Crown Sydney: icon or eyesore?

Crown Resorts Ltd's flagship tower nears completion at Barangaroo, 17 April, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Stephen Coates.

Not since Blues Point Tower opened in 1962 has a new skyscraper polarised Sydney as much as Crown Sydney. Rita Bratovich weighs in. 

Crown Sydney is scheduled to officially open for business in December 2020, although the tower itself has already topped out. The 75-level building rising up from the shores of Barangaroo is now the tallest building in Sydney. 

At a height of 271.3 metres, it dominates the most photographed views of Sydney Harbour and can be sighted through gaps in the terrain and from high spots all over the Greater Sydney area.

This (if you ignore the brouhaha now roiling around its casino) has been a cause of consternation since the tower’s blueprint was first unfurled for approval in 2012 as part of the Barangaroo redevelopment. 

From around the 1850s to 2006, Barangaroo was a thriving shipyard and port. For the many thousands of years prior to European settlement, it was an important site for the local Gadigal people whose artefacts and middens can still be found in the area today. 

Redevelopment of the precinct includes the beautifully sculpted park with harbourside walks, recreational areas and the Cutaway, a cavernous underground venue space. 

It also includes the commercial and residential precinct with retail and dining at ground level and high-rise commercial and residential buildings. 

The triplet International Towers originally received censure from some segments of the public because of their imposing presence. They have now been mostly accepted and are frequently visually quoted as a symbol of Barangaroo. 

Crown Sydney stands separate to the rest of the pack, at the forefront of the peninsula. It has been compared to the monstrously conspicuous Blues Point Tower on the opposite shore – the building that is like the dreaded finger in front of the camera lens spoiling the photo you wanted to take. 

If that’s your point of view, of course. 

Not everyone has felt that way, least of all Harry Seidler who designed the 1962 building, and stood by it until his death in 2006.

The Harry Seidler designed Blues Point Tower, pictured in March 2006. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Baker.

Where Crown Sydney and Blues Point Tower arguably differ is on placement and design. Blues Point Tower is block-like, with severe angles and dull colours. 

There is nothing in the vicinity that is similar in shape, look, and most importantly, height. It looks as if it strolled down from North Sydney to cool off at the water’s edge and forgot to go back.

On the other hand, Crown Sydney is part of an existing and continually growing cluster of tall buildings. Yes, it can be regarded as a rude interruption to the panorama, but it at least has context. 

Moreover, it is a beautifully designed building and brings a particular aesthetic to that part of the cityscape. Twisting to a tapered summit, the all-glass building resembles a vase, sans flowers. 

Rather than staring at a building, you feel you are staring at a sculpture, and while the arguments about imposition and incongruity are valid (think Eiffel Tower, glass pyramid at the Louvre, etc.), you have to acknowledge the attempt to contribute to the visual appeal of the landscape. 

If you can imagine what Sydney Harbour looked like before ‘the coathanger’ was built, you’ll appreciate that it’s just a matter of time before Crown Sydney starts adorning tea towels and giant pencils along with Sydney Tower, the Opera House, koalas and a schooner of beer. 

Crown Sydney profiled by The B1M, the world’s largest and most subscribed construction industry video channel. Video: B1M/YouTube.

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