19 Sep 23

Another brick in the wall – design slots into place at Sydney Metro Crows Nest

Back in the day bricks used to be laid one at a time – now they’re positioned in their thousands thanks to an ancient technique counter-intuitively called Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), used to great effect at Sydney Metro Crows Nest Station on Sydney’s lower north shore.

Bricks are a key design element of the station, part of the new Sydney Metro City & Southwest project. Woods Bagot Associate Principal Lucian Gormley says using bricks reflects the materiality of Federation period houses throughout the well-established suburb, 5km from the CBD.

“Our task was to find an architectural solution that gave a real sense of people scale, community scale but still enabled the pace of construction that infrastructure really requires,” says Gormley.

“The ambition of the project is to display both of those things and celebrate infrastructure and community coming together.

“We’ve come up with a system where we’re embedding bricks into precast concrete. This gives us the ability to not only reference a local material but also do it in an interesting way, essentially cantilevering the bricks out of the concrete to create these amazing feature walls.”

Senior Associate Anthony Chow says opting for precast technology on large projects has key advantages over traditional labour-intensive methods including speed of installation and quality control.

He says the reddish brick panels, designed as a Flemish bond, are 8.1 metres long, 2.1 metres wide and weigh more than eight tonnes.

They were installed over several days in a delicate operation by crane, the skilled operator lifting the panels from delivery trucks before threading the needle by lowering them into place through a one-metre gap between scaffolding and station structure.

Sketches by W-B Associate Principal Lucian Gormley

Lucian Gormley in Crows Nest Metro Station

“Back in the day bricks would be laid one at a time, now we’re building them in eight-tonne modules,” says Gormley.

The work at Crows Nest Station aligns with Woods Bagot’s design credo to respect site context through design and materiality no matter how large or small the project.

“The work we’re doing here and other sites in Crows Nest reflects on this idea of brick, Victorian tiles and detailed wrought iron, steelwork, and bringing to life the craftsmanship that existed at the time those buildings were built,” says Gormley.

MMC techniques were also used at Crows Nest Station for the imposing precast concrete supporting beams – some of which weigh more than of 65 tonnes.

Once again, they were fabricated offsite and installed via crane, making construction safer, more sustainable and cost effective by reducing the need for propping and formwork while decreasing material waste.

This methodology also enabled the line-wide contractor to access the site early, saving time in the construction program.

For Gormley and the rest of the Crows Nest Station team, the brick panel installation was a seminal moment in the station’s construction, due to complete in 2024.

“One of the interesting things about train station or infrastructure architecture, there’s this massive amount of work that goes in behind the scenes, and what you see at the end is only a small part.

“The front of house coming to life so quickly at the end of the project is really exciting.”

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Martin Kelly
Content and Communications Leader (Australia & New Zealand)

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