3XN - Quay Quarter Tower, a socially sustainable tower design that focuses on well-being
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Quay Quarter Tower, a socially sustainable tower design that focuses on well-being


Office&Business  /  Completed

In 2014, the AMP Centre, completed in 1976, was nearing the end of its commercial life. The building was not performing well, and the relatively small floor plates did not appeal to prospective tenants, resulting in diminishing returns for the owners. Recognising the need to redevelop the building, the owners held an international design competition and chose 3XN to work with AMP Capital and envision the building’s future.

Although an important part of Sydney’s history and once the tallest building in the city, it was no longer commercially viable. However, a solid superstructure and good floor-to-floor heights meant that it had the potential to be transformed into something better. So the team chose to transform the existing building rather than demolish and rebuild.

Although QQT has a striking presence, its unique form wasn’t a starting point for the design, it was shaped by project constraints.

The northern façade responds to its context. The lower blocks face the precinct of Young Street, as the blocks rise the façade shifts to face the famous harbour views.

An overshadowing constraint imposed by city planning means that although the building now has double the floor area, it doesn’t cast a single square-inch of additional shadow over the adjacent botanic gardens.

The public retail podium provides street level activity and helps revitalise the neighbourhood. To mediate between two vastly different scales, the podium’s sandstone façade and massing reflect the scale and materiality of adjacent buildings.

QQT’s radical sustainability strategy involved upcycling the existing 1976 AMP Centre, retaining 65% of its beams, columns, and slabs, and over 95% of its existing core, resulting in an embodied carbon saving of over 12,000 metric tons in concrete alone. The design adds approximately 45,000 square-metres of new construction, doubling the floor area and creating a new world-class high-rise office from an outdated, underperforming building with diminishing returns, becoming the most significant adaptive reuse high-rise ever completed.

The design also upgrades the building’s operational carbon performance, surpassing that of many newly constructed buildings. The building has achieved a 6-Star Green Star rating and is on track to achieve a NABERS 5.5 Energy Office rating.

The established options for redeveloping high-rise buildings are to demolish and rebuild to an optimised specification, or to retrofit the existing tower, prolonging the life of the building and improving its performance but likely falling short of the site’s potential. QQT is unique in its vision to combine the best of both these options. By using the AMP Centre’s existing structure, while expanding and improving the design to meet the client’s aspirations, QQT effectively creates a brand-new building out of an old one.

The design eschews the conventions of a traditional, uniform high-rise and instead is arranged as a vertical village to create a sense of community and provide spaces that focus on collaboration, health, and well-being. Quay Quarter Tower humanises the high-rise. The tower is comprised of five stacked volumes. Each volume is arranged around an atrium facing the iconic Sydney Harbour to the north. The atria accommodate informal social spaces that activate the workspace, aligning with 3XN’s design philosophy that architecture shapes behaviour. The series of atria create a ‘social spine’ with exceptional views, while also allowing daylight deep into the 2,000-square-metre floorplates. This creates a socially sustainable tower design that focuses on well-being, rather than efficiency alone.

“It’s been a pioneering journey. I remember, in the early days, we looked around the world to try to find somewhere where this kind of adaptive-reuse project has been done on this scale. We couldn’t find anything that came close. So, now it’s nice to know that it has been done, and we did it. It’s going to change the global landscape; there’s no doubt about it. And it’s going to ensure better environmental outcomes wherever it’s done" Murray Middleton, Head of Development at AMP Capital


 New South Wales
 AMP Capital
 Office tower with retail podium
 102000 mq
 3XN - design architect; BVN - executive architect
 BG&E - structural engineering; Arup - MEP, civil, & fire engineering, sustainable building design, and vertical transportation; Pier Property Corporation - external project managers; ASPECT Studios - landscape architecture; Studio Olafur Eliasson - public artwork; Tom Dixon's Design Research Studio - lobby and market hall interiors
 Adam Mørk, Ethan Rohloff, Phil Noller


Across diverse typologies and scales, our work is driven by the conviction that architecture should give something back--to people, to communities, and to our planet. Since 1986, we have specialized in transformational projects: projects that give obsolete structures new form and character, that transform dormant neighbourhoods into thriving cultural hubs, or that unite disparate organizations into collaborative communities. A commitment to the highest standards of sustainability and design excellence unites the studio’s portfolio. Form and performance are not at odds, but rather continuously enhance and shape one another.

With offices in Copenhagen (HQ), Stockholm, Sydney, New York, and London, we are a firm of close to 200 professionals spanning a wide range of nationalities, genders, backgrounds, and specialties. The diverse perspective of our global practice gives greater depth to our holistic methodology which prioritizes aesthetics, behaviour, curiosity, and circularity.


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