North Sydney: Evolution of a City Centre

Matthé van Baalen
Global Leader Performance Driven Engineering
Arcadis, Rotterdam

In 1958 the MLC Insurance headquarters was finished in North Sydney, with its architect Sir Osborne McCutcheon declaring:

“With this building of the future we are one step ahead of any office building yet to be built in Australia…it is the beginning of a new era of modernized office buildings in this country.”

Based on USA precedents, this building incorporated a series of technical innovations. However, its greatest significance was its location: the MLC Insurance headquarters was built in North Sydney, outside of the existing CBD. As Australia’s largest office building at the time, it soared above North Sydney’s two storey height line, creating the potential for a new city centre.

Since 1958, North Sydney has grown to become Australia’s third largest CBD. Anchored by the MLC Insurance headquarters, this presentation will trace the innovations of four contemporary high-rise office buildings—designed by McCutcheon’s Bates Smart successors—that will tranform the North Sydney skyline.

These towers illustrate a variety of design strategies at the workplace and city scales. Solutions include unencumbered commercial floorplates with detached cores, end cores and side cores, as well as vertically connected workplaces that incorporate a full height atrium. The towers also rethink relationships to the city and public domain, including modernist street setbacks and pedestrian laneways, enclosed winter gardens, cantilevers that eliminate overshadowing, forms that lean away from residential areas, and direct development over a future Sydney Metro station.

Together, the projects reflect the city centre evolution, workplace design and changing attitudes toward the city itself, and mark the future of tall tower design for Sydney.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation