Master stroke

With the exception of the admittedly exceptional Opera House, Sydney lacks truly iconic architecture, but if Crown Group chair and CEO Iwan Sunito has anything to say about it, that’s about to change. Set for completion in 2021, Sunito tapped legendary Japanese architect Kengo Kuma to help design Crown’s latest project in the emerging Waterloo district, Mastery. The project, spanning 1.6 hectares, will incorporate retailing and, most notably, a Japanese dining destination that reflects the surrounding architecture. “It’s about creating a precinct of architectural masterpieces,” says Sunito. “Kengo sees the tower not as a building but as a stacking forest. There’s nothing like it in Sydney.”

Welcome to Waterloo

Sydney’s Waterloo district is in the midst of a massive regeneration and reinvention. The former industrial district’s fortunes are rising due to significant government investment, rezoning of land for mixed, retail and residential use, and 37% population growth over the past five years. A trendy, cosmopolitan creative hub is emerging around its two train stations, and its proximity to the city centre (just shy of four kilometres north) made it an area of choice for Crown, which is building Infinity in the neighbourhood, with Waterfall not far away.

“If you go into the city three kilometres away the starting price is, minimum, double Mastery. So it’s very affordable,” says Darien Conrad Bradshaw, executive director, international project marketing, Asia at CBRE in Singapore. “Mastery is part of a jigsaw in the larger regeneration. The government is really investing in infrastructure in the area, and there are other developers too. It is a growth area. There are two existing train lines, and adjacent to the site there’s a metro line under construction that will lead directly to the city. The niche here is the Japanese theme, but the reality is if you walk around the area there’s all sorts of other stuff.” Strong rental demand in Sydney also makes the project a solid investment. Despite Brisbane’s relative affordability and Melbourne’s lifestyle, Sydney remains Australia’s largest economy, its biggest net immigration location and its primary draw for students and tourism. In addition, Waterloo’s 4.4% average rental yields are among the best of the city’s submarkets.

As with many urban centres right now, Sydney is wrestling with affordability, but Sunito bristles at the idea that Sydney has become unaffordable, and insists Mastery is mid-market. He also insists on comparing apples with apples. “If you compare Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney—all with GDPs of roughly US$300 billion—within four kilometres of Orchard Road you’ll pay AU$25 to $30,000 per square metre. In Hong Kong, forget it. You don’t get anything,” he argues. “We’re in the range of AU$14,000 to $17,000 per square metre [HK$7,300 to $9,000 per square foot], and to me that’s a sign it’s still quite affordable. Wages are growing and bank rates are still low.”

Building a Landmark

In total, Mastery will comprise of five buildings housing 374 apartments, and Kuma won’t be alone in realising the development. Japanese-Australian architect Koichi Takada will contribute design to three low-rise towers, and Sydney-based studio Silvester Fuller is charged with the fifth; Takada will design interiors for all five. Crown bought the site and then approached Kuma with its vision for contemporary urban living. “He understands materials and how they respond. He sees things in a different light. It’s true we build but afterwards, buildings build us. They change the way we live,” theorises Sunito. The food street, which will range from fast food options to fine dining and represent all types of Japanese cuisine, is a major part of the development, but Mastery blends in seamlessly with the surrounding café culture, and Sunito expects Kuma’s first residential Australian project will become a landmark. 

“If you create timeless architecture it’s there for life; it stays forever. When you design a building that is average, 50 years is the life cycle and you just knock it down. It has no value, it has nothing unique about it … What’s changing is the way people live. People are downsizing and decluttering. Sharing is the new luxury—community. So as a developer we’re trying to bring this powerful community exercise to our buildings. And it’s what draws people to areas like Waterloo.”

The design-forward architecture will be a selling point for many buyers. Kuma’s 20-storey tower, with 144 apartments, will stand out for its vertical urban forest and timber-heavy classical Japanese aesthetic. The Kuma tower will also boast amenities such as a rooftop infinity pool and garden, barbeque facilities, gym, lounge and function space. Takada’s collection (buildings B, E, and D) will complement Kuma’s central statement piece, but also connect with nature in its own way. Tiered façades, curvilinear geometries, cascading greenery and light, neutral tones make for a cohesive design scheme, tying the five buildings together. Silvester Fuller’s partly solar-powered contribution (A) is perhaps the most radical, with a grand, eye-catching entrance. Takada and Silvester Fuller’s properties are designed for people who would prefer low maintenance fees and who can live without a gym, but they include outdoor spaces and soothing landscaping. All five buildings will feature retail space on the ground floor—and a reliable Woolworth’s will be opening in the area.

Mastery has just launched, and prices begin at approximately AU$595,000 (HK$3.4 million) for 430-square-foot studios, ranging up to AU$1.5 million for 1,290-square- foot three-bedroom flats. Three super-penthouses will be priced between AU$4 and $5 million. For more details refer to  

Iwan Sunito

Koichi Takada

Kengo Kuma