20 January 2024

Woods Bagot and Richards Stanisich create harmony in form

AURA-by-Aqualand-Apartment

Evoking the natural beauty of its surrounding location in its tapered and curved form, ‘AURA by Aqualand’ is North Sydney’s newest residential tower under construction and part of an exciting renaissance for the suburb. Here, More Space catches up with Jason Fraser, lead architect with principal designers Woods Bagot, and Kirsten Stanisich of Richards Stanisich who shaped the interior concepts, to discuss the site’s unique form, texture and orientation that was central to the design approach.

North Sydney is going through a renaissance. An area that became known as ‘Twin City’ and began its transformation during the building boom of the 1960s with soaring office towers for advertising agencies, banks, tech and insurance company headquarters, including the iconic MLC building that was the first high-rise office block and hugely influential to tower design in Sydney when the area was the most sought-after address for Sydney’s architecture practices too, is now being joined by glistening new residential towers that promise to bring back community to the once 19th century township and its remaining Victorian terraces and Federation houses.

The latest residential addition designed by Woods Bagot, and, since late last year, Richards Stanisich, who are developing the penthouse interiors for the billion dollar project by developer Aqualand that will also include a layered hospitality offering at street level, featuring a wine bar, cafe and bakery and an all-day diner. Beginning work in 2015, principal designers Woods Bagot have led the design through the early stages to design development and documentation, with the first stage of the building comprising 102 large apartments and retail spaces that involved an intricate dovetail between public and private, and navigating two street frontages.

When you think of North Sydney there are two juxtaposing images, high-rise towers and a lush landscape from Lavender Bay around to the water’s edge at Neutral Bay. It was this unique form, texture and orientation that became central to the design approach. “The undulating form of the building responds to the incredible landscape that spills up from the harbour,” remarks Jason Fraser, lead architect on the project and a principal at Woods Bagot. “We have done a lot of work in North Sydney and I am always struck by the landscape and its geology,” continues Fraser, “from the undulating sandstone rock, to the beautiful trees that create the area’s lush street canopy that extends from St Leonards Park at the top of North Sydney to the harbour at Lavender Bay. Conceptually everyone was very focused on it being a residential location that enjoyed harbour views, so we started to think about North Sydney’s place on Sydney Harbour. We observed the way water over time has eroded the rock face and shaped the landscape. I sat on the harbour’s edge and was fascinated with the way light and texture changes throughout the day, so every decision about the materials and the facade is about how the light will hit the building in different ways. The building’s tapering and curved form responds to that.”

Space Furniture: Inside the Aqualand display showroom, the living area features the Naviglio sofa designed by Yabu Pushelberg for B&B Italia.

Responding to the aspirations of North Sydney Council and its focus on making new spaces in the public domain as the area prepares for the Metro line that will connect the suburb to Barangaroo, Martin Place and Central Station in under 10 minutes, the approach at street level was all about providing engaging public spaces by extending the footpath and improving amenity through detailed placemaking. “We looked at how the area was addressing pedestrian accessibility through its streets and landscape which is very important to place,” remarks Fraser. “On the ground floor we wanted to contribute and connect with the neighbourhood through the spaces we created, while the materials and the landscape engage with the street connecting it all together to create a very vibrant place. The building is set back and we have three zones that we describe as the ‘active zones’ along with a beautiful pool that has a skylight for light to spill down the back wall in a Zumthor-esque way. The public spaces are extended into the retail and hospitality to enhance the living experience for the apartments above too, so all the activity at the ground plane will feel like you are living on a public square with all the benefits of a direct transport link to the city.”

Inside each apartment is large, with the tapering form of the building adding variety to the interior and contemporary winter gardens enhancing light and views. ”We are massive advocates of making the living environment as close to the edge as possible so you can really engage with the view,” remarks Fraser. “We design a lot of workplace architecture and we now know we can work remotely, so there is a lot of that thinking in the size and planning of the spaces. Hopefully it shapes the building for the future.”

AURA-by-Aqualand-Apartment
The tapering form of the building adds variety to the interior, with each apartment featuring a contemporary winter garden to enhance light and views. (CGI)

“I sat on the harbour’s edge and was fascinated with the way light and texture changes throughout the day, so every decision about the materials and the facade is about how the light will hit the building in different ways. The building’s tapering and curved form responds to that.”

– Jason Fraser, Principal, Woods Bagot

“We have considered the view when you enter each apartment so you immediately connect with those great big vistas of Sydney Harbour from the bridge to the Opera House. The scale is enormous and beautiful with a proper entry that immediately gives you a sense of arrival.”

– Kirsten Stanisich, cofounder of Richards Stanisich

 

AURA-by-Aqualand-Apartment
Aura by Aqualand at street level highlights the focus by Woods Bagot to activate the public domain.

On the rooftop there is further amenity for each apartment, with a community dining room, an outdoor garden and BBQ area that is a communal space to enjoy the greater city context. While at the very top of the residential tower are two penthouses by Richards Stanisich that draw on the Sydney skyline and its natural expression of landscape. “We looked at the planning of each apartment, the views and natural light,” explains Kirsten Stanisich, cofounder of Richards Stanisich, “and how to define areas for living, dining and working. So we have taken the qualities of a big house and shaped the two penthouse apartments in that way. We have considered the view when you enter each apartment so you immediately connect with those great big vistas of Sydney Harbour from the bridge to the Opera House. The scale is enormous and beautiful with a proper entry that immediately gives you a sense of arrival.”

Introducing sculptural form as the basis for the interior detailing, the overarching approach for each of the penthouse schemes responds to the colours and textures of the natural clifftops along Sydney’s coastline. “At the top of the cliff is a different level of light, a moody light, with the green landscape and a more organic colour and various shades coming through,” continues Stanisich. “One scheme is very light with travertines and beautiful stones that have a different quality of finish which is both light and smooth. The other is moodier with deep contrasting greens. While floors are custom parquetry made with linear planks in oak. The main bedroom and ensuite is huge, with big gorgeously generous suites and highly detailed bathrooms designed as a place to meditate and reflect. Dark and tranquil in an art deco style, showers and powder rooms incorporate glass with metallic shimmery mesh. Everything is considered and has a lovely shimmering quality.“

Inside the display gallery for ‘AURA by Aqualand’ curated in collaboration with Space Furniture, iconic design pieces appear in-sync with the timeless feel of each apartment. Key furniture pieces include the Naviglio sofa designed by Yabu Pushelberg, the UP5 chair by Gaetano Pesce, and the Eda-Mame chaise designed by Piero Lissoni, all for B&B Italia; the Prism mirror dining table by Tokujin Yoshioka and the glass Commodore credenza by Piero Lissoni, both for Glas Italia; and the On The Rocks sofa by Francesco Binfaré for Edra.

 

Source: Space Furniture – Woods Bagot and Richards Stanisich create harmony in form

DISCOVER AURA