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Proposed Star building a challenge for architect

Tue, Sep 24, 1:08pm by Staff Writer

An architect appointed to review a contentious proposal for a residential and hotel tower at the Star Casino in Sydney has described the building as “challenging to the eye and the mind”.

Architecture AU reports the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment determined that the proposal should be refused planning permission in July 2019.

The proposed 237-metre-tall tower, designed by FJMT, was deemed to be “unduly prominent”, “over assertive” and “not in the public interest”.

Because the proposal received more than 25 objections, it was referred to the state’s Independent Planning Commission for determination.

The IPC appointed architect Yvonne von Hartel to peer review the previous assessment by Peter Webber, a former New South Wales government architect, with the aim of assessing “the robustness and validity of the independent assessment and design advice.”

Von Hartel was also tasked with reviewing a number of other peer reviews and assessments produced as part of the approvals process.

Von Hartel’s assessment is even more critical of the proposal than Webber’s assessment on a number of points.

“The built form of the proposed development is challenging to the eye and the mind; a tower that tapers inwards at its base is contrary to ‘common sense’; the eye expects a thickening at the base not a constriction,” she writes in a section on built form.

“The tower itself is not sleek – rather it is a combination of cylindrical and part of cylindrical forms which start and stop apparently randomly. The tower is striated – two horizontal breaks in regular floor to floor height and possible façade treatment (depending on the artistic licence shown in the renders).”

Von Hartel is also more critical of symbolic issues of the proposal.

“The proposed residential and hotel tower draw attention to the attached casino,” she said.

“If the development proceeds, it will be so much taller than any currently permissible development in the future and the singularity of a tower in Pyrmont and its disturbing built form will mark it as an intrusive object in the skyline.”

One issue Von Hartel takes with Webber’s report is its “limited” comments on the built form and the selection of the FJMT design over two others that were part of a design competition for the project.

“He suggests that the selected design is the best of the three competition designs and acknowledges that the preferred design is still problematic.

“He does not define why he thinks the selected design is the best of the three completed designs, suggesting only that it could be an elegant three-dimensional form when viewed as an isolated object, but not when placed in this location as it has no sympathy with its urban context.”

Ultimately, Von Hartel finds that Webber’s conclusions “are to the point and in my view, in the main, justified by his analysis.”

Public hearing into Pyrmont towers gets rowdy

The economic benefits delivered by a luxury apartment and hotel tower at the Star in Pyrmont “do not override all other planning considerations”, a senior Department of Planning, Industry and Environment official told an occasionally rowdy public hearing in late August.

David McNamara, the Department’s Director of Key Sites Assessments, made a staunch defence of the Department’s proposed rejection of the 237-metre tower.

It was received with loud enthusiasm by a majority of the crowd that had assembled at a meeting called by the Independent Planning Commission into the Star’s proposal.

Summarising why the Department thinks the proposal should be knocked back – a view that has unleashed a torrent on criticism from some media and development players – Mr McNamara argued the tower did not fit into Pyrmont’s medium-rise surrounds, and did not find support in any state government strategy.

“It is reliant on a metro station at Pyrmont which has not been committed to,” Mr McNamara said of the Star’s contention the tower would be part of a “Global Waterfront Precinct”, a concept that is not endorsed by any government strategy.

“And it is reliant on future tall towers in the Bays Precinct, the scale of which is unknown,” he said.

The fact that towers might be built in the Bays area, around 700 metres west of the Star, did not mean that one should be erected at the Casino.

“Put simply, our assessment found the Bays Precinct is too far away to justify the proposed tower on the Star site.”

The opposing case was put for the tower by Clare Brown, a director of Star’s consultant Urbis.

Ms Brown argued the Greater Sydney Commission’s plan for the area placed the Star inside Darling Harbour, which already has a collection of tall towers.

“It’s not within Pyrmont,” Ms Brown said of The Star.

Ms Brown also argued that the Department had had ample earlier opportunities to raise concerns about the height of the tower.

In particular, the Department agreed to design excellence competition, which included a tower form.

“So it is of a bit of a surprise that there is an issue taken in relation to a tower,” Ms Brown said.

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