Paramatta City Council has unveiled the four design finalists for two new commercial towers as part of the city's Parramatta Square redevelopment.

Last month, the council launched the first phase of the design competition inviting architects to design two towers rising 200 and 220 metres in height and consisting of as much as 140,000 square metres of space. Four concepts were chosen from a field of 73 design submissions.

The completion of the towers will make the final stages of the square’s three-hectare mixed-use project which aims to help Parramatta “emerge as a vibrant, connected  and liveable city in the heart of Sydney.”

Finalists Mario Cucinella Architects, Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp, Johnson Pilton Walker and Bates Smart will have their proposed projects assessed on the bases of sustainability, design, urban design, feasibility, and innovation.

The council received submissions from around the world, including entries from Perth and Sydney, with concepts that varied from contemporary interpretations of the traditional office block to futuristic towers.

The four shortlisted projects demonstrated a sustainable focus through the use of solar power systems, vertical gardening and glazing while offering new aesthetic looks with modern shapes and cantilevered and cut-out sections. Considering Paramatta Square will be an urban precinct, the projects were also chosen for their ability to connect the architecture of the towers to the surrounding landscape.

Lord Mayor John Chedid conveyed the council’s confidence in the four shortlisted proposals.

“We’re delighted to see such forward-thinking, innovative solutions,” he said. “Without question, this creative range of designs, submitted by many of the leading architecture firms across the world today, will help us meet our future business, cultural, entertainment and tourism needs, and signpost Parramatta in a distinctive, unique way.”

Designs were shortlisted by an initial jury that included NSW Government architect Peter Poulet; City of Sydney director of city planning, development and transport Graham Jahn; NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure urban design team leader Elisabeth Peet; and Parramatta City Council’s director of property development Scott Gregg.

Mario Cucinella Architects

Concept by Mario Cucinella Architects

Few details have been released regarding the intraciess of each design, though based on first impressions, Italian firm Mario Cucinella Architects’ concept appears the most futuristic.

The firm’s vision calls for two conical commercial towers enveloped in photovoltaic panels, creating a breathable façade designed to maximise solar gain.

“The roof plane features sculptural wind turbines signaling the sustainable emphasis of this design,” the jurors said.

Mario Cucinella Architects’ strategy to utilise a solar system reflects recent research which sees urban areas with an abundance of facades and walls being explored to implement photovoltaic using building “skins” to generate energy.

Solar radiation and related energy resources including wind and wave power, hydro and biomass make up 99.97 per cent of the available renewable energy on Earth according to Australian organisation Energy Matters. That group notes that it would take only around 0.3 per cent of the world’s land area to supply all of our electricity needs via solar power – a statistic that highlights the opportunity of Mario Cucinella’s forward-thinking proposal.

Bates Smart

Concept by Bates Smart

Perth architectural firm Bates Smart is another contender with a design that the jury said “proposes a differentiated active podium that addresses Parramatta Square, activating it with a mix of retail uses.”

“Two rectilinear towers with deep recesses form a backdrop rather than an iconic gesture,” the jury added.

Bates Smart’s concept also offers an interesting structural aesthetic featuring cut out sections throughout the tower that could possibly house recreational or retail space amongst a series of podiums.

Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp

Concept by Johnson Pilton Walker

Johnson Pilton Walker’s design concept was recognised for its aim to create links between Parramatta Square, Darcy Street and the Parramatta Station concourse, extending open public space over the two levels according to the jurors.

While the towers are more traditional in shape, coming in sleek rectangular forms, the concept explores the idea of vertical gardens, cultivating a multitude of balconies and walls on the outer facades of each building. In the middle of the tallest tower, there also seems to be a suspended podium, which could serve as a recreational area.

Johnson Pilton Walke

Concept by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorps

Finally, jurors described Sydney-based Francis-Jones Morehen Thorps’ (fjmt) tower concept as “two elegant, connected, tapering geometric towers that have ht potential to become signature buildings in Parramatta Square.”

An image of the proposal reveals a suspended bridge a third of the way up each tower and perhaps a podium level that might be used as a viewing platform and communal area. There also appears to be natural light streaming through the top of each tower with the structural aesthetic interestingly geometric with a sharp, clean design.

These four teams will now compete in the final stage of the competition – Design Excellence – with the judging to close on December 6. Each team will receive $30,000 upon submission of a complying scheme with Parramatta City Council set to announce the winning design by the end of the year.