See The Transformation From Derelict Site Into $300m Showpiece


When fire engulfed the old Poultry Market at Haymarket in 1985 only a corner portion of the façade could be saved – and that had to be propped up by scaffolding or else it would have collapsed.

The remnant façade ‘stood’ forlornly for a further 24 years until architects WMK won a design competition to breathe new life into the derelict Quay Street site.

Today, the façade serves as a key entry point into The Quay – a $300-million mixed-use showpiece – and enables the people of Sydney to reminisce about the once thriving markets.

It is one of the city’s most successful examples of ‘façadism’, an architectural technique of retaining the façade of a building deemed to have historic or cultural significance.

WMK was determined to reinforce its former use as the main market entrance and maintain a seamless connection to the interior, which now comprises 3,411 square metres of retail space including a major supermarket, restaurants and 17 speciality shops. Rising above the iconic façade are two sleek apartment towers – 16 and 17-levels respectively – which are home to around 500 residents.

The development now activates three city streets and has given Haymarket a dynamic ambiance, helped by Frank Ghery’s UTS masterpiece and The Goods Line, a pedestrian and cycleway from Quay Street to Darling Harbour.

The Quay Street site has had a chequered history. From 1912 to the 1950s it was the bustling poultry section of Paddy’s Market before it was turned into a retail outlet.  The building burnt down in 1985, but luckily a 60-metre long section of the façade was saved and preserved, albeit propped-up by steel supports.

Ausbao Pty Ltd, the local subsidiary of Beijing’s largest development group, purchased the site in September, 2009 and held a design competition. The winning scheme, by WMK Architecture, was granted 10% ‘bonus’ floor space by the City Of Sydney Council because of its clever response to re-activating the public spaces, its design excellence and environmental initiatives.

WMK says one of its main aims was to sympathetically incorporate the façade into a contemporary development to provide an historical context at street level. Not everyone agreed this was possible. Opponents of ‘Façadism’ maintain it only works when there is a genuine relationship between the original purpose of the façade and the interior use of the new structure.

Managing Director of WMK Architecture Greg Barnett said, "Despite the naysayers we managed to achieve this at The Quay.

“By setting the two residential towers back from the façade we created an ‘urban square’ that has enlivened the area.

“Pedestrians enter the large retail area through the retained market façade, reinstating and reinforcing its former use as an entry point.

“We’ve paid homage to the site by creating a buzzing multi-faceted urban destination where people shop, work, live and play – a development that inspires, challenges and supports the visionaries of tomorrow.”

 The overall design of The Quay showcases symmetry and a purity of line, with most of the 286 apartments orientated to the north to gain direct sunlight, and some enjoying water views of Darling Harbour. Mr Barnett describes The Quay as “an urban resort”, with a communal north-facing terrace garden connecting the two towers, and a large indoor-outdoor gymnasium.

“We introduced elements previously only seen in prestigious hotels which gives The Quay a unique architectural point of difference over other residential developments,” Mr Barnett said.

“The geometric glass, aluminium and louvre façades embrace strong vertical and horizontal planes, and the subtly different architectural expression of each tower reflects the diversity of the inner city Haymarket precinct. You could say the buildings have different personalities within a common language.”

The Quay is also at the forefront of sustainable city living, achieving a 4-Star Green Star Rating by maximising ventilation and sunlight which reduces the need for mechanical heating, cooling and lighting.

From its opening launch day the public embraced The Quay, and the majority of the 286 apartments sold prior to construction starting. Those early buyers who have recently on-sold have enjoyed capital gains of up to 30%.

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