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Bricks are a hero in creating dynamic counterpoint between new and old.
Amid the wealth of heritage that is Sydney’s Potts Point, The Hensley by Woods Bagot revives the former Mercedes Hall Hotel – a building long since grown tired after its construction in the early 1900s in need of revival. Designed to complement the heavy brickwork characteristics of its Art Deco surrounds, 44 boutique apartments have been created with a timeless material palette of PGH Bricks & Pavers’ Mowbray Blue Linear from the Dry Pressed Architectural range that echoes the elegance and craft of Potts Point’s rich architectural history.

Answering the call for highly livable apartments, Woods Bagot created a building that is a dynamic counterpoint between new and old. Finding a delicate balance between capturing the collective values of the past and integrating the modern architectural aspirations of the present and future, designers produced a building that assimilated the dense population and infrastructure of Potts Point and compliments the thriving local community.

Woods Bagot, a global design studio founded in Australia won the commission to design The Hensley project as part of a Sydney City Council design excellence competition. Recognising the empathy towards the area’s history required for such an undertaking, Lead Architect and Principal, Domenic Alvaro proposed a dense brick street wall. This addition paid homage to the area’s history by extending the rhythmic brick narrative of the Hensley House which occupied the site’s corner for nearly a century.

“The distinctive design rationale to use brick as a bridge between past and present was a major contributor to our win” said Alvaro.

“Brick provided a sense of “instant history” and permanence to the new building, achieving a modern expression of the moody brickwork palette prevalent in Potts Point’s timeless deco apartments” he continued.

The city was enthused by the prospect of a substantial use of brick for this precinct. As a result, the architectural scheme concentrated on a building in two parts: The street level use of brickwork, and the contrasting cladded upper. The use of Mowbray Blue Linear at eye-level on the four lowest floors responded to the textural granularity of the urban setting and provided a robust aesthetic, capable of withstanding the high community foot traffic in the gritty neighbourhood. Above the brick base, the building is zinc clad and features steel framed expressed balconies, which contrast with the surrounds and pull in all the available day-light and panoramic views.

Derek Scholes, Associate at Woods Bagot, passionately described the decision to specify the Mowbray Blue Linear bricks through the lens of what the bricks add to the project and the local community.

“The Mowbray Blue Linear brick was selected following a study of the tones of neighbouring buildings and the rear laneway. The Mowbray Blue colour provides a timeless sympathetic response to the surrounding built form.”

“We like the depth in colour of the Mowbray Blue which constantly shifts depending on the light” Scholes continued.

Due to the non-standard length of the Mowbray Blue Linear brick, Scholes recalls that the team at Woods Bagot gave greater consideration to ensuring a seamless brick set during the design process.

“We worked closely with the bricklayers on site to set out the first row of bricks and establish the trouble shooting set of principles for them to follow.”

Completing the remarkable project alongside builders, Next Construction and bricklayers, Betacon Bricklaying; laying Mowbray Blue Linear from the Dry Pressed Architectural range quickly transitioned from “challenging” to “a high degree of enthusiasm and self-pride” for the bricklayers.

“The project sparked a sense of craft and passion in the bricklayers, which you could say is also reminiscent of the art deco era,” said Scholes.

Representing PGH Bricks & Pavers’ highest pinnacle of luxury and style in Australian-made clay brick products, the Dry Pressed Architectural range are manufactured using a time-honoured dry pressed method. This produces exceptional consistency of strength and dimensional accuracy in a beautiful colour-through brick. Further reading on the Dry Pressed Architectural range is available through the Zuster House, Julian Brenchley House and Day Street Apartments case studies.

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