20 February 2024

AURA by Aqualand’s curvaceous architecture becoming a living sculpture for North Sydney

Aqualand has collaborated with acclaimed architects, Woods Bagot, to create a new jewel in North Sydney’s crown in the form of an elegantly curved building that redefines the streetscape and city skyline. 

AURA by Aqualand at 168 Walker Street is a $1B mixed-use project set to deliver 386 luxury apartments above a richly landscaped retail precinct and commercial spaces. The development is Sydney’s latest example of architecture as sculpture, a category that includes some of the city’s most memorable buildings, from the white sails of the Sydney Opera House to the giant plant-draped bowls of Barangaroo House and Darling Harbour’s nest-like mixed-use building, The Exchange. 

The building’s gracefully undulating facade creates an illusion that the single structure is divided into four separate towers, with staggered peaks stepping down from level 29 to level 23. AURA by Aqualand’s distinctive hourglass shape cinches in at the level-nine ‘waist’ of the building, where the resident’s community centre is located. 

Architect Jason Fraser, Principal at Woods Bagot, says the design draws inspiration from the eroded sandstone forms of Sydney Harbour and the ever-changing play of light on the water. 

“We started looking at the harbour for inspiration,” Fraser says.

“One of the things we love about North Sydney is that the sandstone at the water’s edge is the same sandstone you see all through the suburb. There’s also this incredibly rich landscape from Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden at Lavender Bay, all the way up to St Leonards Park. We wanted our building to become a part of this unique landscape.” 


“The building is shaped in an organic way reminiscent of these eroded stone forms,” Fraser says. “The ground plane is also carved out to reveal sandstone walls, interesting textures and colours drawn from the sandstone.” 

AURA by Aqualand’s extensive retail precinct will provide residents with a curated shopping and dining destination on their doorstep, including a providore, bakery, café and wine bar, an all-day diner and a contemporary Japanese restaurant. A network of landscaped laneways will welcome people into the precinct.  

The shimmering waters of the harbour also played a role in defining the shape of the building and the palette of materials.  

“You can stare at the water all day and watch how the lights reflects off it differently. We wanted a building that did similar things with light both spatially and materially,”


Translucent glass, muted metallics and black lines contrast against textured white finishes, including aggregate quartz and concrete. In the retail precinct, circular voids in the podium awnings draw sunlight into seating areas. Vine-draped awnings near the ground level add layers of lush greenery. Natural light streams into the indoor residents’ pool via skylights and oversized windows and is used near lift wells on each floor to guide residents to their destination. Perforated metal screens control privacy while inviting dappled light inside the spacious homes. 

Other resident amenities include a wellness room and end-of-trip facilities. A glamorous rooftop area offers a sun deck, private dining rooms, barbecue and kitchen space for year-round al fresco entertaining.  

Fraser says in Aqualand, Woods Bagot found a partner willing to embrace sculptural forms that would make the building more interesting not only to residents but to the wider community. 

“Sculptural buildings are harder to draw, document and build,” he says. “Many of Sydney’s most famous sculptural buildings, from the Sydney Opera House to Barangaroo House and The Exchange, are designed with an obvious community benefit in mind. The sculptural form is used to give back to the community. AURA by Aqualand represents an impressive and ambitious commitment by a residential developer to give back to the community architecturally.” 

“We’ve tried to be gentle with the curves. The apartment plans are very spacious and each apartment is a slightly different size because each floor has a different depth. That means we’re never squeezing a small apartment into a curve. They’re benefiting from the deep reveals, by making the most of the expansive frontages to create more liveable spaces” 


AURA by Aqualand’s sculptural contribution to the area will be further enhanced by a separate stunning public art piece commissioned from leading British artist and sculptor, Richard Sweeney. Submitted to North Sydney Council for approval earlier last year, the bold sculpture, which will be positioned at the building’s Walker Street entry, will also draw inspiration from the beauty of the Sydney Harbour foreshore surrounding the project. 

The entire project is consistent with Aqualand’s impressive record of supporting the arts, with its long-term partnership with Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, whereby it purchases a sculpture to be put on public display in the community each year, and the Art Gallery of NSW, most recently with its extended partnership including naming rights of the Aqualand Atrium in their new Sydney Modern Project building. 

Aqualand Managing Director, Jin Lin, says the arts play a pivotal role in enhancing communities by bringing people together and providing opportunities for engagement and innovation.  

“Through our projects and our arts sponsorships, Aqualand is proud to contribute to creating more vibrant, cohesive communities around Sydney,” Jin Lin, Aqualand Managing Director


“AURA by Aqualand is a tangible example of our deep commitment to architectural ambition and design excellence. Through its residential, retail and commercial spaces, the building will breathe new life into North Sydney, delivering vibrant and carefully considered spaces to live, work and play. AURA by Aqualand will be a living sculpture for this special neighbourhood, a place of beauty inside and out. We eagerly await approval from the North Sydney Council for the beautiful Richard Sweeney public art piece we’ve commissioned. It’s important for us to continue giving back to the community long after the building is completed.”