Kylan Low, a WoodSolutions NSW representative, led a group of 15 architects, engineers, builders, and designers on an intriguing walking tour around Sydney Harbour foreshore last Thursday. The tour highlighted the city’s historical and contemporary award-winning timber structures.
The tour began at Walumil Lawns, Barangaroo, and ventured to the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct. There, the group admired two impressive timber wharf structures that had recently been renovated and now house the Sydney Dance and Theatre Companies. The structures won the Australian Timber Design Awards for Interior Commercial, showcasing a perfect blend of old and new.
Described by the Sydney Morning Herald as “timber cathedrals,” the precinct was designed by award-winning architect Peter Tonkin, a director of Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects, and is home to nine arts companies, including the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
It has five new theatres, concert halls, vast exhibition spaces, rehearsal rooms, bars, administration, and workshops for wardrobe, scenery, and props. The timber, mostly preserved from its original installation 100 years ago, contrasted beautifully with the modern theatre and dance stage that had been recently inserted.
From Walsh Bay, the tour proceeded to the iconic Pyrmont Bridge, passing the Barangaroo House en route. The building, known locally as the “Birds Nest”, stood out for its unique façade made from a winding Acoya dowel structure across three levels. This architectural masterpiece was awarded the Australian Timber Design Awards Best Façade in 2018.
The three-storey circular building, which resembles a bird’s nest with its timber facade and green canopy, was developed by Lendlease following a design competition in 2013. Local architecture firm Collins and Turner Architects designed the sculptural building on the southwest corner of the precinct.
Arriving at Prymont Bridge, a parallel chord truss road bridge built in the early 1900s. The engineer Percy Allen designed it with a steel truss swing span with ironbark timber truss approach spans. The group got a chance to learn about the intricacies of bridge maintenance from Nathan Manns, a team leader from Marine and Civil Maintenance.
Manns explained the painstaking efforts to restore the bridge, from replacing deteriorated elements to introducing a 50 mm camber into the truss – an exacting task often done over water! Marine and Civil Maintenance have provided a detailed case study of the work on their website.
After leaving Pyrmont Bridge, the tour headed to Barangaroo’s International and Damaru House, both modern post and beam mass timber buildings designed by Tzannes.
Both buildings had won awards for their design. International House won the 2017 overall winner and the commercial building category, while Damaru House won the Commercial building category in 2020.
Kylan Low explained that while the International House and Damaru House may look alike from the outside, there have been changes in their design over time. In Damaru House, the main beams have been arranged differently to decrease the number of HVAC holes, which has led to cost savings. Moreover, Damaru House showcases beautiful art made from milled CLT.
The tour, spanning around 7 km, concluded on a high note, with participants expressing their appreciation for the extensive exploration of award-winning timber design in Sydney.
Isabelle Pfaeffli from beeboCONSTRUCTIONS was particularly impressed, stating, “The walking tour was a wonderful celebration of timber in construction, both how it has been used (and endured) and how it can innovate and still be relevant within modern construction.”
Austrian International Trade Advisor, Matthias Mikolaj, also voiced his appreciation, saying, “Thank you again for organising the WoodSolutions Walking Tour! It was very interesting and informative as well.”
Such sentiments highlighted the success of the WoodSolutions tour in providing a unique, in-depth perspective of Sydney’s architectural heritage and innovation in timber design.