Triple Fronted Double Brick with Picture Window
Story by Warrigal Mirriyuula
You could say that Australians are known for their love of bricks and mortar. Indeed if we had a national building the way we have national birds, animals, flowers and the like, it would almost have to be a “triple fronted double brick with picture window”. We can argue about tiles or iron.
Indeed, the manifest for first fleet transport Scarborough sets out 5,000 bricks and molds to make more. No building tools though, which is an odd oversight on the part of the expedition quartermasters in England.
It was high summer when they landed. Stinking hot or thundering rain; a typical January. So no surprise that shortly after the Royal Marines barked at the convicts, to “get them tents up sharpish!”, Philip and the senior members of the colonial establishment noted that they better find a good source of brick making clay or the colony would be under canvas until such time as they’d determined which timbers where workable, or they’d imported a boatload of stone masons.
Given that even Philip would be under canvas, albeit a swanky prefab job costing well over a hundred quid back in blighty, and that this canvas didn’t fair all that well against the summer storms, there was something of an imperative in the search for suitable clay. Besides, building in brick would give this antipodean adventure a permanence it would otherwise lack.
The first suitable clay was found in what is now Sydney’s Chinatown and very soon several brick making enterprises where established in the area exploiting a resource that would eventually stretch from Elizabeth Street to Cockle Bay, Liverpool Street to Campbell Street.
The boss brickmaker was a convict called James Bloodworth and he’s come down to us as the chap that first recognised the potential value of the many clay lenses in what was to become known as Brickfield Hill. This area was to remain the centre for clay quarrying and brickmaking until the 1840’s when the expansion of Sydney to the south meant that the almost exhausted resource was abandoned to the developing city and brick making moved to other areas, including St Peters where the remains of the brickmaking enterprise are still visible today.
1802 French Map of the Brickfield Hill Area
Note the two “Briqueteries” down by the stream. Also worth noting is the inclusion by the cartographer of the broken sandstone slope adjacent to the stream. These rough outcrops of weathered sandstone would have been common through out what is now the CBD. The road through the centre became George Street turning into Broadway. The area top centre is now the location of The Sydney Entertainment Centre.
Snap forward two hundred years and we find bricks again being used to construct one of the most interesting buildings going up anywhere in the world, The Chau Chak Wing Building at The University of Technology, designed by Frank Gehry.
The Chau Chak Wing Building (East Elevation)
With a budget of over $150million this striking building will take bricklayers to the very limits of their talent and experience. That folded façade, inspired Gehry says by the folds in the drapery of classical Greek statues, will be entirely composed of laid bricks and the building will have a view of what was the first source of brickmaking clay in the early colony.
A few hundred metres uphill to the south, on Broadway, a vast collection of old brick buildings has been removed to make way for another startling building.
This has gone.
The Old Kent Brewery on Broadway
This is coming.
One. Central Park, Sydney – Visualisation of Entire Site
This building will give an entirely new meaning to “green building”.
One, Central Park showing cantilevered “Heliostat”.
Yes that is “a hovering cantilever” that will contain 24 very ritzy penthouses for the very wealthiest tenants.
What’s more, there’s this from the developers website:
“Here too, is a jettying heliostat – a beguiling assemblage of motorized mirrors that captures sunlight and directs its rays down onto Central Park’s gardens year round. After dark, the cantilevering structure (a favoured Nouvel architectural device) is the canvas for leading light artist Yann Kersalé’s LED art installation that carves a shimmering firework of movement in the sky and brings a new architectural shape to One Central Park by starlight.”
I kid you not. That’s what it says. I particularly like “jettying”, I assume from the verb “to jetty”.
There is so much innovation, so many new ideas, new techniques and technologies in this building that I still haven’t had a chance to go through it all. Suffice it to say that it will be one of the most energy efficient and sustainable residential buildings in Sydney; and for mine, the hanging gardens, which are an integral part of the water capture and reuse system, promise a building that will turn its back on concrete, glass and steel and present itself to Broadway as a giant vertical garden, a modern day Babylon on Broadway.
And across Broadway, UTS isn’t sitting on its hands either.
The UTS tower* and podium are also slated for change.
