Sydney's skyline will get a new 60-level tower after Star Entertainment Group chose architects FJMT to design a new six-star hotel and apartments complex for its Pyrmont site.
The $500 million tower marks the return to the NSW capital of Marriott's premium Ritz-Carlton brand and is part of a wider $1 billion renovation that Sydney's incumbent casino is making as it gears up to compete with rival Crown's planned 71-storey tower across Darling Harbour at Barangaroo.
FJMT's design, chosen out of a competition that pitted it against local rival BVN and UK-based Grimshaw Architects, is for a building that is slim at the base and tapers outward at the top. Local sandstone, out of which much of 19th-century Sydney was built, will feature in the base of the building and will "feather up" - or fade out - out as the tower rises.
The design does not increase the gaming components of Star's facility, but gives its associated accommodation, food and beverage and surrounding attractions a much-needed boost. The final design is due to be submitted to the state's planning and environment department - at which time the public will be able to comment on it - in mid-next year.
"As an international tourism operator, you face competition at a domestic, regional and global level," said Matt Bekier, Star's managing director and chief executive officer. "If you want to be not only successful, but a leader in the industry, you need to invest and redevelop your assets to ensure the quality of experience is never compromised."
Star's move to build a tower in Pyrmont comes just after the completion of Lendlease's three commercial towers at Barangaroo South and as the City of Sydney looks to limit the growth of new residential development to ensure a balance between residential and commercial accommodation in the city. A community group is also challenging the waterside location of Crown's planned tower in the NSW Land and Environment Court.
FJMT director Richard Francis-Jones said on Thursday the design sought to reduce the wind-tunnel effect of the tower and also integrate it with the ground level in a way that stimulates activity and not cut people off from the ground plain.
"We want this to rise out of the sandstone," Mr Francis-Jones told The Australian Financial Review. "The streetscape has not previously been well addressed here and I think this will make a big improvement."
To minimise floorplate width, the hotel lift shafts - which will start above an all-glass two-storey lobby at level 30 of the building - will sit above the lifts serving the 150 private apartments on the floors below.
"The building starts to taper and turn at the lower levels," Mr Francis-Jones said. "This is to view-share with some of the apartment buildings behind the building so this building interferes with their views less and to ensure we get winter sun access into the adjacent Pyrmont Bay Park."
The FJMT design was the unanimous choice of the design review panel, which comprised Greg Hawkins, managing director of The Star Sydney, NSW government architect Peter Poulet, Group GSA director Lisa-Maree Carrigan, University of Technology Sydney adjunct professor and Six Degrees Urban director Craig Allchin and Marriot International regional vice president James Doolan.
"The design responds sympathetically to environmental considerations – for example, by maximising solar access for the surrounding area and by incorporating a façade and materials in keeping with the waterfront location," the panel said.
"This is achieved in a way that maximises availability of a truly spectacular view of the Sydney CBD from the majority of guest rooms and all publicly accessible facilities."
The hotel will have 220 rooms.
The redevelopment funded by Star and its partners in the proposed development, Chow Tai Fook and Far East Consortium, is in addition to a further $500 million being spent to refurbish the casino's associated Astral Tower and Residences, arrivals area, and upgrading of internal spaces, including VIP facilities.
Construction, which can commence upon receipt of all necessary approvals, will take an estimated 36 months.