• Richard Hu

Reshaping Sydney by design – few know about the mandatory competitions, but we all see the results

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

The conventional approach to commercial city building is for private developers to enlist their preferred architect for a design that satisfies planning and building regulations. For major projects, the architect would likely have had a previous association and a good track record in matching their client’s commercial priorities to what the approval authority demands in terms of uses, floor space, height, design features and respect for surroundings.


Over the past two decades, though, and largely unknown to the public, Sydney has adopted a mandatory competitive design process for the projects that have transformed the city skyline.

The scale of developments captured by these protocols underscores their impact. Between 2000 and 2017, 46 proposals were granted planning approval. These represented a total investment estimated at over A$7 billion and producing nearly 2 million square metres of commercial floor space.


Our research found competitive processes are delivering demonstrable benefits such as higher quality, innovation and an improved public realm. Of 26 completed projects by the start of 2018, 62% have won major industry awards and 50% have received awards from the Australian Institute of Architects.


Architectural design competitions go back centuries in Europe and are not uncommon for major public buildings everywhere. Yet what has been instituted appears to be unique for any Australian or indeed global city. Sydney’s mandatory “compare, critique and commission” model for private development is truly pioneering and innovative...... read more



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