GroupGSA’s bold plans to ‘rewild the sky’ in Rhodes

Words by Lisa-Maree Carrigan
render of exterior of Blaxland Rd, Rhodes residential building

A development application has been lodged for a 37-storey residential tower with a striking vertical forest façade, designed by GroupGSA with Salad Dressing, in the Sydney inner west suburb of Rhodes.

GroupGSA won a design competition in April for Billbergia’s latest residential development with mixed-use podium at 9-13 Blaxland Rd.

The tower, situated within the Station Gateway East precinct, will provide a new, ‘green’ ground plane connection between Blaxland Rd, Rhodes Station, Churchill Tucker Reserve, McIlwaine Park and Brays Bay.

Billbergia’s Development Director of Planning and Design, Saul Moran said the proposed 244 apartments ranged from one-bedroom to five-bedrooms and offered unobstructed panoramic views to Sydney Harbour and its myriad of waterways.

“Our plan for the Blaxland Rd project is aligned with our philosophy of delivering high-quality transport-oriented housing supported by infrastructure and community amenity,” Moran said.

Premium and Sustainable

The project will be Billbergia’s 14th building in Rhodes, and its most sustainable, with a 7.4 Star NaTHERS sustainability rating.

“Billbergia has been part of the Rhodes community for more than 15 years delivering major developments such as the national award-winning Rhodes Central project and Village Quays on the western side of Rhodes station,” Moran added.

The tower will include 424sqm of premium communal spaces, including a fantastical mirrored dining and alfresco space on Level 20 and a rooftop forest with infinity pool.

GroupGSA Design Lead Lisa-Maree Carrigan said the contemporary design was conceptualised in partnership with Singaporean landscape architecture firm, Salad Dressing, as an architectural expression to “rewild the sky”.

A nod to the site's natural history

“The integration of the landscape into the architecture takes inspiration from the site’s rich natural history and surrounding mangrove and wetland ecosystems to create a ‘biodiversity highway’ through generous vertical greenery and sky gardens which rise above the tower,” Carrigan said.

In addition to the rooftop tree canopy, the design features a two-storey high suspended Ficus at its entrance, in an evocative nod to two nearby remnant Ficus trees which pre-date industrialisation of the Rhodes Peninsula in the early 1900s.

render of exterior of Blaxland Rd, Rhodes residential building

A vertical forest up to the skies

Beyond its aesthetics, the ‘vertical forest’ will provide both acoustic and urban heat mitigation, serving as buffer to high winds.

Carrigan said the tower was divided into softened quadrants, each with continuity of form from podium to sky.

“The podium design response features a rich, earthy, charcoal-façade, taking its cues from the muddiness of the mangroves, and dematerialises into glass at the top of the building,” she said.

Vertical fins on the eastern and western facades undulate up the tower in sinuous, sculptural form that affords beautiful shadow play, twisting and bending like branches to the northern facade where they provide solar protection as sunshades.

Dichroic glass fins give a vase-like appearance to the upper levels, creating raking curves and changing colour under different lighting and viewing angles.

Carrigan said it is the first-time dichroic glass will be used in a building in Sydney.

render image of an alternate view of the exterior of Blaxland Rd, Rhodes residential building

Community Activation

The tower’s proposed mixed-use podium includes a café to activate the southern interface between Blaxland Rd and Churchill Tucker Reserve. An extension of the hardscape at the park junction will facilitate outdoor seating and enhance activation.

GroupGSA and Salad Dressing’s winning design was selected over schemes by SJB and Koichi Takada Architects.

The development application will be on public exhibition with Canada Bay Council.

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Lisa-Maree Carrigan Author

Lisa-Maree is Director of Architecture & Urban Design globally at GroupGSA. She leads engagement of teams and clients through design collaboration and strategic direction

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