Smart Design Studio - Sydney Architects


Winner NSW Australian Institute of Architect’s Lloyd Rees Award for Urban Design and City of Sydney Lord Mayor’s Prize Urban Design

At the junction between Harold Park and a spectacular sandstone cliff is Maxwell Place, by Smart Design Studio with Mirvac Design. Conceived of as a promontory, the building’s angled facade of sheer vertical walls and layered horizontal slabs draws inspiration from the exposed sedimentary sandstone typical of Sydney’s geology. Extending this concept, entries and slots within the faced become canyons: cooler spaces for promoting natural ventilation which also lend the building the proportions, at a grander scale, of the terrace houses of nearby Glebe.

This architecture of sheer vertical walls and horizontal slabs inspired by Sydney’s geology also frames views, controls insulation and manages privacy. It unites the two sides of the building: one with larger two or three bedroom residences that look over the park, the other with one bedroom homes that look to the sun. The floor plans are a direct response to the deep and long building envelope set by the site masterplan. A set back bedroom, with light, air and views provided by generous slots, allows additional apartments to be achieved on each level than through standard planning.

Designed to be animated by light and shade, the building is predominantly crisp and white using high quality materials. Weighty materials such as raked-joint face brickwork, exposed concrete bands, and sandstone cladding are offset by the custom designed powdercoated balustrades. Black window frames and grey glass are recessive to further emphasize the dynamic forms of the exterior.

Landscaping is key to the proposal. As the topmost slab of the building sits virtually flush with the adjacent Maxwell Road to become a fifth facade, it’s carefully patterned with sedum planting, pebble ballast and solar panels. The private courtyards at the base of the building either directly connect to the new public green space on the parkside or affront the vegetated sandstone cliff, which serves as a spectacular courtyards wall to the apartments facing Glebe.

The dramatic rockface was influential in the design and the palette adopted for the interiors. Internal forms reference the bulk of the cliff, with monolithic and strong shapes to kitchen joinery overlaid in a horizontal veneer. This conceptual approach extends throughout, influencing the selection of all finishes, fixtures and details. Reflective tinted mirrored surfaces reference the deep pools at the base of the caverns, offering relief from the textured veneers. In the bathrooms, earthy textured mosaics wrap down walls and across the floor in an elegant representation of a rocky crevasse.


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