Sydney Architecture Images- Contemporary Commercial

420 George Street (formerly Mid City Centre)


bates smart, developed by Fortius Funds Management and Lend Lease. The original Development Application was designed by architect Dino Burratini in 1990.


420 George Street, Sydney


2008.The DA has been around since 1988.


Millennium Minimalist Modernism


reinforced concrete frame, curtain wall glazing. 35st/140m/office


Office Building, retail
  Tall order … the artists' impressions of the retail and office tower which will be 130 metres high.
Photo: Andrew McKenzie
  Above- during excavation (2009), from the Pitt Street side.
420 George Street (Mid City Centre), Sydney
Bates Smart won a City of Sydney Design Excellence competition for a new commercial tower above the MidCity Centre at 420 George Street.

The $280 million project consists of 36 tower levels comprising 28 office levels, 4 retail levels, 2 basement car park levels, 2 plant levels, and totaling approximately 42,000sqm NLA of Grade A / Premium office space. The development also includes a new commercial lobby with 5 storey atrium and alterations to the existing retail including new façade to Pitt Street Mall.

The tower is expressed as two volumes: a silvery polished concrete volume to the north housing the core and breakout areas, and a transparent green glass volume to the south housing a 19m clear span office space. A nine level atrium with breakout ‘pods’ provides amenity to offices in the low rise adjoining a neighbouring building. Sunshades to the east and west façades minimise heat gain. The Podium façades respond directly to the sandstone and vertical proportioning of the adjoining heritage buildings.

Hassell chairman Ken Maher reviews Bates Smart's 420 George Street.

The lack of quality in the design of Sydney’s downtown commercial architecture has long been a topic of conversation among the cognoscenti. Viewed as a whole, Sydney’s inner-city towers have been characterized by blandness and the once cohesive city streets have evolved, at least until recently, largely without distinction.
Sheer glazing to a central void signals the retail arcade, while the horizontal and vertical side elements are in sympathy with the adjacent heritage facades.

There have been exceptions – notably the prodigious body of towers by Harry Seidler. Yet the dilemma with his eloquently composed towers has been their lack of respect for the urban block structure inherited from previous centuries.

In the past decade there has been an emergence of a greater interest in the relationship between design quality and commercial success, with many developers seeking “big name” international architects – from the stables of Ingenhoven, KPF, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster and Richard Rogers – with varying degrees of success.

In parallel to this trend, the City of Sydney introduced a design excellence program requiring a “competitive design process” for all significant projects in the city, and floor space incentives for fully fledged design competitions. This policy is accompanied by strict development controls designed to deliver cohesive street definition and scale generated from the remaining fragments of the nineteenth-century city.

Consequently, a number of projects have a new sensibility, drawing on the scale, detail and materiality of Sydney sandstone buildings with the promise of reclaiming greater unity and a more engaging quality in the urban centre. This requires new interpretations of the manner in which the often heroically scaled aspirations of the corporate tower are expressed within, or mediated by, the street front experience.

Bates Smart’s project at 420 George Street, Sydney, developed by Fortius Funds Management and Lend Lease, is an inventive response to the current city design paradigm.

The site was once occupied by the Harry Seidler-designed Mid City Centre. This uncompromising modern intrusion into the nineteenth-century streetscapes of George and Pitt Streets, with its well-intended yet convoluted mid-block retail arcade, showed a disregard for the scale of its neighbours that was typical of the time.

This scheme, winner of a 2003 competition, comprises a very clear set of formal strategies that are elegantly described in simple diagrams. The key strategy is a simple, flexible, rectangular floor plate that is nineteen metres wide on the south side, arranged to maximize views and minimize heat gain, with a separately articulated north-side core. This formal composition is enhanced by the expression of the core as a more solid form, with the office space as planes of glass on the north and south, expressing the floors as horizontal planes to emphasize this simple composition.
A narrow atrium on the south facade coincides with the adjacent Dymocks building.

At the lower levels of the tower, the stepped form of the building envelope on the Pitt Street frontage is cleverly used to introduce a narrow atrium on the south facade, coinciding with the adjacent Dymocks building. This separates the work space floors from the boundary and borrows modest amounts of daylight. Sustainability initiatives include a hybrid chilled beam/variable air volume (VAV) air system, a naturally ventilated atrium and grey-water recycling.

The separate form of the podium, expressed independently from the base of the tower, engages a sandstone materiality through “blades,” giving a reading of depth and defining the main formal elements of the arcade, retail frontage and office foyer.

On the Pitt Street frontage the podium is divided into three components, with sheer glazing to a central void signalling the retail arcade, and side elements expressing a combination of horizontal and vertical elements in sympathy with the adjacent heritage facades. Higher levels of transparency on the lower three floors allow visibility of retail displays, while masonry blades lend a sense of substance to the upper floors. Glass blades, some of which are coloured, provide an overlay that effectively relates the scale of these differently expressed facades.

The narrower George Street frontage employs a less successful two-element composition, with the northern sheer-glazed facade providing an address to the office tower. The glazed roof allows a subtle expression of the tower facade, with the southern section adopting more solid horizontal and vertical elements.

The project changed hands following the design competition and it was not until 2005 that a development application was submitted to the City of Sydney council. The evolution of the street facades, in particular with subsequent amendments, departed significantly from the earlier concept and lacked some of the substance essential to a successful integration with the streetscape. An additional concern was the scale of the retail arcade, particularly as it addressed Pitt Street.

