Residents will soon move into one of Australia’s biggest luxury apartment projects, as the first tower of Lendlease’s One Sydney Harbour nears completion.
In 2000, the Renzo Piano-designed commercial tower Aurora Place opened its doors as a sleek, premium office tower overlooking the Royal Botanic Gardens on the eastern fringe of Sydney’s CBD.
Now, almost a quarter of a century later – in what is expected to be the Pritzker prize-winning architect’s Australian swan song – Lendlease’s One Sydney Harbour is nearing completion.
The view from one of the residences at One Sydney Harbour.  Lendlease
The 85-year-old Italian architect’s work is set to bookend Sydney’s CBD. The Piano-designed, Lendlease-helmed residential project will rise across three towers fast taking shape in Barangaroo on the city’s western edge.
AFR Weekend took a tour of One Sydney Harbour’s buzzing construction site, as the first tower closes in on its January completion date.
The $4 billion project marks Lendlease’s first Australian foray into dedicated luxury residences, soon to be followed by its yet-to-be-built One Circular Quay nearby, which has already sold more than 50 per cent of its offerings to the tune of $1 billion.
Architect Renzo Piano photographed for AFR Magazine in 2019. Jérôme Bonnet
Although Crown’s twisted glass tower looms supreme in the airspace over Barangaroo, One Sydney Harbour is fast filling the void between it and Lendlease’s three commercial towers completed in 2016.
However, unlike Crown, the penthouse at One Sydney Harbour has already sold off-the-plan in 2019 when an unidentified buyer paid more than $140 million to secure the three-level combined penthouse and sub-penthouse atop Residences One.
Although the project has its critics – mainly around concerns over scale and overshadowing – the rapid off-the-plan sales show Lendlease’s move into the luxury residential market is meeting pent-up buyer demand.
More than 90 per cent of the 799 residences have been sold across all three towers – Residences One (72 storeys), Residences Two (60 storeys) and Watermans (30 storeys).
In its latest update in December, the construction and real estate group said it had chalked up more than $3.7 billion in sales across its three triangular towers
Piano – best known for Centre Pompidou in Paris and The Shard in London – says the driving vision for the three-tower project hinged on the interplay of light across their glass facades.
“We thought it was like a crystal, the facets, and looking different ways,” Piano has said of the project. “When you look at those three buildings, they will never be the same.”
Every apartment has triple layer, low-ion floor-to-ceiling windows designed to create tint-free, crystal-clear views of the city and harbour.
Interior designer Daniel Goldberg said his vision for the project was to capture the Sydney lifestyle he describes as “refined yet relaxed, elegant but comfortable, generous and welcoming”.
A luxury kitchen inside One Sydney Harbour. 
Goldberg’s studio, State of Craft, designed the apartments in three tiers: harbour, signature and luxury. The luxury option, which is sold out in Residences One, comes in “Golden” and “Platinum” colour schemes, with finishes including limestone floors and powder rooms with arabescato vagli marble. In a James Bond-esque touch, dishwashers and Zip taps open via a double knock on the appliance’s surface.
Inside, on the amenities podium, protective films are starting to come off the green Austria-sourced Dorfer Grun marble slabs used in the indoor pool.
“The green stone pool visually extends the landscaping of the new Hickson Park into the interiors,” Goldberg says. “We wanted to create a sense of a pond or lake surrounded by lush forest and green tones.”
Artist’s impressions of the jacuzzi, lined with Italian natural stone, and residents’ pool at One Sydney Harbour in Barangaroo. 
Shared by the three towers and accessed through connected glass walkways, One Sydney Harbour’s amenities also include a steam room with a domed ceiling of Italian Lasa marble, a jacuzzi and two dining spaces, one with a commercial kitchen for residents’ functions, as well as a Piano-designed outdoor harbour-deck pool.
Inside the lobby at Residences One, a light installation by Piano is designed to offer a sense of luxury on arrival.
Dubbed “The Cloud of Light”, the suspended sculpture features 388 glass bobbles of varying sizes hand-blown in the Czech Republic, and the Italian “Calacatta Gold” marble concierge desk sits in front of fluted panels of Australian spotted gum.
State of Craft director Daniel Goldberg is behind the interiors of One Sydney Harbour.  
Lendlease remains tight-lipped about its incoming residents (a mystery reserved for settlement next year), but buyer’s agent Stephen Smith, of SydneySlice, says he isn’t surprised that 90 per cent of the buyers are locals.
“The lion’s share is eastern suburbs and north shore downsizers,” Smith says. “But there is also quite a bit of money in the western suburbs these days.
“They [Lendlease] first pitched it in late 2019, then we had COVID, so it makes sense to me that a big percentage of these would be downsizers. The international market was virtually shut down.”
During the Great Depression, Hickson Road was dubbed The Hungry Mile as hundreds of men scoured the wharves in search of work. These days, Jimmy Choos, not Blundstones, are more likely to tread the harbour precinct and blue collars have long since turned white.
One Sydney Harbour’s three towers are located beside Crown’s tower at Barangaroo.  
On the afternoon of AFR Weekend’s visit, executives are seen networking and decompressing in some of the city’s best bars and restaurants such as Rekodo, Nobu, and Oncore by Clare Smyth – the Michelin-star UK chef who catered for Prince Harry and Meghan’s 2018 wedding.
Smith puts One Sydney Harbour’s sale success down to the rapidly improving amenity of the city’s western harbour edge.
“Gee whiz, in the last 10 years it’s really reshaped the city,” he says. “I think as a precinct it’s getting better and better and better.”
He points to Headland Park, the proximity to historic areas of The Rocks and Dawes Point, and the fact that it’s now possible to walk uninterrupted around the harbour from Barangaroo to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.
Smith says the apartment uptake is also a sign that Sydney has finally shed its reluctance to live “in town”.
“Living in the city is much more mainstream and acceptable, and a sign Sydney is becoming a global city like New York, London and Hong Kong.
“Crown led the charge with its big glossy world-class building. Now it looks like anything new being built in the luxury space is selling.”
From the $140 million paid for the penthouse, the prices achieved at One Sydney Harbour are some of the highest in the country, including the $52 million paid for the penthouse in the second tower, Residences Two.
For the few remaining apartments, one-bedders start in the mid-$1 millions, two-bedroom units with parking start from $2.99 million and three-bedroom apartments with parking start from $4.7 million.
One Sydney Harbour’s wine gallery can be booked for residents’ functions.  
Although Lendlease’s three-tower project has further whet the appetite for luxury living in the heart of the city alongside Crown, is is far from sated.
With few apartments left in One Sydney Harbour, those in the market for a luxury city pad have turned their gaze to the CBD’s (arguably) most prestigious address, One Circular Quay, where the unconstructed penthouse is expected to reset the national residential record when it sells.
CBRE chairman Justin Brown, who is behind sales at One Circular Quay, says cashed-up local buyers are driving demand for light-filled prime apartments with views.
Brown says Sydney’s luxury apartment market has come of age in the past few years.
“The quality of construction, level of finishes and design regulations are some of the highest on a global scale,” he says. “Sydney’s high-end construction is world-class, led by the likes of Lendlease, Multiplex, Richard Crookes, Deicorp and Mirvac.”
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