Reduce, reuse, recycle – at skyscraper scale

2022’s World Building of the Year takes recycling to the next level, wrapping a 1970s office core in new fit-for-the-future floors

The building crowned 2022’s World Building of the Year hides a secret – a 1970s office building at its core. Located close to Sydney Harbour, the newly named Quay Quarter Tower is being called the world’s first upcycled skyscraper. The original 45-storey office building was completed in 1976 but had been falling out of favour with occupiers who were drawn to newer towers in recent years.

The building’s owner – AMP Capital – launched an international competition in 2014 to create a building that was better suited to modern demands. Rather than demolishing the existing tower, AMP Capital required proposals to keep as much of the original structure as possible.

The winning design was submitted by the Danish architecture practice 3XN, with a design that preserved most of the building’s concrete structure and core while reshaping its floor plates into a stack of rotating trapezoids. The tower retains 65 per cent of the concrete floor slabs, beams and columns, and 95 per cent of the concrete core holding the elevator shafts and emergency stairs. Additional square footage was achieved by grafting onto some floor slabs, with large atriums sliced through other floors to help bring natural light deep into the building.

This approach reduced the environmental footprint by roughly 13,000 tons of embodied carbon – and saved nearly a year of construction time. With a host of new sustainable design features including an overhanging façade that shields the building from 30 per cent of its solar gain, in its new form the tower will also have significantly lower operational emissions.

The overall square footage is double that of the original building, and it can support double the number of people with obvious financial gains. The approach was popular with prospective tenants; 85 per cent of the building was leased before construction even started. Overall, the building of the year is an inspirational example in rethinking how we approach outdated building stock.

Interested in more design insights? Try our monthly Innovation Zone design roundup here.

Imogen Privett is a Senior Research Associate in WORKTECH Academy. An architectural designer and researcher, she holds degrees in both History and Architecture. Imogen has worked in architectural practice focusing on workplace design with projects including UK headquarters for Barclays, Macquarie Bank and Reuters
Find exclusive content in the


Premium content for Global Partners, Corporate and Community Members.
The latest analysis and commentary on the future of work and workplace in five distinct themes: Research & Insights, Case Studies, Expert Interviews, Trend Publications, and Technology Guides.