Sydney Architecture Images- Contemporary Non-Commercial



Turner & Associates


Surry Hills




Millennium Minimalist Modernism


concrete frame


Apartment Building 
‘Silkwood’ apartments, Surry Hills

The 48-apartment ‘Silkwood’ in Reservoir Street, Surry Hills, continues the evolution of this former rag trading precinct into a sophisticated residential and retail neighbourhood for the young and upwardly mobile.

Energised by the prospect of living close to cafes, theatres, boutiques, galleries, museums, bars, designer shops, fashion outlets, parks, colleges, and recreational amenities, streetwise buyers are targeting this vibrant area where once garment manufacturing factories proliferated. Excellent public transport also makes the location an ideal base for workers and students, and many of those moving into the area are dispensing with their cars.

Leading architectural practice Turner + Associates has designed ‘Silkwood’ to appeal to people who want smart, urban living, with the NSW Residential Director of Colliers International, Murray Wood, describing the apartments as “having an edgy New York feel.”

‘Silkwood’ is a $40-Million three-in-one complex constructed by St Hilliers on behalf of Teachers Federation Health (TFH). It embraces a 412-seat auditorium with a tiered stage for conferences and parliamentary-style debates, two levels of commercial space occupied by TFH which act as a ‘base’ to the building, and the residential apartments above.

All three sections of the u-shaped building have separate and well-defined entry foyers.

The development is stepped from three to nine-storeys to provide separation from neighbouring ‘Silknit House’, a heritage-listed local landmark owned by NSW Teachers Federation.

Turner + Associates selected materials in response to the surrounding masonry structures and in recognition of the area’s working-class roots. At street level tactile materials include buffed concrete, stone, galvanized steel and Spotted Gum timber, whilst on upper levels and to the south is a more robust palette of charcoal-coloured metal cladding, pre-cast concrete panels and a mix of solid and glazed balustrades.

The façade of the auditorium is pre-weathered Corten steel, providing a striking rust-coloured highlight to the overall development. Corten is also used for skylight elements that project into the residential courtyard and act as abstract sculptures.

A stylised ‘33’ is cast into the masonry walls on the corner of Reservoir Street and Wright Lane to ‘signpost’ the residential entry and denote the street address. The foyer incorporates raw bluestone flooring, textured off-form concrete, black gloss glazed bricks, and a dramatic pistachio-coloured feature wall that frames two high-speed lifts.

“We were given great latitude at ‘Silkwood’ which was a refreshing change as it allowed us to provide an architectural point of difference over other developments,” said Nick Turner, the principal of Turner + Associates.

“Sydneysiders are design-savvy, so we shied away from the standard rendered and painted masonry facade to more natural materials, and gave the building different textures, heights, elements and points of visual interest.”

The design approach to the interiors is equally interesting. Access to apartments is via corridors on every second or third level, replacing the traditional double-loaded entry passages and maximising the number of ‘through’ apartments and cross-over layouts. The corridors have a southern wall of glass to let in natural light and provide views of the courtyard.
Two tribes in the CBD
Dugald Jellie August 12, 2006 Copyright SMH

Boris Tosic, Naomi Phillips and a two-bed unit in Silkwood.

The north has always had the cachet, but the design set loves the south.

"What other city in the world could offer a view like this?" And so begins Emerald City, David Williamson's lament on Sydney's late '80s boom real-estate days. The playwright today is a resident of Noosa, but still keeps a toehold in Sydney - with a unit in the high-rise Observatory Tower on Millers Point.

This is the plum north end of Sydney's CBD, home to Macquarie bankers, star chef Tetsuya Wakuda, former prime minister Paul Keating (and his mum and sister), shockjock Stan Zemanek, one-time pollie Kerry Chikarovski - a who's who of Sydney movers, shakers and overnight stayers, enjoying big city views from a historic promontory that once was home to larrikins of another kind.

At the other end of town it's a different story. The old rag-trade district of Surry Hills - the once glum south end of the CBD with knitting mills, Chinese laundrymen and rising damp - is today a neighbourhood on the way up, an ascendant quarter of hot new design stores, restaurants and apartment living that's now an A-list address.

Sydney has always been a city divided and here even in its heart - with the move to CBD living - there's a tale of two cities. It's a north-south separation. The well-to-do live up the top end of town near the shimmering pearl of Sydney Cove, while others travel south down the spine of George Street nearer to Central Station.

And no other locations in the city illustrate this great divide in topography, status and apartment prices quite so succinctly as do the high ground of Millers Point and the lowlands of Surry Hills.

"I despair of being able to convey to any reader my own idea of the beauty of Sydney Harbour," wrote the English novelist Anthony Trollope. He had seen no equal, nothing second to it. A top-floor apartment in Bennelong, Macquarie Street, sold recently for $3.65 million. A nearby 75 sq m unit at Quay Grand fetched $1.6 million. "Fully furnished executive rentals vary from $1000 to $6000 a week," says Harbourlife agent Lane Brazel of the dress circle Quay East strip.

Walsh Bay, around the corner at Dawes Point, is another exclusive option, where waterfront units sold for a median $1,205,000 last year.

Pier 6-7 is the millionaires' row, the old maritime finger wharf scrubbing up a treat, home now to BridgeClimb entrepreneur Paul Cave (he paid $5.8 million for a penthouse from where he can check on business), solicitor Chris Murphy, media mogul Kerry Stokes and hotelier and former lord mayor Nelson Meers, who spent $3.6 million for a berth. Home loan king John Symond wants more than $15 million for his four-bedder.

Nearby is Millers Point, once a haunt for hard-drinking seamen and wharf labourers, now home to bankers and lawyers quenching a thirst at their local, the Lord Nelson.

