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Can an entire building be upcycled? 3XN has boldly proven that it’s possible. Rather than demolishing Sydney’s deteriorating AMP Centre, the Danish firm absorbed the nearly 50-year-old building into its Quay Quarter Tower: The architects retained over 95 per cent of the original’s core, as well as two-thirds of its structural beams, columns and slabs. In so doing, it saved over 12,000 metric tons of concrete.

While typical adaptive re-use projects flaunt the heritage structures at their centre, Quay Quarter Tower completely bucks convention. The 206-metre, 49-storey high-rise office, which grafts 45,000 square metres of new construction onto the existing building, presents an entirely new face to the world. It comprises five stacked and shifting volumes arranged around a series of atriums that usher daylight deep into the 2,000-square-metre floor plates and provide views of iconic Sydney Harbour. Creating a “social spine,” these chambers also feature external terraces that allow access to outside space from the podium all the way to the roof. Reviving a dead-after-dark business district, the retail podium showcases the tower’s voluminous lobby and market hall, which also opens onto the outdoors; it is capped by its own rooftop park and café — a new patch of much needed green space in the precinct.

It sends a big message to developers who are quick to tear buildings down and start from scratch.
Lawrence Scarpa , AZ Awards 2023 Juror
A view of the full tower from street level

All of the project’s sustainability measures paid off in the long term: Notably, the design allowed the contractor to begin dismantling sections of the old building while simultaneously working on the new components, which reduced construction time by more than a year and saved around $220 million.

The building, which 3XN hopes to replicate elsewhere, serves as a type of manifesto: “As the development and construction industry accounts for 37 per cent of energy-related carbon and one-third of global waste, our industry must help reduce global warming by drastically reducing our carbon emissions,” the firm states. “At the same time, architecture must create inspiring and healthy work environments.” With the Quay Quarter Tower, which brings circular design to a whole new level, they may consider their mission accomplished.

Team: Kim Herforth Nielsen and Fred Holt with Audun Opdal, Jeanette Hansen, Gry Kjær and Alyssa Murasaki Saltzgaber

Winner: Adaptive Re-Use
Quay Quarter Tower

Can an entire building be upcycled? 3XN has boldly proven that it’s possible.

Explore more Award Winners

2020
Award of MeritAdaptive Re-Use
Location
Québec City, Canada
Firms
Coarchitecture (Canada), Atelier In Situ (Canada) and Jacques Plante Architecte (Canada)
2020
Winner + People’s ChoiceAdaptive Re-Use
Location
Qinglongwu, China
Firm
Atelier tao+c,Shanghai, China
2022
Award of MeritAdaptive Re-Use
Location
Pamplona, Spain
Firm
Arrova | Atelier Rojo-Vergara, Spain