Sydney, the largest, oldest and most cosmopolitan city in Australia, strikes its visitors in many different ways. The great works of architecture in the city certainly play no minor part in the impact the city has on people, and would in themselves justify a trip to Sydney. Everyone knows the Sydney Opera House of course, designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, and now the irreplaceable symbol of the city; but the Victorian buildings are well worth looking at too, such as the Queen Victoria Building and Sydney Town Hall, while the Georgian buildings designed by Francis Greenway are also very charming, not to mention the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. But the building that has dominated the city skyline unopposed since the late 1970s is the Sydney Tower Eye, from its height of 309 metres. Let’s take a look at the history and unique character of this ultra-tall tower.
Sydney Tower Eye: the records
The Sydney Tower, at 309 metres, is the tallest structure in Sydney, far outstripping what has been the tallest skyscraper in the city since 2020, the Crown Sydney. But it doesn’t stop there. This structure is also the second tallest observation tower in the Southern hemisphere, and was, until a few years ago, one of the 20 tallest buildings in the world. We should point out that the Sky Tower in Auckland is taller overall, but the Sydney observation deck is still about 30 metres higher than that of its New Zealand counterpart.
The Sydney Tower Eye: the names
The original name for this Australian tower was quite simply the Sydney Tower, but over the years it has been known by various names and nicknames. It acquired different names from time to time as a result of the businesses carried out in the tower or the owners of the structure: so it has been called Centrepoint Tower, AMP Tower, Westfield Centrepoint Tower or Sydney Sky Tower. We should add that it is also often referred to as the Sydney Tower Eye, although this is actually only the name of the observation point in the highest accessible point of the structure.
The Sydney Tower: the history
The Sydney Tower was designed in 1968 by the Donald Crone studio, which was at that time called The Donald Crone and Associates studio, whereas today it is simply the Crone Architects studio. Work on the building began in 1970, with the construction of the first floors, and these were gradually opened to the public as the work continued. In 1972, 52 shops were opened in the tower, for example. But it was not until 1975 that the construction of the central part of the structure began, and the works were completed in 1981, when the observation deck was opened to the public. We should point out that a few years before that it would have been simply impossible to construct a building higher than 300 metres: in fact, the city of Sydney had established a maximum limit of 279 metres for civilian constructions, so as not to obstruct the flight of the seaplanes, which had dominated the Australian skies for many years. To give a more complete picture, we should add that when the building was handed over in the 1980s, it was only 305 metres, and it did not reach its current 309 metres until 1998, when a lightning conductor was added to the top of the spire. The total cost of the building was 36 million Australian dollars, and at the time of its inauguration it was greeted as the fourth tallest tower in the world.
The Sydney Tower can withstand gusts of wind of up to 172 kilometres an hour, with a maximum sway of 1 metre. The tower is stabilised by the 56 cables that surround it, making it unmistakeable.
The Sydney Tower Eye: numbers and facts
The structure of the Sydney Tower Eye can be seen as consisting of two fundamental elements: below, the tower that soars up like a super-high spindle; at the top, the turret, with its four levels. To illustrate how the tower was built, the shaft was constructed using prefabricated “barrel” units for each floor, while the four levels in the turret, were constructed down at the bottom and were then gradually raised upwards as the work proceeded: indeed, it is possible to see photos from the 1970s showing the turret just a few metres from the ground. The shaft is made up of 46 units altogether, each one weighing 27 tons: these elements were transported to the construction site in 7 pieces, and were then joined together on site and put in place at the top using a crane.
The turret can hold up to 960 people, and in addition to the Observation Deck, it has two levels dedicated to restaurants and telecommunications services.
Altogether there are 420 windows on the tower, cleaned automatically thanks to a special device called Charlie, that uses recycled water and takes 2 days to clean all the glass surfaces of the Sydney Tower.
Sydney Tower Eye, one of the city’s main attractions
For many years, the Sydney Tower Eye observatory has been one of the main tourist attractions in Sydney. Obviously, it is the highest point in the city: from here you can be the first to see the dawn and the last to see the sunset. The observation deck offers a 360 degree panorama over the city and its surroundings, from the golden beaches to the distant Blue Mountains. To aid visitors, there are extremely powerful electronic binoculars, touch screens giving information about the panorama and the city of Sydney, and so on. We should add that apart from the classic Sydney Tower Eye observation deck, it also has what is known as “Sydney’s Highest Outdoor Adventure”: an outside Skywalk, 268 metres above the ground.