Barangaroo deserves the tower with Brancusi effect

The images of the three exciting design options for the Crown-Lend Lease hotel at Barangaroo demonstrate a shift in the design of skyscrapers to more fluid shapes.

The images of the three exciting design options for the Crown-Lend Lease hotel at Barangaroo demonstrate a shift in the design of skyscrapers to more fluid shapes.

Assuming a winner gets through the NSW planning system with its aesthetics intact, this will be a boost for Sydney's confidence as a global city.

Many cities have used the symbolism of an iconic tower to lift their image as global powerhouses. Think of the 102-storey Empire State Building and what it did to lift New York's confidence 80 years ago, or the pagoda-like Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai.

We don't know how high the proposed Barangaroo tower options are, but each seems well above the tallest building on the site. What they do have is the "Brancusi effect". Former prime minister Paul Keating called for Brancusi-like elegance, reflecting on the work of the master sculptor.

Clearly Crown and Lend Lease have done their homework, as the three shortlisted architects designed many iconic towers.

Smith and Gill's shortlisted design tops my list, with an elegant flowing shape that reflects the curves of shells and molluscs, followed by Wilkinson and Eyre's interlocking cylinders that reflect petals on a flower as the building moves upwards. Third I place the sail-like structure of Kohn Pedersen Fox, which doesn't sing to quite the same level as the others.

The references to sails, shells and flowers, of course, are not literal but explain how fluid curving geometries have created the building forms. This is what an iconic building in the round needs to give it the sculptural quality that makes it picture-postcard material.

All this has a fair way to go, with multiple approvals and negotiations with the government before a winning scheme is approved.

However, the most important quality is the Brancusi effect, which comes only from a master sculptor and will be diminished if too many expert reviewers, planners and community groups make their own modifications.

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