Skyscraper Transformation Wins WAF World Building of the Year

John Hill
3. December 2022
World Building of the Year: Quay Quarter Tower by 3XN (Photo © Fred Holt)

One tendency with architectural awards is to see them as mirrors of current trends, or perhaps even drivers of future ones; given the time it takes to build a building, the former is more prevalent. The 2023 WAF Building of the Year going to Quay Quarter Tower, 3XN's "upcycling" of a 1970s office tower in Sydney seems to indicate that renovation and reuse are paramount over new construction — a (hopeful) reflection of architects and clients taking the climate crisis seriously. 

This is not the first time the "superjury" for the best-in-show style awards at WAF selected a renovation: in 2019, before the pandemic sent WAF into virtual mode, the LocHal Public Library, located in a former locomotive hangar from the 1930s, won World Building of the Year. With BIG's much-hyped Copenhill — a waste-to-energy power plant topped by a ski slope — taking the top honor for the 2020/21 iteration, and WOHA's Kampung Admiralty in Singapore winning in 2018, renovation projects are alternating now with evidently sustainable new construction. This is good news, or at least a sign that juries are focused on buildings that address current crises, not ignore them.

World Building of the Year: Quay Quarter Tower by 3XN (Photo © Phil Noller)
World Building of the Year: Quay Quarter Tower by 3XN (Longitudinal Section. Drawing © 3XN)

As we learned when 3XN won the 10th International High-Rise Award, given out by DAM and others in November, Quay Quarter Tower is a 49-story, 206-meter office building that integrates a large portion of the structure of its predecessor, the AMP Centre tower. A stacking of five angular volumes gives the upcycled tower a presence on the Sydney skyline, while also giving its occupants numerous outdoor spaces that are accompanied by generously sized atria that ascend the tower. Creating healthy work environments, in other words, accompanied the commendable tactic of reusing the existing tower. 

Paul Finch, WAF director, had this to say about Quay Quarter Tower in a statement:
"The winner was commissioned to provide a building on a world class site, and to retain a huge proportion of an existing fifty-year-old commercial tower. The result was an excellent example of adaptive re-use. It has an excellent carbon story, and it is an example of anticipatory workspace design produced pre-COVID which nevertheless has provided healthy and attractive space for post-pandemic users. The client was prepared to risk building out an idea on a speculative basis — it worked."

World Building of the Year: Quay Quarter Tower by 3XN (Photo © Phil Noller)
World Building of the Year: Quay Quarter Tower by 3XN (Photo © Martin Siegner)

Although most of the attention at WAF — rightly so — is levied at the World Building of the Year, the three-day, best-in-show festival culminates in other "of the year" winners. A few of those are highlighted below. To see the category winners for the 2022 awards, visit the WAF website, where you can also browse and filter all of the projects submitted to the festival from 2018 onwards.

World Interior of the Year: Pingtan Children Library by Condition_Lab (Photo © Sai Zhao)
Future Project of the Year: Dream Pathway by CAATStudio (Kamboozia Architecture and Design Studio)
Landscape of the Year: Preservation and Rehabilitation of Rural Landscape of Gaodang (Photo © Anshun Institute of Architectural Design)

Related articles

Other articles in this category