© Bardocz Peter/Shutterstock.com
From the Rose Seidler House and Mooloomba House to the Sydney Opera House, these 20 buildings are examples of some of Australia’s most architecturally and historically important structures.
Earlier versions of the descriptions of these buildings first appeared in 1001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die, edited by Mark Irving (2016). Writers’ names appear in parentheses.
Rose Seidler House
With the uncompromisingly modern Rose Seidler House, Harry Seidler introduced east coast Modern to a country more used to building and living in cottages that would not have looked out of place in late-19th-century Britain. An Austrian émigré, Seidler first studied architecture in Canada before leaving for New York to be taught by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. After finishing his studies, Seidler worked in Breuer’s studio before leaving for Australia, a journey he made via Brazil and Oscar Niemeyer’s studio. The influence of these Modernist masters is plain to see in the house at Turramurra that Seidler designed for his parents. It is one of three houses he designed on a site overlooking a valley in Ku-ring-gai Chase public reserve. The house, which was completed in 1950, is open on all sides to make the most of the spectacular views, and it is essentially a hollowed-out square with separate living and sleeping areas joined by a central family room. The central terrace can be reached by a ramp, which, together with stone retaining walls and a louver fence, anchors the partly suspended house to its surroundings. While the interior is characterized by cool, purist colors and textures, the central terrace is dominated by a vibrant mural painted by Seidler himself, the reds, yellows, and blues of which are picked up through accent colors in the furnishings, thus maximizing the spatial flow and heightening the sense of bringing the outside space indoors. (Gavin Blyth)
Arnhem Land is a wilderness in the Northern Territory where weather ranges from cyclones to floods. Yirrkala Community is Aboriginal land, and it is here that a small, ingenious, indigenous-inspired house designed in the early 1990s by Glenn Murcutt was built for Marmburra Banduk Marika and Mark Alderton. It is a one-story, prefabricated, aluminum-finished, steel-frame structure with plywood walls and a corrugated metal, vented roof. There is no glass; instead, panels that lift horizontally and augment other mechanical air distribution systems allow the house to breathe. Adjustable shutters direct sunlight, and generous eaves beat back the sun. Roofline tubes expel hot air. Large vertical fins act as spoilers to reduce wind and shield the site. The house is on short stilts that aid air circulation, protect from floods, give wildlife shelter, and reference vernacular Pacific Rim architecture. Murcutt’s respect for context and environment is reflected in this home, as it is in all of his buildings. (Denna Jones)
Designed by husband-and-wife team Peter O’Gorman and Brit Andresen, Mooloomba House seamlessly blends into its idyllic island location. Designed for the architects’ own use, the two-story, timber-framed holiday home blurs the distinction between exterior and interior, with courtyards and gardens running into interior rooms, and vice versa.
Perched on a hilltop on North Stradbroke Island, the house is arranged in a linear fashion, with the north facade overlooking the ocean, while the living areas look east across the garden. Architecturally, the house combines two quite disparate methodologies, incorporating both local vernacular elements and a rigid prefabricated system. The western—vernacular—aspect of the house is characterized by a row of 13 rough-hewn cypress poles with irregularly spaced rafters and slats making up a semi-enclosed, deck-style element to the building. From here, it is hard to see where the forest ends and the house begins.
The main living and working space on the ground floor, together with the four separate sleeping capsules, each large enough for a bed and little else, on the second floor, are the only fully enclosed sections of the house and are located on its prefabricated side. Because of how it merges with gardens and courtyards, the house appears much larger than its actual 645 square feet (60 sq m). To reach certain areas of the house, you must first go outside, integrating it further with its surroundings.
