AAA Partnering in Sydney Design Festival 2019

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It's time to celebrate all things creative with the annual Sydney Design Festival 2019. Taking place 1-10 March, the Australian Architecture Association (AAA) is once again partnering in the festival. Join one of our special tours taking place during the festival:

  • The Sydney Observatory Tour, and
  • AAA Ultimo Walk


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Experience a unique architectural tour developed in association with MAAS (the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences). AAA trained volunteer tour guides will help you to discover Sydney Observatory, a significant historic site in Millers Point, The Rocks.

Built in 1858, Sydney Observatory is one of the most significant sites in the nation’s scientific history. It is recognised as an item of ‘state significance’ by the New South Wales Government and is heritage listed.

Beginning as the centre of scientific research for the colony of New South Wales, the Observatory has a seminal role in the history of timekeeping, meteorology, navigation and astronomy in Australia.

Now known as Observatory Hill, the site was previously known as Windmill Hill, Citadel Hill, Fort Phillip and Flagstaff Hill. Each name indicates the site’s function over time, all of which relied on it being the highest point over Sydney Harbour.

The Observatory buildings, built from stone with distinctive copper telescope domes, were built between 1857 and 1859 in the Italianate style. They combined the practical needs of an observatory with those of an astronomer’s residence. The Observatory grounds recreate the original layout and vegetation of formal gardens cultivated in the 1880s.


Sydney Design - Architectural tour of Sydney Observatory. Presented by the Australian Architecture Association in partnership with Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS).

Location: Sydney Observatory, 1003 Upper Fort St, Millers Point NSW
Tour 1: 11.00am - 12.30pm
Tour 2: 1.30pm - 3.00pm
Date: Sunday 3 March 2019
Tickets: $30 (Adult) / $25 (Concession) / $25 (MAAS or AAA Member)

Click here to book your tickets.

Accessibility: Please note there is no wheelchair access to many of the Sydney Observatory spaces due to narrow and steep staircases in the heritage-listed buildings.  Strollers must be cloaked on arrival.


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Want to know more about the history of the area surrounding the Powerhouse Museum? Explore architecture and history on the AAA Ultimo Walk.

Colonial settlement of the inner city urban village of Ultimo began in 1803, when 34 acres was granted to surgeon, John Harris, on lands traditionally inhabited by the Gadigal clan of the Eora nation.

Harris built a grand two storey residence on the property (demolished in 1932) called Ultimo House. Ultimo House remained one of the colony's premier addresses well into the 1890s, while it's surroundings became increasingly industrial in nature including slaughterhouses, rental properties and quarrying operations.

In the 1890s Sydney Technical College was established - putting Ultimo on the cultural map. Twentieth and twenty-first century additions of educational buildings have reinforced Ultimo's reputation as a centre for learning.

Over the two hour walk you'll discover some of the suburbs architectural gems and open spaces, including the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre, Sydney Technical College (TAFE NSW Sydney Institute), the Powerhouse Museum, and the Goods Line.


The Ultimo Walk was developed by the Australian Architecture Association.

Location: Powerhouse Museum Forecourt, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo NSW 2007
Time: 10.00am - 11.30am
Date: Saturday 9 March 2019
Tickets: Adult $30 / Senior, Student & MAAS Members $25 (ID required to join the walk) / AAA Members Free

Accessibility: Please note the tour encompasses climbing stairs and walking over uneven surfaces.

Click here to book your place on the tour.


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The Sydney Design Festival 2019 is now in its 21st year. This annual contemporary design festival creates a platform for a convergence of people, ideas and activities across creative industry sectors.

This years theme - ACCESSING DESIGN, seeks to promote responsive design that gives voice to diverse Sydney communities, and asks designers to broaden the definition of design and expand the dialogue between creative practice, access and inclusivity.

With an emphasis on the democratisation of design, the Sydney Design Festival is seeking a broad representation and involvement from both established and emerging design practitioners and interdisciplinary creative practices. ACCESSING DESIGN asks the design community to question and contemplate their creative practice:

  • Who are they designing for and how can audiences access this?
  • What is the role of design in creating a more accessible world? How can we all be more open and inclusive with our approach to design?

