A growing interest in apartment living is a “phenomenon of our times”, says Sydney architect Peter Israel.
“People are very happy not to have the maintenance of a house and they’re also very happy to live in a building that is a community,” he says. “It’s a big change [in attitude] – but that’s the challenge, isn’t it? You have to give people what they want and expect in a home – but do that in an apartment.”
As people embrace apartment life, iconic sites around Australia are finding a new lease of life as residential developments. Golf House is a prime example. The landmark inner-city site was known for years as Sydney’s premier golf store, helped in no small part by its much-loved 1950s-era animated neon sign. Israel is unsurprised that the prime site is becoming a residential complex.
“I think Surry Hills will see a lot of growth,” he says. “It’s the nicest area we have [in Sydney] in terms of a place to live. It’s got a lot happening – it’s more of a community area. As the rest of Surry Hills is becoming more and more developed – it’s growing in every direction – then it will only help the area when this site is developed.” Golf House is on Elizabeth Street, a two-minute walk from Central Station.
Israel says for some people, living within a vibrant neighbourhood is more important than having an eye-catching view. “Traditionally, luxury developments have been around the harbour but here, we’re saying maybe there’s something in the dynamic character of the area that’s even more attractive,” he says. “That’s the story of this project – you’re getting luxury in the midst of all this activity.”
In another Surry Hills story of breathing new life into an old favourite, Golden Age has restored and reinvented the old screening room of the heritage-listed Paramount Pictures building. Paramount House is in Commonwealth Street in a pocket of Surry Hills once known as the ‘Hollywood Quarter’.
Built in 1941 in late Art Deco style, it has been renovated and repurposed as Golden Age Cinema and Bar. A collective of architects, interior designers, auteurs and furniture makers have brought it back to life, while showing respect for its past. The 60-seat theatre adjoins the stylish new watering hole.
The Old Bank of New South Wales is another prime example of an iconic site being transformed for a modern purpose. Upmarket restaurant Swine & Co was until recently housed in what must been one of the most thoughtfully restored Art Deco interiors in Sydney. The old bank building was designed by prominent architect of the time, Bruce Dellit, and completed in 1940. Today, the space has been remodelled: there’s a dimly lit dining room in the basement, cosmopolitan bar featuring the original travertine tiling on the ground floor, and mezzanine bar above with secluded seating areas.