The house, completed in 1996, is made entirely of wood, reflecting the architects’ career-long interest in using sustainable native hardwoods, in this case eucalyptus. They have created an informal, relaxed house at one with its surroundings—quite an achievement in what is one of the most beautiful locations in Queensland. (Gavin Blyth)
Sheep Farm House
The Sheep Farm House, located in a treeless landscape northwest of Melbourne, represents a contemporary take on the classic Australian pastoral homestead. The complex, built for a high-tech sheep farm, includes the main house, a guest wing, garage, machine shed, shearing shed, and covered yards. A high concrete wall, 656 feet (200 m) long, gathers the ensemble of buildings together, helping to create an overall identity for the farmstead. The wall also helps to locate the complex in the wide, open landscape, giving substance to the buildings and a protective buffer against the elements. Access to the farmhouse and associated buildings is via a courtyard of 377 square feet (35 sq m), enclosed by austere concrete walls. The entry is denoted by a black rectangle of concrete, tilting backward and slightly higher than the rest of the courtyard. The farmhouse itself is a heavily glazed, symmetrical pavilion, two bays wide, and open along the east side, with porches on the south and north ends that provide outdoor areas in the summer and winter. Private spaces, including the bathrooms, bedrooms, study, and storerooms, are accommodated within two “solid boxes” inside the main volume. The roof, like all the buildings in the ensemble, has a single pitch and extended eaves. Denton Corker Marshall’s Sheep Farm House, completed in 1997, is widely regarded as one of the finest Australian houses of the late 20th century. (Adam Mornement)
Named for a local indigenous people and home to architecture, design, and art schools, the Kaurna Building in Adelaide displays John Wardle’s ability to turn problems into opportunities. A dense urban campus with an established pattern of linear buildings and repetitive finishes and details, not to mention a tight budget, were the constraints accompanying this commission. Wardle’s association with the architecture and design firm Hassell brought local knowledge to the team. A raw concrete frame clad in exquisite precast panels, juxtaposed with areas of glazing, encloses a complex interplay of plan and section. A central staircase allows glimpses through the building (which was completed in 2006) and into teaching spaces, while exposed services and finishes provide teaching reference for the architecture students. Spaces are rarely completely separate, and academic staff have moved into open-plan offices. Integration is established by lanes that connect the inner campus to the surrounding streets. New building facades contrast with the established built fabric through the use of arcades, awnings, balconies, bridges, and a cafe that sprawls between new and old buildings. The jagged building edges continue to the roofline, where they create a distinct silhouette. The building’s large, almost unbroken glass front invites uninterrupted visual contact between interior and exterior, not least by night when the entire facade becomes a beacon of light. (Mads Gaardboe)
Forecourt of the Australian Parliament House, featuring the mosaic work of Aboriginal artist Michael Nelson Tjakamarra, Canberra, A.C.T., Austl.© Dan Breckwoldt/Dreamstime.com
Parliament House is situated atop Capital Hill in Canberra, Australia’s capital city. It was commissioned in 1978 to supersede, not replace, the original Parliament House of 1927. It was completed for the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia in 1988. Its most striking feature is its low profile. The main contour of Capital Hill is carried over the top of the structure, vegetation and all, giving the impression of its being partially underground. The building is capped by a pyramid-shaped, 266-foot high (81 m), stainless-steel flagpole, visible throughout the city.
The building’s principal architect, Romaldo Giurgola, had already designed several public and commercial buildings in the United States and South America. When this design was unveiled, it was criticized as failing to address culturally and architecturally specific issues. For instance, the Neoclassical lines, intended to echo the original Parliament House, were considered too conservative. Despite this, Parliament House is a well-conceived building, based on a simple yet effective division of space around two principal axes, highlighting the division between the upper and lower chambers of government. Visitors are surrounded by visions of Australia—a reminder that the building is owned by the people. Views take in the Brindabella Ranges to the west and the hills beyond Queanbeyan to the east. For his efforts, Giurgola received the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal and was made an Officer in the Order of Australia. (Alex Bremner)
National Museum of Australia
The National Museum of Australia has courted controversy since it opened in 2001, in particular for the building itself. To most visitors it probably looks like a cluster of unrelated, colorful blocks, at whose core stands a painted concrete park, The Garden of Australian Dreams. The idea behind the scheme was to extend the axes originally used by American architect Walter Burley Griffin for the design of Canberra, and then tangle them to form a huge three-dimensional knot. This notional knot weaves its way across the site, occasionally clashing with the museum. When it does it tears a section of the building away, leaving a red-colored trench in its wake. The most dramatic example of this can be seen in the entrance hall; the knot’s only physical manifestation is the whirl that greets visitors as they enter the tiny car park. The wildly colored buildings represent the giant puzzle that is Australia’s history, while their walls contain secret messages in giant braille. Some architectural references are obviously jokey—the windows in the main hall are shaped like the Sydney Opera House, for example—but one was extremely controversial. For the Gallery of First Australians, which discusses the history of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the firm Ashton Raggatt McDougall imitated Daniel Libeskind’s design for the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Libeskind was not impressed. Ultimately, it is a building that is loved and loathed; yet whatever you feel about it, it is a hugely daring piece of architecture. (Grant Gibson)
Main Cell Block, Fremantle Prison
Australia was initially founded as a British penal colony, so it is not surprising to find that a number of its early buildings were built using convict labor. Numerous public works, including roads, were realized in this way from the late 1780s until the middle of the 19th century. In fact, one of Australia’s most notable early architects, Francis Greenway, had arrived in New South Wales a convict in 1814.
