Harry Seidler is probably Sydney’s most famous architect of the 20th century.
His buildings – which include big names like the MLC Centre, Australia Square, Grosvenor Square and Blues Point Tower – dominate our city’s skyline, delighting and sometimes dividing Sydneysiders in equal measure.
Like most great architects, Seidler never shied away from controversy and wasn’t afraid to push boundaries. This extended to his work on The Horizon building at 184 Forbes Street Darlinghurst. When it opened in 1998 – just five years before Seidler’s death – it attracted its fair share of critics, many of whom thought its dimensions were out of place in what was, until then, a low-rise neighbourhood.
In the early days
Before The Horizon was ever conceived of, its site at 184 Forbes Street was home to ABC’s national radio studios. The nine-storey high brick structure, which was built in 1972, formed part of a complex and was joined with the iconic ABC Building at 171-175 William Street across a laneway. The Forbes Street studios were ABC’s main Sydney broadcasting centre and where iconic Double J launched, before becoming Triple J.
The ABC building was demolished in 1996 when construction on The Horizon began, and the ABC studios moved to their current home in Ultimo.
The expanding horizon
Rising 43-storeys high, and visible from all over the city, there’s no doubt The Horizon stands tall in its settings. But that was part of Seidler’s plan. Building on the ABC studios’ former footprint, he wanted to design a tower that would allow all residents to capture commanding views of Sydney and its surroundings. He achieved this using just one-third of the block. The other two-thirds are devoted to a landscaped garden, pool and tennis court, as well as to two low-rise terrace-style apartment buildings. There’s also a gym and 24-hour concierge.
Within the main tower’s 32,000 square metres are 260 apartments. The tower’s scalloped facade – which one architecture blogger describes as ‘reminiscent of a grand piano’ – is finished in rendered concrete. The stickleback balconies are shaped to allow as many people as possible to take in views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. According to The Horizon’s own website, Seidler created “a staggering scintillation” made of “curvilinear shapes”, by alternating the balcony shape on every second floor so they “undulated like a wave up the building”. The larger apartments on the top levels have balconies facing east to maximise views across the Eastern Suburbs and out to the ocean.
Below the tennis court and swimming pool, a 500-car garage descends five storeys.
As with most Seidler creations, the joy doesn’t just come from the external structure. The architect created an original floor plan, shaped like a fan or a scallop’s shell, with apartments set around a minimalist lobby area.
Every apartment was designed for flexibility, with space evenly split between living areas and bedrooms so that they could be used interchangeably. Owners often have the opportunity to create a two- or three-bedroom apartment, depending on what suits them best. They can also choose whether to take in the views from their bedroom or living areas.
Presented with the Australian Institute of Architects Wilkinson Award in 1999, more recently the building received the Strata Community Environment and Engagement award in 2017.
And The Horizon is not just a famous building. Over its 24-year history, The Horizon has attracted media headlines for having many big-name celebrity residents. It’s also attracted headlines for disputes over pets in apartments which led to changes in strata laws and record sales for its incredible penthouse apartments with their stellar harbour views.
3403/184 Forbes Street
Because The Horizon is such a desirable place to live, one recent trend has been for owners to combine apartments and create more space. That’s exactly what the owners of apartment 3403 did, and I recently had the opportunity to sell the property.
Apartment 3403 was originally two apartments which were joined together to create a three-bedroom, three bathroom residence with approximately 225 sqm of living area. A potential fourth bedroom was used by the owners as a TV room, while an additional study allowed them to work from home. In other words, the new apartment became the size of a substantial family home in the sky but with all the modern convenience of being in a prime Darlinghurst address, and within an iconic Sydney building.
Its bespoke interiors were redesigned by Robert Grubb, and showcase the extraordinary views that stretch from Botany Bay to the city skyline, Bridge and Opera House north to The Heads and ocean.
Little wonder then, that when 3403/184 Forbes Street went for sale, there was significant interest. In fact, when we sold the property for $8 million in August 2022, it set a new per-square-metre record for the building.
This shows that Harry Seidler may have been right when he conceived The Horizon as representing the future of high-rise living. The Horizon is still as popular as ever and a fabulous address to call home. It also shows the popularity of substantial homes close to the city centre and the strength of the current property market in our area.
If you’re interested in buying or selling in The Horizon or in Darlinghurst, Potts Point, and Elizabeth Bay more generally, contact my team today.