Click here to explore What’s On over the festival calendar.

  • Article: Vanessa Couzens
  • Image 1: Sydney Design Festival logo - New Armor Stool (detail), designed by Kwangho Lee, South Korea, 2014. MAAS Collection
  • Image 2: An image of Sydney Observatory tour attendees (Photo: AAA)
  • Image 3: An image of Ultimo Walk tour attendees (Photo: AAA)
  • Image 4: Sydney Design Festival logo - ‘Marilyn’ sofa (detail), designed by Studio 65, made by Gufram, Italy, 1970. MAAS Collection


Meet AAA Vice President Ben Gerstel

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By Ben Gerstel

As an architect and resident of Castlecrag, I feel I am very lucky. This luck is three fold for the following reasons, I live in the suburb, I am an architect and I am surrounded by domestic architecture which I love.

To give an example of the wealth of domestic architecture in Castlecrag, we have Burley Griffin and Eric Nicholls houses, houses by Harry Seidler, Philip Cox, Allen Jack and Cottier, Peter Muller, Bill Lucas, Bruce Rickard, Alex Popov, Virginia Kerridge, Hugh Buhrich, Theodore Fry, Hugo Stossel, Arthur Baldwinson, Neville Gruzman, Robert McClurcan, Gordon M Jenkins and Engelen and Moore to name a few. Castlecrag is soon to have new houses by Marsh Cashman Kooloos and Koichi Tadaka.

There are lots of other architect designed houses but these have to be researched at Willoughby City Council.

I grew up in Castlecove, so I have not moved very far from home. As a child, I loved this suburb for all the red textured brick 1960’s houses with massing at obtuse angles. These houses had wild designed balustrades and garage doors. . Little did I realise that these houses may not of been designed by an architect!

I am sure with these houses and my Lego blocks (not in kit form) were my inspiration to become an architect, but let’s not mention receiving a book on Frank Lloyd Wright at the age of 13

When I started my practice, I introduced myself to the local real estate agents with the view that when people buy a house in the suburb, may want a local architect, me! This happened. These are clients who I would never had otherwise.

I also joined Archicentre, an organisation (no longer in NSW, pity) that connected registered architects with people looking for an architect in their area. One of my first projects was to renovate one of these Castlecove 1960’s houses. It was an experience. I loved it but also very challenging being at the beginning of my solo career.

Unfortunately Castlecove is being gentrified like lots of other Sydney suburbs. Houses are being knocked down, renovated or replaced with project homes. We have lost these wonderful time pieces of architectural domestic history. Unfortunately this happened to my family home.

Another source of learning about the houses in Castlecrag is I write a column for a local periodical called The Crag, which is produced by the Castlecrag Progress Association. There are four issues a year and I started writing in 2010. I was asked to write about one house located in Castlecrag for each issue. This has allowed my into some fantastic houses which I would never of seen otherwise.

Through my walks in the suburb for the association (AAA Castlecrag Walks 1 and 2), these have also opened some doors again to houses which I never would of seen either and this makes these walks special for the attendees.

As a local resident, I get to know a lot of the residents who live here and from them, I hear what is happening in the suburb. Which houses are being demolished and who is the architect. This is how I keep my finger on the pulse.

Since becoming an architect, I have learnt of all the other wonderful architect designed houses in the surrounding suburbs of Middle Cove and Northbridge. From this knowledge I have developed these walks for the AAA.


Want to experience a AAA Castlecrag Walk? Join the next tour in March.


Location: Quadrangle Shopping Village, 100 Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag NSW 2068
Date: Saturday 9 March 2019
Time: 2.00pm - 4.00pm
Tickets: $30 (Public) / $25 (Concession) / Free (AAA

Numbers are limited. Click here - to secure your place on the tour.