Unfortunately, many of the buildings that once formed Australia’s main penal settlements either no longer exist or are in ruin. Fremantle Prison in Western Australia, however, is the largest and best-preserved example of this type of architecture in the country.
Founded in 1850, the Convict Establishment—as the prison was originally known—was constructed in large part from limestone quarried on site. One of the earliest and most substantial buildings in the precinct is the Main Cell Block, designed in a severe and unadorned Neoclassical style. Constructed between 1852 and 1855, it initially had running water in every cell. At either end of the four-story main block were two large dormitories known as Association Rooms. These housed up to 80 men sleeping in hammocks and were designed for prisoners with an upcoming “Ticket of Leave” or as a reward for good behavior.
The single cells of the rest of the prison were less salubrious, being a mere 7 by 4 feet (2.1 x 1.2 m). The front of the Main Cell Block is dominated by the Anglican chapel, which is among the finest and most intact of early prison chapels in Australia. (Alex Bremner)
Royal Exhibition Building
The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne is a monument to Victorian optimism and enterprise. Built for the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, it was intended to signify the colony of Victoria’s significance on the world stage as part of Britain’s ever-expanding global empire. It was conceived in the tradition of large, open-plan exhibition buildings typical of the international exhibition movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it remains one of the few intact examples of its kind in the world. Stylistically it is a mixture of Classical motifs combined in a free Italianate manner. When completed, it was the largest building in Australia and the tallest in Melbourne. The Great Hall alone consists of more than 39,000 square feet (3,623 sq m) of display space.
The building’s architect, Joseph Reed, of the Melbourne-based firm Reed and Barnes, was born in Cornwall, and he immigrated to Australia in 1853. For a time he was Melbourne’s most important architect, dominating the profession from the 1860s through the 1880s. In 1863 Reed made a trip to Europe, which inspired an enthusiasm for the architecture of Italy. This enthusiasm later returned in his design for the Royal Exhibition Building, the dome of which is based on that of Filippo Brunelleschi’s great exemplar at Florence Cathedral. Reed also played a role in laying out the ceremonial gardens in which the Royal Exhibition Building is situated.
The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne has been the site of numerous events of local and national significance. It was the location for the 1888 Melbourne Centennial Exhibition, celebrating a century of European settlement in Australia, and the venue for the inauguration of the sovereign Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. (Alex Bremner)
Flinders Street Station
Flinders Street Station is Melbourne’s main hub of commuter activity, housing overland and underground metropolitan train lines. A competition was held in 1899 for a new station building to accommodate growing public transport needs. James W. Fawcett and Henry P.C. Ashworth, both railway workers, won with an opulent design which would provide a grand gateway to the wealthy Victorian city. Placed at a busy city intersection, adjacent to the Yarra River and Princes Bridge, the building itself is unmissable: its bright colors and architectural lines contrast with the surrounding city buildings and developments. The rusticated arch of the main entranceway, aligned diagonally with the southwest corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets, heralds passenger arrival and departure. It encloses a stained glass lunette (half-moon window), beneath which are a series of clock faces displaying train departure times. Above, a grand dome punctuates the skyline, while down at the Elizabeth Street intersection a clocktower draws further attention to the building. Designed to house offices, amenities, the Victorian Railways Institute club, and even a ballroom, the four-story building dominates Flinders Street. Since the building’s completion in 1911, the concourse, platforms, and subways have been refurbished, yet old subway tiles bearing the quaintly stenciled words “Do not spit” still provide a source of amusement to today‘s passengers. Throughout the day people use the steps beneath the main entrance’s clocks as a meeting place. As night falls, strategic illumination ensures that the building continues to catch the eye. (Katti Williams)
Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony met in the office of Frank Lloyd Wright, married, and moved to Australia in 1915 on winning a competition to design Canberra, the new capital of Australia. Parliament was then situated in Melbourne, and they set up practice in that city. Their most notable design in the city is Newman College (1918–36).
