaring above the lobby and podium the tower again reflects its context as it acts as a mediator between the radically different scales of North Sydney’s CBD and the surrounding one and two storey residential precincts. The tower’s primary façade faces Sydney Harbour with a delicate wing of glass suspended in front of the building, instilling a sense of lightness, transparency and intrigue. Because of its southern aspect the glazing of the screen is lighter and clearer which allow interior activity to be read from the street, enlivening the building. This lightness is of critical importance in reducing the bulk of the building from this aspect.

    The angled planes of glass of the towers southern elevation respond to a council control for a five-metre weighted average setback in a unique fashion by applying the control in section rather than plan. This gives the tower its dynamic and eye catching form, a glazed wing that is cranked in the middle providing more area on the upper levels and the building’s major expression. When viewed from the south the rectilinear form of the tower is masked by the delicate ‘wing like’ screen that is the southern façade. This screen sails past the corners of the building to create an element of lightness and transparency that gives the building depth and texture.

    Ark has been designed from the outset to be one of Australia’s most recognisable and sustainable office buildings and will change our perception of buildings in North Sydney.


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