Pieces of the past: a new Sydney residence exposes its brickmaking history

The newly constructed West End Residences in Sydney’s Glebe pays homage to the site’s brickmaking past.

West End Residences is a premium residential development comprised of 232 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments across two buildings in the history-laced inner-city Sydney suburb of Glebe.They were designed by Turner Studio, an architectural firm known for delving into the history of a site for design inspiration.
In this case, the eight-storey Foundry and seven-storey Arthouse buildings were designed using brickwork, arches, metalwork and corbelling inspired by both the warehouses of neighbouring Ultimo and the smaller-scale terrace houses of Glebe.“We were looking at a form and expression that drew from the warehouse typology while also speaking to the distinctive character of Glebe village,” explains Stephen Cox, Director at Turner Studio. “The building doesn’t seek to replicate the past but rather works with the character of the local architecture to make something new.”
Through their previous experience working on multi-residential projects, the team at Turner Studio was “very familiar” with the typology and idiosyncrasies of the local planning requirements.“As West End was a special project, we tried to push further with residential amenity through apartment locations, multiple roof gardens and consideration of the public domain around the project,” Cox says. “The intention was to draw out what was good about the neighbourhood and leave the precinct in a better place than we found it.”
Bricks played an important role in the project, just as they did when the sturdy industrial warehouses of Ultimo and Pyrmont were built in the early 20th century for use as factories, abattoirs and wool stores.“These warehouses, while pragmatic, used brick in interesting ways to detail key components of the structure,” Cox says. “As a new building, we explored a number of brick options and settled for Simmental Silver as a lighter colour and a dry-pressed brick, which would be more suitable for the detailing.”
Specifically, the two buildings use Bowral Bricks’ range of dry-pressed bricks, recognised for their exceptional structural integrity and longevity, along with an extensive range of colours. Bowral Simmental Silver, Brahman Granite and Charming Black bricks (a total of 485,652) were used in this project.The design features brick expanses with concrete detailing, and reverses the motif at intervals using concrete with brick highlights. The penthouses and rooftop gardens create further contrast with a generous use of dark metal cladding.
The client, Singapore-listed property and hospitality group Roxy-Pacific, agreed with the team at Turner Studio that the project should acknowledge the area’s industrial roots.“The client was very enthusiastic about the warehouse approach and the use of arches on the project, so we tested a number of different arch types and brick detailing strategies before arriving at the current design,” Cox says. “The detailing of the brickwork and arches required considerable effort and specialist input, but we think the effort has created a great result.”

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