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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


Memorable AAA Residential Tour


What a memorable and wonderful last residential bus tour held on 8th December, an amazing finish to 2018.  We visited four very different residential projects from Balmain to Manly and attendees were given the opportunity to see and hear first-hand about the design process from the architects and designers.  Of course, the day wouldn’t be as successful without the delicious lunch at Marthas where we share good food, stories with like-minded people and the architects.

Thanks to MM + J Architects, Carter Williamson Architects, Anderson Architecture and Ben Gerstel Architecture for participating and adding to the success of the day.  





  • Article: Annette Dearing
  • Photographer: Vanessa Couzens


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

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The Australian Architecture Association would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

We have had another eventful year and remain committed to increasing the public’s awareness and appreciation of architecture.  In 2018 we added 2 new walks to our tour programme, one in Ultimo and one in Chippendale. Look out for these tours in 2019. 

The AAA would like to thank our financial supporters, Natspec and Universal Publications, as well as the architects, designers and clients who have kindly opened their homes this year.  To everyone who donated to our annual fundraising campaign, your support ensures that we can continue to help people understand the value of architecture and how it shapes our cities.

A very big thank you to our AAA volunteers, who are the backbone of the Australian Architecture Association and committed to sharing architecture with the general public.

Best wishes and look forward to seeing you on one of our tours in 2019.

Join A Design Tour of Parliament House

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Don't miss the DESIGN Canberra Festival taking place this month in the nations capital. As a part of the festival - tours will be taking place at Parliament House.

Find out why Australian Parliament House has won so many hearts (and so many architectural awards), for six days during the DESIGN Canberra Festival.

Many of the behind-the-scenes areas of Parliament House will be thrown open to the public in a series of tours entitled – The Geometry of Democracy.

The tours will showcase the geometric brilliance of the building and its place in the landscape.

Visitors will be able to visit places rarely seen by the public – and see how, because of brilliant design and vision, one building can thrive as a place of ceremony as well as a workplace for thousands of people.


Dates: Sat 10, Sun 11, Sat 17, Sun 18, Sat 24 and Sun 25 November
Times: 11.30am and 2.00pm
Location: Australian Parliament House
Cost: $25 (Adult), Concession $20 - Bookings through Canberra Ticketing - Click here to secure a place on a tour.

  • Article: Vanessa Couzens
  • Image: Flier Geometry of Democracy Tours (supplied by Parliamentary Experience Branch COO Division)
  • Photographer: People on a tour of Parliament House, 23 May 2016. Photograph by Penny Bradfield AUSPIC/DPS

Discover the Story Behind Little Albion Guesthouse

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Recently featured in Augusts AAA Short Black: Architects In Their Space tour, Little Albion Guesthouse is one of Surry Hills newest offerings for the modern luxury traveller. Writer and AAA volunteer - Deborah Singerman, reports on on her conversation about the project with space planner and interior designer Connie Alessi, who was instrumental to the projects development and realisation.

Boutique inner-city guest house plucks at the heart strings

The Little Albion calls itself a guest house, not a hotel. This is entirely appropriate for a 35-room, pet friendly boutique place, a gratifying example of adaptive/reuse that both belies and yet builds on its chequered history including as a convent and a hospice. 

The transformation takes what one of the project’s mainsprings, interior designer and space planner Connie Alessi, remembers as being an architecturally “very run-down” building into a new realm of exquisite, bespoke comfort. 

I missed the AAA tour on August 18, 2018. The Sydney transport meltdown on that day meant I only travelled from my home in Ashfield as far as Petersham. However, I heard that the visit was a rip-roaring success, with a big group enjoying long chats with Alessi, architect Terence Yong and hotel manager Wendy Morris. My subsequent visits and the rave reviews from design websites confirmed this enthusiasm was justified.

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Paul Fischmann of 8Hotels brought together a unique mix of creatives, including Terence Yong (Terence Yong Architecture) and Chris Haughton (SHED) on the architecture, with Connie Alessi (Archemy) and Cressida Kennedy (Space Control) for the interiors.  Fischmann also wanted Wendy Morris, with whom he has worked before, in what became a tight-knit group.  

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Morris chose the Molton Brown handwashes, with their subtle fragrances, for the bathrooms, up from the lobby, and directed the range of Australian goodies for the Honour Bar. A rarity in Australia, its honesty-based system has guests write down the breakfast, nibbles and drinks that they have and only pay at the end of their stay. This typifies the level of trust, detail and intimacy that distinguishes this peaceful Surry Hills hideaway.

It also required imagination, research, exactitude and, yes that word, passion,

“The old building was gutted, leaving only the perimeter walls, and various heritage elements such as the fireplaces and the arches in the corridors,” says Alessi. “When you walk through on ground level that was a chapel, with two stories and beautiful stained-glass windows. These were removed. On level 3, the windows are new but do not look new because we dressed them in architraves.”
Everyone wanted brick as the main structural material, for its romance, helping to create the mood that filters through from the pathway up to the hotel, lined with variegated pot plants with a delicate Japanese maple in the corner, up to the fifth-floor roof garden. Getting the additional floors led to “a lot of ups and downs with council”, Alessi remembers, but the roof and the glass-sided lift to it afford an unlikely view of rooftops reminiscent of a historic European city. 

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In between, there are brass room numbers with their own Art Deco-related font, sumptuous leather armchairs in the sunken lounge, which was inspired by the Olivetti showroom in Italy, and a stylish pink banquette in the Honour Bar – pink and emerald feature throughout in upholstery, curtains and walls (even the dishwasher in the Bar is green). There are also marble bathrooms, polished concrete floors, and fabrics and other products from bespoke, specialist suppliers many with long histories in Sydney.

A wall of romantic poetry books, printed to look old with doodles for an appealing personal touch, is ingenious. It is part of an art program from Nick Samartis, that also covers stairwells and individual rooms with multifarious pictures including of historic Surry Hills identifies. Illustrations from Alexandra Nea on the website and the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Guide, pinpoint “culture, coffee/breakfast/light eats, dinner, drinks (and) shop”, in anticipation of urbane Australian, European and American guests.
“We all absolutely love it,” Alessi says.

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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 offer 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
  • Image1: An exterior view of the new extension to original hospice building
  • Image 2: Connie Alessi principal of the design firm Archemy
  • Image 3: Terence Yong principal of Terence Yong Architecture (formerly project architect at Shed Design Studio) and Connie Alessi discuss the guest houses design with AAA Short Black attendees
  • Image 4: A view from the interior of the ground floor entry
  • Image 5: A view of an upper level lift lobby
  • Photographer: Vanessa Couzens