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Circular Quay is one of Sydney’s most historic precincts.
So, from the outset, a project to reinvigorate parts of the Quay that started in 2014 and involved a number of key architects working on separate buildings, had to meet the most exemplary standards and achieve design excellence.
Studio Bright was commissioned to replace a bland 1980s 11-storey high-rise office with a building housing one and two-bedroom apartments.Credit:Rory Gardiner 
While the other architects engaged in the precinct were primarily working with heritage sandstone buildings, Studio Bright was commissioned to replace a bland 1980s 11-storey high-rise office with a building housing 31 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
For its work, Studio Bright won the prestigious Aaron Bolot Award for multiple housing from the Australian Institute of Architects (NSW).
Bordered by Customs House, the Gallipoli Memorial Club and Macquarie Park Place, the area has now become an intriguing network of lanes and secluded outdoor areas, with the landscape and street furniture designed by Aspect Studio and public art by Jonathan Jones, a member of the Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi nations of south-east Australia.
Mindful of creating a better environment as well as a higher standard of apartment, the height of the apartments was reduced to seven storeys with a communal roof terrace garden, also designed by Aspect Studio.
“We wanted people looking onto the area from above, whether from their apartment or from their office, to have a verdant view rather than simply looking at mechanical systems dotted across the roof,” says Mel Bright, director of Studio Bright.
And rather than a simple orthogonal upper level, the apartments on the top two levels have been exquisitely folded, almost like fabric, to allow for sunlight into Loftus Lane and views beyond.
Bright and her team, based in Melbourne, took part of their design cues from Melbourne’s laneway culture. For the Quay Quarter Lanes apartments there’s a central walkway to the two separate lift cores, and instead of a red carpet there’s a light installation across the entire length of the ceiling, created by Jones.
Studio Bright included operable and fixed exterior screens, perforated to allow for light to permeate and for cross ventilation.Credit:Rory Gardiner 
While this ceiling creates a sense of arrival, the building’s exterior, expressed on three street frontages, is deliberately “quiet”.
“We didn’t want to overshadow the heritage buildings,” says Bright, pointing out the soft grey-coloured concrete-coloured bricks that responded to the warmth of the neighbouring sandstone buildings.
Mindful of sun protection as well as privacy, Studio Bright included operable and fixed exterior screens, perforated to allow light to permeate and for cross-ventilation.
In the true European style, the ground level has not only been given over to the wider public but to cafes at ground level and a restaurant on the first floor – the latter being a destination for those in the know.
While the lush rooftop garden can be used by all residents, there are also small pockets of garden beds on each level that green up all the floorplates.
“Even the residents of the one-bedroom apartments [approximately 50 square metres] can enjoy arriving home to a garden as soon as they leave the elevator,” says Bright.
Sometimes, an interior can let a side down, particularly with multi-residential projects that can often feel generic. However, at Quay Quarter Lanes, the quality is in the detail.
Here, one can find curvaceous island benches, carefully beaded joinery and thoughtful design elements such as angling the main living room that separates a bedroom to ensure maximum light and views where it matters most.
Unlike most multi-residential developments that come with basement car parking, loading bays and other traditional building services, the model used in this precinct was to share, with basement car parking in a neighbouring building.
“It was about achieving a better outcome not just for residents but, as importantly, for the public, making links more porous and allowing public art to be integral in the process,” says Bright, who was able to set back this development from Loftus Lane.
“We were truly gifted a wonderful site and a visionary masterplan.”
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