Luxury high-rise apartments on the crest of Kent Street command top dollar, with a $810,000 median, ranking it Sydney's eighth most prestigious neighbourhood for units.

"The area has a great historic legacy and a lovely village feel with all the sandstone terraces," says Anthony Rice, of development firm Stamford Property Services.

"It's elevated, it has Observatory Point park with north-facing bridge and harbour views, and it's so close to the city. It's a 10-minute walk from Millers Point to the stock exchange."

For such reasons, about 65 per cent of the 83 apartments in the $110 million Stamford Marque project, at 161 Kent Street, sold off the plan from the time it first became available in 2003; marketing for the remainder started last week. The 27-level, east- or west-facing high-rise by Kann Finch Group architects, with luxury interiors designed by Burley Katon Halliday, is due for completion in October. About 70 per cent of the apartments have views of the Harbour Bridge; 40 per cent have views of both the Opera House and the bridge. The two three-storey penthouses have internal lifts, rooftop lap pools and uninterrupted views of the Blue Mountains, Darling Harbour, the bridge and the Opera House.

The development is the last to be built on the Kent Street crest - which includes the converted and refurbished blocks at Highgate, Observatory Tower and Stamford on Kent - where Residex figures forecast an average annual capital growth of 9 per cent, lifting median unit prices to $1.31 million in 2010.

Most of the CBD population growth in the past 10 years (up from 7300 residents in 1995 to 27,681 this year, according to City of Sydney figures) can be attributed to south-end high-rise projects such as the 637-unit World Tower. And there are many more residents on the way, destined for the now-rising 330-unit Meriton Tower and the Norman Foster-designed 456-unit Lumiere in George Street. Now the city hub is stretching further south with Haymarket projects and the rejuvenation of what Travel + Leisure magazine calls "North Surry Hills" - the old rag-trade precinct.

The recently completed 48-apartment Silkwood building in Reservoir Street is a striking development befitting this design-savvy quarter - full of architects and furniture designers with laptops and Blackberries, drinking short blacks at Single Origin Roasters as two women walk by with a chihuahua. Think Lower East Side New York.

"It's a very tight, fine-grained urban design that's environmentally responsible and site specific," says the project's architect, Nick Turner from Turner + Associates. "We used a palette of robust, natural materials such as buffed concrete, stone and rusted Corten steel as a response to the rich industrial-urban context."

Eighty per cent of the apartments are north-facing, with a double-height volume allowing natural sunlight through the units and generous hardwood-decked balconies offering views that include the city skyline, Centrepoint Tower, Mark Foy's building and the nearby sandstone viaduct leading to Central Station.

Sixteen of the units sold off the plan. "It's one of the first high-end, quality buildings of this area," says Colliers agent Caroline Fagerlund. "It's a cutting-edge architectural design, a sign that this part of Surry Hills is really starting to increase in value."

Stamford Marque

One-bed + study (68-82 sq m + 12 sq m balcony) $575,000 to $785,000; two-bed (109-137 sq m + 17-37 sq m) $990,000 to $1.2 million; three-bed (201 sq m + 40 sq m) $3.6 million; penthouse (338 sq m + 157 sq m) $6.5 million; penthouse 376 sq m + 191 sq m) $8.75 million. Phone 0413 744 776.

Studios (50 sq m + 7 sq m balcony) $405,000; one-bed (57-74 sq m + 12-15 sq m) from $410,000; two-bed (82-90 sq m + 11-13 sq m) $625,000 to $750,000; three-bed (118 sq m + 35 sq m) $950,000 to $1.25 million. Phone 0414 430 094.

Boris Tosic knows Surry Hills well, especially the old rag-trade district where for the past eight years he's run an office fit-out company.

It's an area he says is booming - down the south end of the city - rejuvenated by the CBD living push and new high-quality developments such as Silkwood.

"The north part of Surry Hills has really turned trendy these last few years," says the 40-year-old, who's moving into the neighbourhood from Bronte.

"There's a lot of great furniture shops and really good restaurants and there's a good communal thing going. It feels really European."

Tosic and his fiance, 28-year-old Naomi Phillips from Melbourne, paid $670,000 recently for a two-bedroom unit in Silkwood. He says the clincher was that Phillips thought Surry Hills felt familiar to her hometown.

And it suited his lifestyle. "I've heard that a lot of apartments sold in Silkwood have been to people working in the area. I guess it's the same reason I bought one."

The couple did their homework.

"It's very well designed compared to the other residential developments we looked at around the city," Tosic says.

"The only other place comparable was the old women's hospital [St Margaret's in Surry Hills] up the road, but I did the sums and it was about $200,000 more for about 20 sq m less. This place suited our needs better."

"We're city people," says John Holsinger, who with wife Valerie has bought a second high-rise apartment in Millers Point after 28 years in Hong Kong. "We love the view. We love the ambience of the harbour. We can walk everywhere."

The semi-retired couple love the luxury lifestyle. Both are over 55; they have no children; Valerie is British and John American.

They relocated in February last year to a unit they bought in Stamford on Kent. Now they have upgraded, buying two titles in the neighbouring Stamford Marque to be combined into a spacious half-floor apartment.

"I love to travel and like being able to lock-up and leave without having to worry about security," says John, who recently rode his Harley-Davidson motorcycle into the outback.

And Sydney's CBD fringe afford other freedoms.

"It's been a great opportunity for us to experience another life," John says. "We've gone to more cultural events since being here than we did in the last 10 years in Hong Kong, with the proximity to the Opera House and Lyric Theatre. It's so central, so simple to get around."