Downtown Sydney is home to some of the most coveted commercial real estate in the world. But what to do on such prime land, where a heritage building has to be both preserved and celebrated and yet progress still has to march on? Well one rather bold solution is to build a new office tower that rises up alongside the protected building and then for its upper floors cantilevers out over the newly refurbished historic structure.
Such was the revolutionary thinking behind the upgrade of 5 Martin Place by developers Cbus Property and Dexus. The design was a collaboration between architects Johnson Pilton Walker (JPW), with Peter Blome as project associate, and Tanner Kibble Denton Architects (TKD), with Megan Jones in the role of project director. JPW was largely responsible for the new tower and replacement of a 1960s addition to the original highly significant historical building on site, while TKD was responsible for the sensitive heritage restoration.
Dexus CEO Darren Steinberg says 5 Martin Place combines the intricacies of a significant heritage restoration project with a modern office tower, to deliver one of the most innovative commercial workspaces in Australia.
Sitting on the corner of Martin Place and Pitt Street, the former Commonwealth Bank of Australia building was the first fully steel-framed building in Australia. The original building was completed in 1916, with an almost seamless extension made along Pitt Street between 1929-33, reproducing the existing sandstone and trachyte exterior detailing. In 1965, the bank was extended in the other direction, along Martin Place, in a style not entirely sympathetic to the existing structure. From the '70s on, the interiors were progressively adapted/compromised by filling in light-wells and adding false walls and ceilings to hide services.
Looking forward, the developer's brief outlined a situation where building the new tower out over the historic building was a daring but logical response. Requirements included maintaining the commercial relevance of the key heritage building and the wider Martin Place precinct; attracting quality tenants as befitting the status and location of the building; enhancing the existing heritage values and regaining the lost qualities of the interiors.
A major part of the multi-faceted project was the painstaking restoration of the original building.
TKD Architects was largely responsible for the revitalisation of the original 1916 building and the 1933 extension, as well as the new elements within it, including the glazed atrium.
When opened in 1916 this building set the bench-mark for CBD office space with high ceilings, quality materials and finishes, and access to good natural light and ventilation, says TKD's Megan Jones.
"Now it will again be an exemplar for high quality office space.