Sydney apartment of the week: The Hensley, Potts Point

Sydney apartment of the week: The Hensley, Potts Point
Olivia RoundAugust 17, 2020

When it comes to adaptive reuse of a historic building, there's a finite group of architecture firms who can truly master a tasteful heritage retrofit, and Woods Bagot is one of them.

Recently the firm undertook an exciting residential project, reinvigorating a 1920 Potts Point building, which boasts stunning Art Deco opulence, a timeless material palette and effortless modernity.

We caught up with Woods Bagot Architect and Principal, Domenic Alvaro and Project Architect, Derek Scholes, to learn about how the design of The Hensley came about. 

Sydney apartment of the week: The Hensley, Potts Point Where did you draw inspiration for The Hensley from?

Domenic Alvaro: The process of adaptation – creating a building that is a dynamic counterpoint between new and old – was inspiring. The former Mercedes Hall hotel building had long-since grown tired after its construction in the early 1900s, so this project was an opportunity to revive it and ensure usability, integration and relevance for future generations.

Adaptation requires the right balance of rare and significant elements to come together. In this case, we had an invested client who recognised and wanted to maintain the importance of the building – trusting us with the process of rethinking and restructuring that is required when you take on this kind of heritage restoration. Good adaptive reuse projects require this kind of philosophical reframing to ensure their relevance and usability – there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to creating something as valued by the community as it is by residents. 

Inspiration was also found in the form of small ‘moments’ or elements within the existing site. For example, The Hensley’s material palette is heavily influenced by details in its surrounding Potts Point context, referencing the brick, steel, terrazzo and herringbone floors that often characterise buildings from that era. Similarly, the front gate – inspired by the detail and finesse of the Art Deco era – brings the memory of the building’s history into its present in a striking manner.

Sydney apartment of the week: The Hensley, Potts Point

U: What were the top 5 features you decided had to be included in the development and why?


  1. The adaptive reuse of an existing building. Addressing the city’s interest in conservation in order to maintain the streetscape significance of Potts Point, an existing 1920’s building was adapted into two apartments.
  2. An 8-storey light well. This feature unlocks the design’s plan by providing cross ventilation to apartments, and natural light to open corridors and many apartment bathrooms.
  3. A double height breezeway entry. Reminiscent of the wide, light-letting old-world apartment entries in Europe, the double height breezeway celebrates the transition between old and new. Fenestration – the arrangement of windows in the building – was reinstated as per the original design drawings.
  4. A roof terrace. A roof terrace with views of the local district provides residents with a large communal area to entertain.
  5. Material choice. The use of brick provided a sense of “instant history” and permanence to the new building, achieving a modern expression of the moody brickwork palette prevalent in Potts Point’s timeless deco apartments.
Sydney apartment of the week: The Hensley, Potts Point

U: What do you think buyers love most about the development?

DA: The liveability of apartments. In such a tightly held inner city suburb, there is a considerably limited supply of new apartments – The Hensley offers abundant natural light, highly usable balconies and access to views that really stands out. Each apartment has been designed to capture and frame the surrounds vistas, boasting high quality finishes, great access to greenery and ventilation, and plenty of practical integrated storage and layouts that are both versatile and functional.

Sydney apartment of the week: The Hensley, Potts Point

U: If you had to choose your favourite aspect of the building, what would it be?

Derek Scholes: The grand entry. Inspired by the finesse and craft of the Art Deco era, the gate is a talking point amongst locals, residents and their guests. The entry gate strongly defines the address and provides a sense of grandeur to the arrival experience.

Sydney apartment of the week: The Hensley, Potts Point

U: What makes The Hensley stand out from other properties on the market?

DS: Appealing to a diverse demographic, The Hensley provides a lifestyle. Set in a gritty, vibrant inner-city neighbourhood, the project is conveniently located close to the CBD and boasts some of Sydney’s best theatres, restaurants, bars and modern-day luxuries at its footstep – it marries the best of the past with the brightness of its future.

Photo credit: Trevor Mein

Olivia Round

Olivia Round is the Features Editor of Olivia specialises in news reporting, in-depth editorial content and video + podcast interviews with industry experts.

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