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At the Summit

This is an article from the Architecture Australia archives and may use outdated formatting


A Sydney dining icon—revolving around the city skyline and infused with sixties Seidler style—reopens as a more glamorous interpretation of that decade, designed by Burley Katon Halliday.

Photography Sharrin Rees


TopThe Summit bar.AboveBanquette seating on the upper level.












Above and belowTwo views of the reception area and lifts.




















Project Description
The Summit revolves around the second-highest floor of the 48-storey Australia Square tower designed by Harry Seidler and completed in 1968. After three decades of smorgasbord lunches and a la carte dinners delivered to tourists and families celebrating special occasions, the Seidler interior has been revamped by Burley Katon Halliday (with restaurant consultant Anders Ousback) to also appeal to sophisticated professionals.

Concept Note by Iain Halliday
This project began with a brief to reinvent the Summit without throwing the baby out and alienating the existing strong clientele. We decided to enhance the experience by simply tidying up the space. We removed elements which disrupted your vision through the interior and out to the view. There were five very high waiter stations close to reception—designed in the days when plates were cleared into plastic bins inside the stations. There was also a series of metal screens that broke up the room—visual junk. We got rid of all the superfluous clutter and then set up a limited palette of colours and materials, with classic Knoll chairs. It was a real trick to reposition the business, but revenue has gone up and the company’s inquiries suggest that new repeat customers now eclipse old repeat bookings.

Comment by Davina Jackson
Contrary to dodgy advice from a rival restaurateur that “it’s a dog, darling”, the new Summit is splendid. Harry Seidler has rung the designers to congratulate them on what Iain Halliday has described as “a respectful renovation” and Jørn Utzon’s niece, Lene (an interiors stylist from Copenhagen), was also an admirer when RAIA marketing supremo Stella de Vulder and I took her to lunch there on her recent first visit to Australia.

Even without the panorama rolling by (the full circle takes about 105 minutes), this split-level interior would be impressive. Although Halliday mutters darkly about poor joinery and “things” not right, and the management was installing a new bar after our photographs were taken, the general sense is there of a cool, classy and classic scheme, infused with an appropriately 1960s sense of modernity.

The striking colours and smooth materials provide the fitout’s memorable qualities. Interrrupting a background of white (terrazzo floor, Parbury Trezini resin joinery, Eero Saarinen tulip chairs and Harry Bertoia dining chairs from Knoll) are several dashing jolts: a vermillion carpet (custom-made twist-pile from Whitecliffe), an arc of metallic silver curtaining (Jack Lenor Larsen cloth from Arkitex), a glossy black piano in the bar, some cabinets veneered with exotic (non-plantation) palisander, and the accents of metallic and matt paint on existing walls and the lift core.

The Summit retains (as a technical fundamental) the original split-level floor system. The terrazzo inner circle is stationary and the carpeted outer circle glides silently around the core. (It is still just as difficult to find your table after visiting the bathrooms as it was during the Summit’s previous incarnation.) While the window tables on the moving floor remain the most sought-after, BKH has inserted a run of banquettes to directly face the view from tables around the edge of the fixed upper floor—and these improve the situation for less lucky diners.

The bar and reception area are now much more open and inviting than they were in the previous incarnation—even informal. The food is also good, although the pricing is as high as the skyline beyond your window.

Davina Jackson is the editor of Architecture Australia.

Summit restaurant, Sydney
Architecture Burley Katon Halliday. Structural Engineer Steigter Clarey & Partners. Services Consultant Donnelly Simpson Cleary. Lighting Design Coalition. Builder Accor Asia Pacific.

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Published online: 1 Mar 1999

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Architecture Australia, March 1999

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