UTS podium development visualisation. exterior above, interior below
At the moment only the podium is in design phase. The tower redesign will probably have to wait for braver souls to green light Chris Bosse’s radical reskinning of the UTS tower, perhaps the most depressing and intimidating building ever devised for the toture of students. (Did you know that the original design brief for the tower demanded that there be no spaces where students could congregate in large numbers. It was 1968 and the French students where tearing up the cobblestones. Local educators didn’t want to take the chance.)
An active skin from Chris Bosse of LAVA
The skin generates electricity, captures water, moderates insolation and most importantly, entirely covers that grotesque ‘turd’ of a tower.
Talk about “building an education revolution; UTS will spend over a billion dollars in the next few years building in the Ultimo campus precinct, including the upgrade of open spaces where students will be encouraged to congregate.
Alumni Green UTS visualisation.
Somehow this bosky park doesn’t look the part as the location for a student revolution.
Adjacent to the Green will be the new Science Building designed by Durbach Block Jaggers and BVN Architecture.
And if that isn’t exciting enough for you, just down Broadway work is well progressed on the ITE Building which will house what UTS hopes will become an international centre for excellence in Information Technology and Engineering.
ITE Building on Broadway
This “5 Star” green rated building will also have an active skin which the designers believe will deliver a 10 to 15% operational energy saving on its own. Oh, did I mention that the skin is laser cut with this really cool “binary” pattern? It is!
The “Binary” pattern of the ITE skin.
The interior is just as mind blowing.
Interior visualisation, ITE Building at UTS.
Puts me in mind of that other great educational institution, Hogwarts, and all those moving stair cases.
There’s new student housing and a host of other building going on at UTS all slated for occupation between the end of this year and 2015. This program and others funded both publicly and privately will turn the top of Broadway into what one architectural pundit called, (Hyperbole Warning!), a “mecca”, a kind of stations of the cross for architectural innovation nerds.
It may not reach such exaltation but it won’t be for lack of trying.
If we add to the already mentioned building sites, the Ultimo Pedestrian Network or UPN, (You must watch the embedded video here, http://www.aspect.net.au/wps/wcm/connect/web/w/spotlight/featured+projects/upn) , which will join the UTS campus with the Gehry building and points north to the Powerhouse Museum, including all the plans the state government has for the Entertainment Centre, The Exhibition Centre and Darling Harbour proper, and then throw in Barangaroo you begin to see a huge urban area in the throws of vigorous reinvention.
Barangaroo South Hotel Concept
Unfortunately we won’t see this one. It’s already been shelved in favour of “The Packer Plan”. I guess that’s a plan for Jamie’s retirement fund, or O’Farrell’s perhaps.
By 2020 there will be no doubt but that UTS will have stamped its presence all over the top end of Broadway and in time this will lead to redevelopment of the entire area as clinics, labs, and associated businesses snap up remaining real estate to get themselves closer to the “glow” of the campus.
High density, low to medium rise apartments will become more common and the rows of remaining terraces will become gentrified, their values exploding as academics, staff and students look for somewhere nearby to live.
No longer the suburb that dare not say its name, Ultimo will have become hip, progressive, with innovation at every turn. The “shock of the new” will have become commonplace as Ultimoans wonder why the rest of Sydney are still catching up to the twenty first century
But in amongst all this twenty first century building will remain some of the most beautiful brick buildings in Sydney, other brick piles will be adaptively reused, while others are demolished and their bricks recycled.
The humble brick was there at the beginning of the colony and is still with us at the cutting edge of architecture. You could say that the brick has been “a brick” down the years and there’s no end in sight to its utility.
Sydney Technical College, Ultimo.
Bricks as a proud and permanent statement of the value of learning.
The Quay Apartments, Chinatown.
Bricks as valued heritage adaptively reused as anchoring feature of these new upscale apartments. That brick façade was once The Sydney No. 2 Poultry Market.
Bricks and lace, Ultimo.
The ubiquitous terrace survives into another century.
http://penultimo.tumblr.com/ This site is wonderful and rewards a wander through its many pages, including pictures of nearly every brick building in Ultimo, old and new, ugly and beautiful.
* Editor’s note: I so wanted to describe the current UTS Tower – wherein I once did a course on Assembler Programming – as “Plug Ugly”, but I didn’t think the term was strong enough. Nor was “nuclear-proof”.