Further down Swanston Street—Melbourne’s so-called “civic spine”—and opposite the City Hall stands another building by Griffin, Capitol House, which includes the Capitol Theatre, completed in 1924. The building Walter Burley Griffin designed was a combination of offices, shops, and the theater—a novel concept in Australia at that time. For the 10-story office block, Griffin’s style is Chicagoesque with large horizontal stretches of glazing between flat vertical pilasters.
Only the upper levels of the Capitol Theatre survive today, the ground level’s foyer and stalls having been removed to make way for a shopping arcade in the 1960s. The theater’s upper level is an Aladdin’s cave of V-shaped plaster elements backed with rows of red, blue, and green light bulbs controlled by dimmers. The theater in a full kaleidoscope of color variations is still an experience today. Saved from destruction by RMIT University, it is used as a lecture theater during the day and hosts events in the evenings. (Leon van Schaik)
Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance was envisaged as an expression of a community’s gratitude to Victorians who served in World War I. Its architects, Philip Hudson and James Wardrop, both returned servicemen, won a widely publicized competition with this design in 1923, but controversy delayed the project for several years. It opened in Melbourne in 1934.
Hudson used Classical architecture to reflect his belief that the war had given birth to an Australian national tradition. His main inspiration was a 19th-century drawn reconstruction of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. The building has three levels—the crypt, the sanctuary, and the balconies. The crypt has a coffered blue-and-gold ceiling and 12 bronze memorial panels separated by pilasters; it is draped with military standards. The sanctuary is a centrally located inner chamber with a sepulchral atmosphere. An austere space, it is surrounded by an ambulatory, which is supported by 16 marble Ionic columns. On its walls there are 42 bronze caskets containing handwritten books of remembrance. At 11 AM on November 11 each year—the time and date of the 1918 Armistice—a beam of sunlight streams through an aperture in the ceiling and crosses the marble Stone of Remembrance. Excessively and unashamedly emotional, the Shrine of Remembrance is a deliberately monumental structure and a dramatic tribute to Australia’s war dead. (Katti Williams)
Newman College is the most notable design of husband-and-wife team Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney, although it is just one of the many buildings they designed for Melbourne’s “civic spine.” The college building, completed in 1936, is a compelling union between the horizontality of the Prairie style and a medieval Oxford college.
Sandstone arches fan out above windows on the street facade; an internal three-sided quadrangle is contained by a wide, low cloister with an ambulatory on its roof. Rooms are reached via stairs and open onto the ambulatory with its steel-framed windows. The chief glory of the building is the domed Dining Hall surmounted by a set of spires reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. The dome springs from a mezzanine and is thus pulled low over the space.
A new Study Center, by Edmond & Corrigan, was built in 2004 as a contemporary tribute to the Dining Hall. Reticent in its external form, it contains a library, ovoid in plan, that rises through two stories and is bridged by a roughly circular mezzanine around a void that echoes a lantern above. Peter Corrigan has wrought through shifting and elusive geometries a space for study that is every bit as powerful in a minor key as Griffin’s masterly space is in the major. The effect is rather like entering a time machine that warps perceptions of time and space. (Leon van Schaik)
RMIT Storey Hall
From its earliest days Melbourne has had a passion for architecture and for promulgating its own story. Storey Hall began its life as an assembly hall for the Hibernian Society, later becoming the home to the Women’s Sufferance Movement. In 1954 the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) acquired it as a gift from the Storey family, whose deceased son John had been studying at the institute. Modeled on the 18th-century type, the building had a rusticated basement, a piano nobile, and above that a hall with a horseshoe balcony that was supported on cast-iron columns and reached from a staircase that rose from the side of the foyer. The roof slid open to reveal the stars and release the heat and gases created within.
