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“Thinking outside the box” — Sydney Architect wins major international awards for reshaping suburban multi-res design

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“Thinking outside the box” —Sydney Architect wins major international awards for reshaping suburban multi-res design

Sydney apartment building, Mosaic Apartments designed by architect Tony Owen, has won three major international awards. The project took out the World Architecture News (WAN) Award for Best Façade in the World and Best use of Colour in the World. The project also recently won the World Architecture Community Award for best apartment building.

The architect employed computer modelling technology to maximise the environmental performance of the building. The project uses software to calculate the optimal angle of the sun and direct windows to where the sun is strongest, thus reducing energy costs. The resulting window mosaic forms a striking sculpture.

This is typical of Owen’s new approach design which is transforming Sydney’s suburbs. Picture multi- residential towers featuring curved facades, surprising patterns, protruding shapes and unexpected angles. Behind this refreshing reimagining of more familiar, box-like buildings is a desire to bring new life and joy to the suburbs, all the while giving buyers and renters the choice they deserve.

“In Melbourne, buyers have many and varied great designs to choose from,” Tony says. “For too long, Sydney buyers did not even know they had a ‘choice’ besides the typical boxes that bring us no joy. We knew our mission was to show buyers there was a better design.”

Supporting Tony in his quest to replace the “egg-crate boxes” of outer suburbs with exciting and varied geometric design is a technology he’s long embraced. Parametric modelling is Tony’s go-to software to transform data into three-dimensional shapes ready for pre-fabrication. This approach not only challenges ‘traditional’ design but means an iconic design can now be fabricated and built for the same price as traditional designs. These designs are more than pretty, they are based on environmental principles for more efficient design to combat global warming.

“As architects, we have to be creative and offer buyers designs they’ve never seen before, while addressing challenges of sustainability and the increasing costs of construction,” Tony explains. “Parametric modelling enables me and my team to identify precisely where those efficiencies can be found.” The resulting shapes, structures and facades are not just surprising but stunningly beautiful too – a far cry from the uninspired buildings permeating Sydney’s outer suburbs.

Tony was first introduced to parametric modelling when he lived and worked in the US. Then, in 1995 when he launched his Sydney practice, he implemented the technology and, in so doing, cultivated a culture of creativity where thinking ‘outside the box’ is not only welcomed but nurtured.

Whilst intriguing shapes and unusual patterns may be a by-product of Tony’s design approach, he’s quick to clarify his architecture stems from a far deeper desire. “We never set out to create a shape per se,” he explains. “First and foremost, we embark on a journey to solve a problem and the shape evolves as a result of that exploration.”

The changing shape of multi-residential design

The COVID-19 pandemic has, understandably, significantly impacted the way Tony and his team design multi-residential apartments. For starters, the home office/study has gone from a ‘nice-to-

have’ to an essential design element of most floor plans. ‘We would never design a unit without an office or study anymore’.

Similarly, a ‘business centre’ — to house large office items like photocopiers and/or conference rooms — is also being mooted amongst Tony’s forward-thinking developer clients. “As we see a shift away from shared workspaces in favour of home offices, it makes sense to provide residents with access to the types of facilities that were once solely located in more traditional office environments,” Tony predicts a rise in recreational facilities within apartment complexes too— communal dining areas and communal cinemas may be just the beginning!

Underpinning Tony’s determination to ensure his designs stay in-step with the changes brought about by COVID-19 is a belief that architecture always has the power to uplift individuals, cities and communities. “Design can be transformative,” he explains.

“When architecture prioritises the human experience and provokes interaction with nature, we feel invigorated and enlivened.”

If that’s the shape of things to come for Australian architecture — the future looks bright.

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