Inside The Burcham: From Gum Factory To Sydney's Latest Urban Transformation


The Burcham in part, is a redevelopment of Rosebery’s 1918 Wrigley’s Gum factory and the name is borrowed from the original building’s architect John Burcham Clamp.

Stable Group Director Ed Horton said incorporating the site's history was important during the design phase, with renowned architects Allen Jack+Cottier working to preserve and revitalise the existing building.

"The one thing we knew, even before we had formulated the design elements, was that this building was going to be characterised firstly, by our preservation and re-birth to a new life as a residential building.""The original building was commissioned and completed by the Wrigley company in 1918. In 1928, Wrigley again engaged John Burcham Clamp, the original architect, and the same builder, Stuart Bros, to design and build an extension. As the first Wrigley factory to be built outside North America, there is a great historical significance to both the Wrigley company and Sydney.

"The original building is one of, if not the first, examples of the then new construction technique at the time, concrete encased steel and mushroom capital columns. The history and wonderful design characteristics excited us immediately," Mr Horton said.

"We have retained and highlighted as much of the old building's classic architectural character, and created apartments with high ceilings, exposing much or the blemishes we found the building with, so as to not risk damaging for example, the beautiful columns.

The heritage-listed building resembles Chicago-esque architecture with a strong industrial design, which retains part of the existing structure coupled with two new residential buildings.

Featuring 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments, architects Allen Jack+Cottier have created beautifully appointed residences with up to 4.0m-high voluminous ceilings. The nods to the building's past are seen throughout, from the floors to the ceilings, the industrial past is thoughtfully incorporated.

"The most immediately obvious heritage elements we have incorporated into the design, would be the mushroom capital columns," Mr Horton said.

"Exposing the concrete floors and delivering up the apartments with that hint of the industrial past is one of the wonderful design elements that make these beautiful apartments so exciting. The over height ceilings, where some bathrooms have 4.0m ceilings and a stunning mushroom capital column within the space to give dramatic effect."

Project Architects, Allen Jack+Cottier, were appointed after submitting the winning submission.

AJ+C Principle, Peter Ireland, said their concept was the only one to incorporate the existing building into their design.

"We saw this existing building to have several layers of value," Mr Ireland said.

"This was in its character and construction, adding a different type of apartment living to the market, one with different levels of detail and volume. Also, from an environmental point of view, there was value in keeping the embedded CO2 and energy in the existing building and recycling it, there was a construction cost saving in its retention."

As important as it was to preserve as much historical character of the old industrial building, sustainability is considered one of The Burcham's defining points of difference.
"We are quite comfortable challenging conventions, an approach that pretty much typifies our projects," Mr Horton said.

"In this instance, we deliberately took a non-conventional approach to technology, materiality, energy, water, light, air and the community aspect. The adaptation of an old concrete factory building, posed both challenges and opportunities."
"Using the existing structure allowed us to consider hydronic in-floor heating systems, which provide a superior quality of heating in large volume spaces with low operational costs," he said.

Beyond heating, Mr Horton discussed how applying multiple layers of technologies and innovations throughout not only reduces operational costs but it also significantly improves health and well-being for the residents.

"Some of those initiatives include a 50,000 Kwh Solar array, Solar hot water (up to 50% of all domestic hot water), electric car charging bays, water harvesting, roof top cinema, edible gardens, biometric apartment access (finger print recognition), number plate recognition car parking access, embedded energy network, over height ceilings (up to 4.0m), and many other design elements such as the beautiful mushroom capital columns that ordinarily may have been regarded as interfering, are being showcased within the heritage building."
The installation of highly efficient LED lighting throughout uses at least 75% less energy and lasts 25 times longer than standard incandescent lighting. Each apartment features Smart Meter technology to help residents understand and manage their gas, electricity and water consumption. A large Photovaltic Solar System will also generate a significant amount of clean electricity for the base building while also producing up to 50% of the average apartment’s hot water needs in a year.

Working with an older building however, did present a number of challenges. Not only having to link a new underground car park into an existing heritage site, but also working with the Sydney City Council to meet their standards.
"Getting the apartment mix as subscribed by Sydney City Council and at the same time meeting the very prescriptive standards was challenging," Mr Horton said.

"Not having the ability to change the orientation of the heritage building, and being restricted by the floor plates, there were design challenges in getting the apartment layouts to work, while ensuring the right level of amenities was provided to every apartment."

Mr Horton admitted the design process took a long time, but even with all the challenges that old buildings create, he believes there are always solutions.

"It would be correct in saying that there are always compromises when working with fixed and restrictive design options when dealing with heritage buildings.

"There were many challenges and many possible solutions for each. In the end, we were able with the assistance of our outstanding design and engineering teams, find what we are confident are the best ways to design and deliver the apartments."The project also sought out Jamie Durie's Durie Design, who created the landscaped communal spaces and the "Wrigley Common", a place to relax, do yoga or garden. The thoughtfully designed sculptural terrace will allow for significant planting, solar access, private and open areas and public thoroughfares throughout the site. Timber boardwalks will provide access to a communal edible garden, a garden shed and paved areas will deliver breakout zones for all to enjoy in what is deliberately intended to be a quiet space.

Everything Sydney has to offer is on The Burcham’s doorstep. With Green Square train station a short 1.3km away, it’s a 10-minute journey to the CBD – perfect for professionals looking for an easy commute. Add another 5 minutes to enjoy the views across Sydney Harbour or a stroll around the Royal Botanic Gardens. Students will enjoy close proximity to a number of world-class institutions, with Sydney University, UTS and the University of NSW all under 15 minutes away. There are also parks and recreation facilities close by, including Moore Park.

"One of the wonderful things we find about Rosebery, is this quite organic transformation from a predominately industrial suburb, to what is quickly emerging as a dynamic and eclectic residential precinct. Our development has the character, style and community engagement to attract those new buyers looking for something different and in an area with a little of what makes inner city living so dynamic," Mr Horton said.

If you’re part environmentalist, part futurist, part history buff, or just looking for quality with a distinctive edge, then look no further. The Burcham is a unique development, setting itself apart, offering the best of every world.

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