Case Study: The Old Clare Hotel, Sydney, Australia


Architectural adaptation for Heritage listed sites is often regarded as one of the more challenging aspects of architectural design. The cultural significance of Heritage properties, coupled with complex planning legislation, requires extensive negotiations amongst community members, a high level of detail and numerous changes to the architectural design before Development Approval is reached. For the lead architect, the use of a 3D design platform that has superior visualisation capabilities, and can handle numerous design modifications quickly with accuracy is a critical piece in the DA process.

Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects who are experienced in working with heritage listed sites such as the Bondi Pavilion and the Sydney Opera House, found this was the case with their recently completed project, the Old Clare Hotel. Located on Kensington Street in Chippendale, the goal of this project was to transform the crumbling yet iconic site of the old County Clare pub and Carlton and United Brewery Offices into a 62 room boutique hotel, complete with 3 restaurants, bar, boardroom, gym and rooftop pool and bar area.

While there were a numerous hurdles to overcome with this site and the design, overall this was a successful project due to the efficiency of the design software utilised.

With a brief that had a focus on adaptive reuse, it was clear that it was important to keep the essence and institution of the Old Clare Hotel, but repurpose the building to suit the client’s needs. It is for this reason that they not only documented the building in its entirety before modelling changes, but they also included the buildings from the surrounding areas in their design to ensure that the building had the old charm of previously, but did not look out of place with the newer developments in the area.

“We did our first feasibility study on the site back in 2008, making a 3D model of the current site and creating an animation. This was crucial for explaining the complexity of the design and gaining consent approval,” says Project Architect, Jarrod Hughes.

When the design went to Planning Approval, initially there was some pressure to not include the extra three storeys proposed for the building given the notoriety of the site and its location. On top of this, because the site is so long and narrow being able to show the building in its entirety in a 2D view was impossible. With ARCHICAD, TZG Architects were able to create a 3D animation which took them through and around the design so that the Department of Planning and City of Sydney Council could get a sense of what the building would look like on completion. They were able to easily see that these extra storeys would in fact make it look less out of place with the other buildings in the vicinity, while still maintaining the essence of the site. It is through the power of ARCHICAD that they were able to get approval for this design, which has since gone on to win multiple awards including the award for Architecture of the Year at the 2016 Asia Hotel Design Awards.

"Buildings are becoming more complicated as architecture is pushed to its boundaries, and as a result governing bodies such as councils and developers are requiring a much higher level of specificity. We certainly see this in our work of adaptive reuse, particularly on heritage sites where a lot more time and effort is required for development approval and with such strict regulations when in the construction phase. Without a tool that is as accurate, detailed, and fast as ARCHICAD in the long run you could easily spend enormous amounts of time and still not get the desired outcome,” says Tim.“For us ARCHICAD has been the solution that we favour. While there has been pressure for us to use different software platforms, particularly in the last few years, we started with ARCHICAD back in the mid-90s and have grown and developed the practice as the software itself has grown and developed. All of our projects now have BIMx files and with the release of ARCHICAD 19, we use Point Cloud technology to survey and model sites before commencing. I can’t think of any other software we would prefer to use.”