At this time, two members of the original jury were asked to intervene on behalf of the Central Sydney Planning Committee to work with the architects and developers to negotiate maintaining the intent of the design as submitted for the competition, and to ensure the scheme was worthy of the 10 percent floor space bonus.
The clean and largely unadorned expression of the tower downplays its presence and allows it to defer to the strength of the podium. Image: Richard Glover

The real strength of this project is in the podium, with its clever interpretation of the scale and trabeated articulation of the adjoining elaborate facades, distilled to an essential yet convincing contemporary expression. The Pitt Street frontage is enriched by the void as an anti-space to the central retail arcade. Less successful is the office foyer, with the challenging position of the tower structure bifurcating the space and the offset visual link to the main lobby at the first floor level. The intent to express this space as part of the public domain is worthy, yet a little diminished by the detailing of the main stair, which appears more domestic than urban.

The retail arcade is successful in its ground plane control of shopfronts and its generally robust materiality, although the decision to introduce a black ceiling to downplay the limited vertical scale adds a sombre quality and internalizes the space.

The clean and largely unadorned expression of the tower downplays its presence and allows it to defer to the strength of the podium. It is well mannered and well resolved, although the limited depth of shading elements to the east and west reduces their effectiveness and limits the play of light and shade, and the ever-present challenge of glass type selection – balancing visual quality and environmental performance – has resulted in an excessively blue colouration.

A negotiated change to materials resulted in the north core being clad in stone rather than Alpolic; however, the colour and detailing makes this less evident than perhaps intended.

Value management has meant that the original intent to clear-span the office space has been modified by the introduction of columns adjacent to the core, which does reduce the flexibility of the floor plate.

Despite these minor limitations, this project is a worthy addition to the city, particularly in its balance between public and private benefit.

Joining a select group of projects including JPW’s Hilton Hotel, 363 George Street and Seidler’s Cove Apartments, 420 George Street similarly demonstrates how contemporary street front architecture can enrich the experience of the city’s public domain and reinforce the identity of Sydney.
Mid City Centre sold for $250m - mall all tied up

By Carolyn Cummins Commercial Property Editor
May 1, 2006 Copyright SMH

THE Mid City Centre in Pitt Street Mall has been sold for about $250 million.

The buyer is understood to be either the private Fortius Fund Managementor the Industry Superannuation Property Trust.

Fortius has ready access to cash through its relationship with HSBC.

Fortius is no stranger to large developments, as evidenced by its site in Kings Cross, known as the Kingsgate development, which includes the familiar Coca-Cola sign, a city landmark.

The Mid City sale is one of the largest in the CBD since Westfield bought the Imperial Arcade for $91 million in August 2004 from Stockland.

Mid City Centre is owned by City Freeholds, which recently sold the Sofitel Wentworth hotel to Babcock & Brown for $150 million.

The Mid City Centre is a four-level shopping centre between the Pitt Street Mall and George Street, to which an office tower could be added.

It is the last major arcade in the heart of the CBD to be sold before the properties opposite are pulled down by Westfield.

ISPT, GPT and Colonial First Global Asset Management were all said to have been on the short list for the site.

The sale comes as the Pitt Street Mall, the fifth most expensive street in the world in terms of rent, is about to undergo a massive upheaval via Westfield's $600 million redevelopment plans.

Freehold ownership in the CBD's retail core has been extremely tight, particularly in the "super-prime" area of the mall.

Tony Anderson, managing director of Laing & Simmons, said Westfield's 2004 acquisition of Imperial Arcade and Skygarden along with their other Pitt Street Mall assets, Sydney Central Plaza and Centrepoint, has reduced freehold ownership along the mall to just nine owners.

"David Jones has just negotiated to buy back their two Sydney stores as well as their Melbourne site from Deutsche Bank for about $420 million," Mr Anderson said.

"This makes freehold ownership on either side of Market Street between Pitt and Castlereagh limited to only four parties, being Westfield [on the north] and David Jones plus two private investors [on the south]."

The Mid City Centre sale comes hot on the heels of another landmark sale last week, the Gowings building on the corner of Market and George Streets.

The heritage building was sold on Thursday for $68.6 million to its neighbour Amalgamated Holdings, which owns the State Theatre.

Copyright SMH
Fears giant tower will put retailers in the shade

By Bonnie Malkin Urban Affairs Reporter
November 17, 2005 Copyright SMH

Plans to demolish the Mid City Centre and replace it with a four-storey shopping centre and 34-storey office tower are expected to be approved by Sydney's main planning body.

But the 130-metre-high redevelopment, which is estimated to cost $202 million, has drawn criticism from neighbouring residents and businesses.

The retail and office tower will have six levels of basement car parking, a seven-metre architectural roof feature, two sandstone facades and a nine-storey atrium.

It is not known if existing tenants of the Mid City Centre, located in the city's prime retail strip between George Street and Pitt Street Mall, will be able to trade during the construction work or return to the building once it is finished.

If, as expected, it is approved tonight by the City of Sydney's Central Sydney Planning Committee, construction on the tower must begin within two years. The building work is expected to take 18 months to complete.

But city lobby groups, including David Jones, are concerned over the impact the revamp will have. In a letter sent to the council about the proposal, the executive officer of David Jones, Mark McInnes, said: "We are uncertain of the level of consideration given to the social, environmental and economic impact of such a large development."

A consortium of residents and retailers, Concerned Residents and Businesses Against CBD Overdevelopment, also opposes the plan. In a letter to the council, the group's president, Matt Laffan, said tenants of the Mid City Centre had not been told that their premises were going to be demolished.

"Of equal alarm is that the proposal entails a commercial tower and retail build approximately 20 per cent larger than Westfield's plan for Pitt Street Mall."

Tower developers City Freehold did not return the Herald's calls.

The committee, which has the authority to tick off developments worth more than $50 million, is expected to approve the plan on the condition that the number of tenant car spaces is halved to 44.

The seven-storey Harry Seidler-designed Mid City Centre was built in 1982.

Copyright SMH