By the 1960s the hall had been gutted and rebuilt, with only the horseshoe balcony remaining. By the 1990s the building was unusable, as it did not meet fire egress standards. The university ran a limited competition to bring its prime public space back into use, and this was won by Ashton Raggatt McDougall, with a design that demolished two small adjacent buildings and created a new circulation system over a 300-seat lecture theater, and a new foyer at the level of the assembly hall floor, with a mezzanine gallery giving access to the balcony.
The interior of the hall itself was relined using Roger Penrose’s non-periodic tiling system, in which two lozenge-shaped forms are used to cover any surface, concave or convex. This houses the air-conditioning ducts and provides an acoustic shell. The riotous, mainly green-and-white interior wins over even the most puritan of critics, and it is an early, possibly the earliest, example of the use of the New Mathematics in architecture. The lozenge design also makes a striking entrance to the new section. (Leon van Schaik)
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
The hometown of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) was dubbed “Marvelous Melbourne” in the 1880s as a tide of wealth flowed through the city from the adjacent gold fields. Melbourne then fell into conservative quietude for the next hundred years, interrupted briefly in the 1960s by the work of Modernist Robin Boyd. Architects Wood Marsh became part of the second wave of a generation that, at the turn of the 21st century, earned the city consideration as an international design hotspot.
During its history, Melbourne has been torn between the Old and New Worlds. Encouraged by a relatively temperate climate, the Old World dream plays out in a myth of the Garden State that tries to clothe every space in green. Into this the architecture of Wood Marsh explodes with burnished and unapologetic form.
ACCA consists of a foyer, offices, and five gallery spaces, and it is situated at the center of Melbourne’s Southbank arts complex, alongside the Malthouse Theatre. It forms a tight urban courtyard with the old brick theater complex to one side and presents its steep, enigmatic rusted steel profile to the rest of the arts precinct across a wide plain of crushed gravel on the other. The structure, completed in 2002, evokes the poetry of the so-called “red center” of Australia—a miniature Uluru in a sand-colored setting relieved only by red brick lines.
ACCA has become one of Melbourne’s most iconic buildings; its rust-red hulk is now a rallying symbol for accepting and celebrating the reality of the local climate and foregoing the dream of green that the settler city pursued for so long. (Leon van Schaik)
The tag of “tallest building” is a hotly contested one. In Australia the race between Fender Katsalidis’s Eureka Tower in Melbourne and the Q1 (by Atelier SDG) in Queensland finished neck and neck. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, there are four categories to determine height: pinnacle height; architectural top; roof height; and highest occupied floor. Q1 wins on the basis of the first two, and the 92-floor Eureka Tower on the latter. The rivalry is similar to that between New York’s Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, where the winner was ultimately decided by the height of the spire rising above the roof of the Empire State Building.
If the decider in Australia, however, was on the basis of sheer opulence and luxury, Eureka Tower would take the prize, for while Q1 may have a ten-story mini-rainforest sky garden 60 floors up, the entire top ten floors of the Eureka Tower are faced with gold. Built on reclaimed swampland, special foundations were needed to secure the 975-foot-high (297 m) tower, while at the top, construction was concluded when the crane at the summit of the tower was taken down by a smaller crane, which in its turn was dismantled by a crane smaller yet again (small enough to fit in the service elevator).
With its gold-plated windows, gym, cinema, bars, restaurants, and concierge services, the Eureka, which was completed in 2006, is aimed at the luxury end of the residential market, but it also incorporates environmental features. Glass-skin double glazing reduces heating and cooling costs and the elevator systems use magnet-hoist machinery, requiring less power than conventional ones. It is worth visiting the Eureka Tower simply to take an elevator up 935 feet (285 m) to the observation deck and experience the stupendous views. (Gemma Tipton)
When most people think of Australian architecture, the first image that comes to mind is Sydney Opera House. Much lower on the list, if at all, are domestic buildings. Yet it is there that one finds the most unique and representative characteristics of Australian architecture. Built in the outer-eastern, semirural suburb of Monbulk, Athan House by Melbourne-based firm Edmond & Corrigan is one of the most distinctive additions to this tradition.
Generally, the house is an attempt to capture the richness and diversity of Melbourne’s urban and suburban landscape. In both form and planning it is complex and scenographic, using materials such as brick and timber in a collagelike manner to critically engage with and challenge one’s perceptions.
