The Darling hotel is located within the dense and historic 18/19th Century context of Pyrmont – a peninsula which once provided Sydney with its industrial docklands. It has undergone significant urban renewal in the course of the last two decades similar to docklands in many cities across the globe. The site itself had managed to remain vacant for some 15 years since the decommissioning and demolition of the Switching Station which it previously accommodated. The switch gear serving the once adjacent Pyrmont Power Station, a site now occupied by the Star Casino complex. Following careful contextual and urban analysis, a set of design principles emerged which clarify and enhance public movement at street level around and through the hotel as well as through the adjacent complex. Critically Pyrmont’s Union Square is re-connected to Sydney harbour and a key public transport interchange via these urban manoeuvres.
The hotel lobby itself is treated as a ‘through site’ link with dual entries – facilitating public permeability and directly linking the lobby to the darling harbour entertainment precinct. It contains active uses which enhance the public domain, encouraging public use and extends Union Street’s relaxed café and bar activity. The carefully scaled podium relates positively to the historic neighbourhood character and streetscape through its extensive, robust and contemporary use of sandstone – many surrounding buildings being built of honey coloured Sydney sandstone quarried in Pyrmont.
The tower presents a positive and memorable form to Sydney Harbour and in particular to the Pyrmont Bridge approach to the Peninsula – its key pedestrian link to the Sydney CBD. The tower form is also responsive to its context but crisply detailed as a glass curtain. It provides a separate identity and counterpoint to the adjacent precast clad buildings associated with the Star Casino complex however, the curvature of its north façade references this adjacent built-form. On its south the tower is significantly setback from Union Street, and presents as a planar glass wall which ‘holds’ the Street alignment. The 171 room, 5 star hotel is the first major addition of hotel rooms for Sydney since the 2000 Olympics. It marks a new cycle of hotel room construction expected for Sydney anticipating the City’s planned major expansion of convention and exhibition facilities.