AWA Building and Tower | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

AWA Building and Tower

Item details

Name of item: AWA Building and Tower
Other name/s: Beam Wireless (former major sign on tower)
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Postal and Telecommunications
Category: Telecommunications Facility
Location: Lat: -33.8669440803 Long: 151.2055846630
Primary address: 45-47 York Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 SP42495
LOT10 SP42495
LOT11 SP42495
LOT12 SP42495
LOT13 SP42495
LOT14 SP42495
LOT15 SP42495
LOT16 SP42495
LOT17 SP42495
LOT2 SP42495
LOT3 SP42495
LOT4 SP42495
LOT5 SP42495
LOT6 SP42495
LOT7 SP42495
LOT8 SP42495
LOT9 SP42495
LOT22 SP44848
LOT23 SP44848
LOT24 SP44849
LOT25 SP44849
LOT26 SP44849
LOT20 SP44850
LOT21 SP44850
LOT18 SP44853
LOT19 SP44853
LOT27 SP49213
LOT28 SP49213
LOT1 DP971082
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
45-47 York StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Strata Plan No. 42495Private 

Statement of significance:

AWA Building and Tower is of significance for its important associations with radio and communication technology. It is a simple vertically emphasised skyscraper which represents the epitome of the 1930s desire to integrate architecture with technology. The tower, for a time was the tallest structure in Sydney, and is an integral part of the building and still has a landmark quality. (Dawson 1984)..
Date significance updated: 28 Aug 17
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Division intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.

Description

Designer/Maker: Roberston, Marks and McCredie in association with
Builder/Maker: William Hughes and Co. Pty Ltd
Construction years: 1937-1939
Physical description: The building is comprised of 12 office floors, a ground floor and basement. The frontage along York Street is 18.3 metres and 21.3 metres along York Lane. The building is surmounted by a steel tower which gives the building an overall height of 111 metres above street level. The building is steel framed and faced in brick with polished trachyte facing at the ground floor. (Graham, Alcock Giles Tribe)

The building is vertically modelled to give a skyscraper appearance. A Pegasus is depicted in relief sculpture on a plain brick parapet at the top of the building. Pegasus, a winged horse, was chosen by Sir Ernest Fisk as a suitable association with the work of Australia's great wireless undertaking. The building retains the original Fisk system of double glazed windows. The communications tower was designed as an integral part of the building and its supports are part of the structure of the building.

The York Street Entry Foyer and Lift Lobby is faced with Wombeyan Russet marble with simple Art Deco streamlined detail and the letter AWA over the entrance. The former Vestibule (main ground floor) interior retains its silver ash timber panelling. Above the panelling there is a series of symbolic plaster relief's executed by Otto Steen. Three relief's comprise three 'themes'. In each corner are figures representing the four ancient elements - earth, water, fire and air. Over the entrance surrounding an AWA symbol are the signs of the zodiac. A series of small relief's along the north and south walls represent various nations, symbolising the unification of the world throughout radio. (Graham Alcock Giles Tribe) The former Entrance Lobby interior retains a map of the world incised into the polished trachyte wall above the auditorium doors.

Other significant interiors include the fifth floor Boardroom, ancillary offices and executive bathroom
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is excellent. Archaeological potential is low.
Date condition updated:21 Nov 02
Modifications and dates: 1937 - construction began
1939 - construction completed
Current use: Office Space
Former use: Office space, radio school, broadcasting studios, restaurant

History

Historical notes: The AWA building was built as a new headquarters for Amalgamated Wireless Australia Ltd.. This company, amalgamated in 1913, was the first to manufacture commercial radios in Australia, in 1920 (Dictionary of Sydney, 2008).

The building was designed by Robertson, Marks and McCredie in association with DT Morrow and Gordon. Its Art Deco style, with polished trachyte facing at ground level, was intended to signal a progressive and go-ahead firm. The tower was modelled on Berlin's Funkturm Tower, built a few years earlier, and both took inspiration from the Eiffel Tower in Paris (ibid, 2008).

Council approval for the building was obtained in August 1937 and excavation was completed by December that year. Construction commenced and was finished towards the end of 1939 (Graham Alcock Giles Tribe).

York Street follows a ridge and at 112 meters tall the building and tower dominated the then low-lying 1930s Sydney skyline. It remained Sydney's tallest building until the 1960s. The tower was 48 metres and at the 97 metre point of hte building there was a viewing platform. For many years the tower wore the sign 'Beam Wireless', a service providing radio contact to commercial shipping on the England-Australia route introduced in 1927 (ibid, 2008).

Originally the building housed a number of different uses. A restaurant was located in the Basement, the Ground Floor contained a sales room, major Vestibule and Beam Chamber, whereby the public could dispatch radiograms. The upper floors contained office space (Amalgamated Wireless being major occupiers), a radio school and broadcasting studios (Graham Alcock Giles Tribe).

AWA was first into television manufature, and in the 1960s large AWA neon logos were attached to the building to symbolise this fact. In later years the company expanded into a wide range of electronic products, including gaming systems (ibid, 2008).

In the early 1980s the basement ceased functioning as a restaurant and became office space. (Graham Alcock Giles Tribe).

In 2000, when AWA folded, the building was sold to Jupiter's Casino Group. It remains known as the AWA building, although the big red AWA signs have been removed. The tower which was demolished and rebuilt in 1994, remains illuminated at night, but the viewing platform has long gone (ibid, 2008).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Developing Commercial Enterprise-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Postal and telecommunication services-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Communicating by radio-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Developing local, regional and national economies-National Theme 3
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Sydney and Australian Landmark-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences Technologies of radio transmission-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 20th century Suburban Developments-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages 20th Century infrastructure-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Providing telecommunications facilities-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural styles and periods - Art Deco/Jazz Age-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Gathering at landmark places to socialise-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Listening to the radio-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Watching television-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Morrow and Gordon, architects-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Robertson, Marks and McCredie, architects-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
AWA Building and Tower is of historical significance because for over twenty years it was the tallest structure in Sydney and the building and tower still are an important landmark today. (Dawson 1984) (Graham Alcock Giles Tribe)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
AWA Building and Tower is aesthetically significant because it is a simple vertical 'emphasised' skyscraper which represents the epitome of the 1930's desire to integrate architecture with technology. (Dawson 1984) It is part of a significant group of Art Deco office buildings located along York Street between Margaret and King Street. (Graham Alcock Giles)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
AWA Building and Tower is socially significant because of its association with the development of the radios and communications technology and industry. (Graham Alcock Giles Tribe)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
(a) The maintenance of any building or item on the site where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material;
(b) Alteration to the interior of the building except in so far as such works would affect:-
* the original boardroom on the fifth floor
* the ground floor including the lift lobby and mezzanine
* the external appearance of the building
(c)Change of use of the building.
Jul 28 1989
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0066502 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0066528 Jul 89 85 
Heritage Act - s.130 Order - Lapsed  24 May 85   
Heritage Act - s.130 Order - Lapsed  26 Feb 88   
Local Environmental PlanCSH LEP 4 07 Apr 00   
National Trust of Australia register   05 Nov 84   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Commerce Walking Tour View detail
WrittenDictionary of Sydney, The (staff writer)2008'AWA Tower' entry
WrittenG Dawson1984National Trust Classification Card - AWA Building
WrittenGraham Alcock Giles Tribe Pty Ltd AWA Building Conservation Plan
WrittenSean Nicholls2003City tower to lose neon glow. (SMH article)
TourismTourism NSW2007Commerce Walking Tour View detail

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045116
File number: S90/03172, HC 33344, 10/20677


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