  • Article: Ben Gerstel
  • Image: Ben Gerstel with tour group attendees on the Castlecrag Walk.
  • Photographer: Annette Dearing

In Review: AAA Chippendale Walk

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By Deborah Singerman

One of the AAA’s newest city walks is around one of the oldest, but most radically revamped, areas of Sydney. While Chippendale’s history featured in the tour lead by interior design and fabric expert Michelle Maras, the revitalised industrial architecture is more than matched by the residential and foodie haven now within the Frasers Property-redeveloped former Carlton & United Brewery site, bordered by Broadway and Abercrombie Streets, close to Central Station.

Our meanderings on a pleasant Saturday morning in November showed off Chippendale’s new glory from its laneways, spearheaded by Kensington Street, apartments with plant-filled facades, an upmarket shopping centre and unique museum to alleyways of food stalls, an idiosyncratic hotel and central public parkland. 

We met AAA Volunteer Tour Leader Maras under the prominent yellow halo in the heart of Central Park. After years of living in London and Paris, Maras is entranced by cities and welcomes the chance to take people around the byways and vantage points of this variegated precinct. 

Despite its shape, the splendid sculptural circle does not have a spiritual connection, but something much more prosaic – it represents the arm that spun the hops and other ingredients for the beers brewed at the old Kent Brewery. 

As well as acknowledging the past, Tzannes Associates’ master plan looked to the future. It included a trigeneration plant, with its use of natural gas to produce low-emission electricity and thermal energy. hot water, cooling and electricity for the buildings in Central Park. 

A zinc-like cloak drapes the cooling towers while the raw stainless steel, pipes, which plug into the cooling towers from the ground, are a rugged reminder of what the plant is doing.

We learn about Tooth and Co, founded by 1830s arrival John Tooth, and brewery owner from 1835 until 1985. KB Lager was a favourite. Maras mentions staff benefits offered by the company, such as free beer (though drunkenness was a distinct no-no). 

The Identifiable atmosphere of the area owes much to the network of laneways with their workers’ cottages and filigree iron balconies. The aptly named Spice Alley street stalls, South-East Asia reincarnate, has lanterns, tables and stools, as well as a growing list of restaurants. 

It also has a fine example of adaptive/reuse (from award-winning Tonkin Zulaikha Greer). In the Old Clare Hotel, which is named after the owner's birthplace in County Clare, Ireland. The 1930s Carlton United Brewery Administration Building and the County Clare Hotel join together while also enclosing a former laneway The resulting mix of hotel rooms and suites, restaurant, a sweeping curved bar, and what they call a laneway foyer, has a surprising array of original artefacts and household items including old dentist chairs, and is unafraid to leave aspects of the building fabric open and unpolished 

We also navigated the much-venerated One Central Park, the most vegetated high-rise in Sydney. Ateliers Jean Nouvel's 5-star green rated building (with collaborating architect PTW) is invigorated by Patrick Blanc’s hydroponic, vertical gardens, some 35,000 plants, soil-less, grown in planter boxes, with their own irrigation systems. We stare at the wall of plants within Central Park and on the Broadway street front, admiring the clusters of different plant species, even if we don’t know their names. 

Different patterns grace the building opposite, the University of Technology, Sydney, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, whose aluminium screen represents the Os and 1s of the binary system. Then there is the dramatic heliostat, a cantilever of motorised and mirrored panels that capture sunlight and reflect it back to the shopping centre atrium and landscaped terraces. 

Spreading our wings, we see Judith Neilson’s White Rabbit Gallery, a substantial exhibition space from a former Rolls-Royce service depot, which houses a collection of contemporary Chinese art and a much-loved tea house. Her latest philanthropic venture is a commitment to a $100 million independent Institute for Journalism & Ideas, also to be based in Chippendale. 

We also stop at Neilson’s home, Indigo Slam, which won the 2016 AIA Robin Boyd Award for Residential Architecture – Houses (New) and is designed by Smart Design. The name is cleverly inscribed in the corten steel front gate, and an official product description aptly describes its monumental presence: “The curves and creases of the concrete façade fold, open or close, concealing and revealing, to create privacy, open to the light, form a balcony or maintain outlook as the rooms demand.”