The architects, Maggie Edmond and Peter Corrigan, formed their architectural partnership in 1975. Before this, Corrigan had spent several years in the United States studying environmental design at Yale University. It was there that he came under the influence of Postmodernist luminaries, including Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Charles Moore. When completed in 1988, Athan House was critically acclaimed, receiving the Royal Australian institute of Architects Bronze Medal for Outstanding Architecture. It is considered a landmark of late 20th-century Australian architecture. (Alex Bremner)
Sydney’s monument to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps—the ANZAC Memorial—was one of the last Australian World War I memorials to be designed. The winning scheme of Sydney architect Charles Bruce Dellit expressed his belief that postwar society should look forward, not back, and honor the veterans in a modern idiom. The building’s most striking feature is the remarkable synergy between architecture and sculpture. George Rayner Hoff, a Sydney-based sculptor and war veteran, built upon Dellit’s original ideas to produce some of the most evocative and provocative public sculpture of the time: two external sculptural groups for the building were abandoned following an outcry against their perceived sacrilegious content. The building’s clean, external lines are relieved by buttresses, which support sculpted depictions of Australian servicemen and women. Upon entering the building, which opened in 1934, visitors are drawn to a carved marble balustrade surrounding an opening in the floor. The bronze figure of a dead warrior, naked and stretched across a shield, is visible below. There is a domed ceiling, and amber glass windows in each wall bathe visitors, sculpture, and architecture in soft light. On descending to a lower hall, the visitor can identify the poignant figures supporting the bronze shield—previously viewed from above—as three women: mother, sister, and lover, the last holding a child. (Katti Williams)
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House© Michael Hynes
Sydney Opera House is an icon for an entire country. Standing in full view of where the first ships of settlers landed at Circular Quay, it epitomizes Sydney’s rapid transition from a remote, inhospitable colony to a leading center of technology and culture. In the 1960s, the construction of this uniquely shaped building symbolized all that was modern, vibrant, and youthful about Australia. In 1955, the state government began a fund to finance its construction and held an international competition for its design. Jørn Utzon, a little-known Danish architect, won with the striking creation seen today. Sydney Opera House’s glittering, white, shell-shaped roofs are a mixture of abstract and organic forms made up of tiled, precast concrete sections held together by cables. It is often said that these were designed to mirror the sails of the boats in the harbor, but Utzon’s models demonstrate that they are simply sections of a sphere.
The building‘s construction involved considerable innovation. It took five years just to work out how to convert the plans for the heavy, inclined roofs into reality, and it involved one of the earliest uses of computers in structural analysis. In 1966, arguments about the cost and the interior design reached a crisis point, and Utzon resigned from the project. This meant that the thrill of the opera house‘s exterior was not mirrored within, and its pink granite interior was redesigned by local architects. We will never know what Sydney Opera House would have looked like if Utzon had stayed onboard the project until its completion. He has, however, since been involved in redesigning some of the interior.
Sydney Opera House, which was completed in 1973, may have cost 14 times its original building estimate and taken nine years longer than planned to construct, but there is no doubt that it put Sydney on the world map in a way that it never had been before. (Jamie Middleton)
One Central Park
There are two features that make this development of two residential towers above a Sydney shopping center stand out. One is the extensive use of greenery to clad the building, and the other is the huge cantilevering “heliostat,” a sophisticated means of bringing sunlight into the building. Both these approaches change the way that high-rise living is usually seen.
Between them the two towers of One Central Park contain more than 600 apartments, with the taller east tower including 38 penthouses that have exclusive access to a 330-foot-high (100 m) sky garden. The development was completed in 2014.
There are more than 21 plant-covered panels on the external walls, spanning a total of more than 11,000 square feet (1,000 sq m) and containing dozens of different plant species. These were designed by French horticultural expert Patrick Blanc, who claims to have developed the green wall concept with a patented approach that uses a hydroponic irrigation system to grow the plants without soil. The roots of the plants are attached to a mesh-covered felt, fed with mineralised water from a remotely controlled dripper system. The minerals in the water ensure that the plants receive the necessary nutrients.
The heliostat is a feat of engineering, a huge steel cantilever jutting out that is covered in a series of reflector panels. These redirect sunlight to a nearby park at shady times of day. At night, the heliostat turns into an LED art installation called Sea Mirror by French lighting artist Yann Kersale. (Ruth Slavid)