Harry Seidler years: The Meriton Tower
Seidler was a frequent and enthusiastic collaborator, and regularly used visual artists in the creations of his buildings. When building the Meriton Tower, he collaborated with gifted designer Hiromi Lauren, who now runs Shiro Architects. Her ability to adapt her designs at speed were exactly what Seidler needed for the ever-changing project.
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“Harry Seidler and I designed Meriton Tower together. Meriton’s Harry Triguboff owned the Village Cinema site, which had its stage one DA approved design done by Hassell. The City of Sydney had just then introduced its competitive design process for design excellence, and as the client, Harry Triguboff, chose to have an ‘invited’ architectural design competition, we were invited as one of the architects among a minimum of five practices.
“The stage one design by Hassell had a really straight building, north to south and east to west, and the original podium ran from Kent Street to George Street and the tower’s orientation ran north to south.
“But, as Harry Seidler always wanted to give everyone a good view, we twisted the design into the building’s triangular shape so that everyone got a view towards the water, out towards Darling Harbour, Botany Bay and towards Hyde Park.
“Because there is a difference in level between George and Kent streets, a slope, originally we wanted to make a kind of arcade and have lots of skylight, so we created a plan that had three approaches, from Albion Lane, George and Kent.
“There is a heritage-listed building on Albion Lane, so by creating that kind of open arcade, people walking from Kent to George could see through Albion Lane to that building. The courtyard could be used for outdoor dining, and we also suggested that the pub on the corner of Albion and George could open up its courtyard towards this back lane so everyone could benefit from sharing this open atmosphere.
“But, although we thought we could do something more interesting, certain council restrictions insisted that we rotate the podium so that Kent Street could have the podium along the street boundary. Still, we wanted to do two different things from Kent to George, and then independently have the triangle of the building sit on top of it
“As Harry did all the time, we put projected balconies into the design to make contrasts and shadows, so we just calculated carefully what could be the most beautiful thing to do.
Every single week, Harry Triguboff would go to every site with his architects, and he wanted complete flexibility in meeting his evolving design brief when the Meriton Tower was already under construction.
“We didn’t know how to work with Meriton before, and we found out that every single week, Harry Triguboff would go to every site with his architects, and he wanted complete flexibility from his designers.
“On Mondays, we’d go regularly to a meeting in which everything had changed during the week, in the apartment mix, of the car park, which went from levels 10 to 8, then 8 to 7, then 7 to 11. This would be the same, every time, every week.
“What were apartments one week would have been changed to become serviced apartments, and then a hotel, and then become strata-titled, and every time he changed his mind we would have to change the apartment mix to suit the council’s regulations.
“Then, he also changed the apartment mix as well, so all these balconies we had carefully calculated, everything would be changed, and the only wing he didn’t change was always one-bedroom or studio apartments, which had the most important elevations from either George or Kent streets.
“This certainly made for an interesting and demanding project, and Harry Seidler once described me as ‘Hiraculous’ for managing to keep up with a constantly changing brief, as the building was under construction. It’s not something you want to do on every job, though.”