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The distinctive architecture (harking back to 13th century Venetian Gothic) of Mortuary Station on nearby Regent Street sets a completely different mood as we contemplate the journey from this city end of the railway service, begun in 1867, that picked up coffins and mourners on Regent Street en-route to Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney’s west. 

The AAA walk, you could say, touches all bases.


Experience the architecture of this fascinating inner city suburb by joining the next AAA Chippendale Walk.


Meeting Point: The Halo Sculpture, Chippendale Green, O'Connor Street, Chippendale NSW 2008
Date: Saturday 16 February 2019
Time: 10.00am - 11.30am
Tickets: $30 (Public) / $25 (Concession) / Free (AAA Company Members)

Hurry tickets will sell out fast, so book now!

Click here to secure your place on the tour.

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AAA Volunteer Deborah Singerman is a writer and editor, with extensive experience interviewing people, researching stories, finding angles and then disseminating the information for different readerships.

She offers professional writing and editing services for articles with content that can be adapted for websites, blogs, magazines and university journals.

Check out her website at:

  • Article: Deborah Singerman
  • Image 1: AAA Chippendale Walk tour group - developed by AAA Volunteer and Registered Architect Ben Gerstel (pictured).
  • Image 2: Mortuary Station (Regent Street Railway Station) - designed by Government Architect James Barnet
  • Image 3: One Central Park - designed by French Architect Jean Nouvel in collaboration with French botanical artist Patrick Blanc.
  • Photographer: Vanessa Couzens

In Focus: AAA Woollahra Walk

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Explore the architecture of Woollahra on the AAA Woollahra Walk - Saturday 9 February.

Wandering through leafy streets laid down upon lands once inhabited by first nation peoples the Cadigal clan - tour participants will discover some of the numerous architect designed residences located in the area.

AAA volunteer tour guide and registered architect Ben Gerstel, will facilitate your experience of both exceptional and controversial buildings of the early to late twentieth century and how design has evolved within the area into the twenty-first century.

Featured on the tour are designs by well known Australian architects such as Don Gazzard, Neville Gruzman, Glen Murcutt and Alex Tzannes, as well as gems designed by less recognised architects.


Meeting Point: Phoenix Hotel (outside front entrance), 1 Moncur Street, Woollahra NSW 2025
Date: Saturday 9 February 2019
Time: 2.00pm - 4.00pm
Tickets: $30 (Public) / $25 (Concession) / Free (AAA Company Members)

Don't miss out on joining the tour. Click here and book now!

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  • Article: Vanessa Couzens
  • Image 1: Woollahra House 11, designed by Grove Architects
  • Image 2: Littlemore House, by Glenn Murcutt
  • Photographer: Vanessa Couzens

NSW: At Home With the Architect Visits Riverview

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This months NSW At Home with the Architect, takes place on Sunday 28 May. Visit 'Riverview House' a brick residence designed by Bennett and Trimble Architects for a young family.

Looking to create a home that connects spaces both visually and spatially, the architects designed the two storey residence around an internal courtyard. The internal spaces are orientated to capitalise on daylighting and the roof is deliberately angled to maximise access to the north.


Bennett and Trimble is a small architecture and urban design practice based in Sydney. The partnership between Matthew Bennett and Marcus Trimble, established in 2009, undertakes work on a broad range of projects, from master planning through to alterations and additions.

Matthew and Marcus have been the recipients of prestigious scholarships, fellowships and design medals. Their designs have been published both nationally and internationally.


Location: Riverview, NSW
Please note that the address and meeting point will only be forwarded to ticket holders in the days immediately before the tour.
Time: 11.00am - 12.00pm
Date: Sunday 28 May 2017
Tickets: $30 (Early Bird) / $40 (Public) / $25 (AAA Members)

Don't miss your opportunity to meet the architects and experience this privately owned residence, numbers are limited.

Book your place on the tour, click here.

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