Commonwealth Bank of Australia including interior | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

Commonwealth Bank of Australia including interior

Item details

Name of item: Commonwealth Bank of Australia including interior
Other name/s: State Savings Bank, Rural Bank Building
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Bank
Location: Lat: -33.8688884939386 Long: 151.209078493061
Primary address: 48-50 Martin Place, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
48-50 Martin PlaceSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The Commonwealth Bank is a ten storey reinforced concrete building constructed in the interwar Beaux Arts Style with a prominent address on Martin Place. The building has high historic significance as a key contributor to the creation of Martin place as a major town planning initiative. It is an important building designed by H E Ross & Rowe and the work of the building firm Concrete Constructions and reflects the wealth of natural resources available within Australia. The building has outstanding ability to reflect the status of Sydney as a financial centre of Australia. the building has a high aesthetic significance for its powerful role in the 1920's and 1930's transformation of Martin place. it is a high quality example of an architectural conception of exterior and interior using a wide range of materials in an innovative manner. It is an outstanding example of the commercial palazzo style. The building has high scientific significance it's unique use of architectural terracotta and as an early example of large scale reinforced concrete frame construction and for the early use of a retractable ladder stair fire escape and mechanism and Vault and Chamber door mechanism
Date significance updated: 09 Jan 06
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: H E Ross & Rowe
Builder/Maker: Concrete Constructions Limited
Construction years: 1925-1928
Physical description: The former State Savings Bank occupies a full block in a prominent site in Martin Place. It is of Inter-War Beaux Arts Style. The ten storey facade comprises a ground and mezzanine externally clad deep red granite base. Above, a six storey pink glazed terracotta tile colonnaded facade frames bronzed spandrel windows. The building is topped by a two storey attic and dentilated cornice. The facade to Martin Place comprises massive ionic columns and pilasters, bas relief panels and other neoclassical wall and roof details. The plan is 70 x 53 metres with a central light well (since converted to an atrium). The north stairs and lift lobby remain, in a modified form, with a high degree of intact finishes and reconstruction of new finishes. The upper floors are extensively refurbished with some reuse of original material on the third floor. The Banking Chamber 180 x140 feet retains its original plan with minor alterations of layout all of which reuse original finishes. The 25 foot ceiling is supported by original circular Neo classical columns faced in green scagliola. A grand hall forms a pedestrian way between streets containing a marble staircase at each end and a coffered barrel vault. Category:Individual Building. Style:Inter-War Beaux Arts. Storeys:9 + basement. Facade:Granite, terracotta. Side/Rear Walls:Granite, terracotta. Internal Walls:Marble plaster, plasterbd & stud. Roof Cladding:Copper waterproof membrane. Internal Structure:Steel reinf. conc slab. Floor:reinf. conc slab. Roof:reinf. conc slab. Ceilings:Plaster susp plasterbd. Stairs:Numerous. Fire Stairs:2. Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:6. AirConditioned:Yes
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The northern stair well and lifts of the all the upper floors and the majority of the banking Chamber levels and vaults remain intact. New work on the third floor has reused original fabric incorporated within the new construction.
Date condition updated:09 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: 1925-1928
Further information: High Significance: All the original intact fabric of the facades which has remained insitu or been reused. All the original intact fabric of the interiors which has remained insitu or has contributed to the aesthetic quality of the interior. Medium Significance:All the original relocated fabric of the interior. Low Significance:All post 1987 construction. It was listed as a heritage item in 1989 and remains an item since. Streetscape:The Commonwealth Bank, Martin Place, was recognised on the Heritage Streetscape Map in the Heritage LEP 2000.

Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are constantly updated by the City as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.
Current use: Bank
Former use: Bank

History

Historical notes: The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today.

All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney.

The Government Savings Bank of NSW was, at the time this building was constructed, Australia's largest savings bank. In 1914 the Government Savings Bank absorbed the savings Bank of NSW becoming the "second largest Savings Bank in the Empire, being exceeded only by the Post Office Savings Bank of the United Kingdom." By the end of the first world war the bank's business had grown beyond the capacity of their Moore Street premises. in 1920 and 1921 the bank's commissioners bought 5 adjacent strips of land lying between Castlereagh and Elizabeth Streets with frontages of approximately 280 feet to both streets and a through average depth of 150 feet. It was originally intended that the new head office to be built on this land should have only two frontages one to Castlereagh street and one to Elizabeth Street, but the City Council decided to extend Martin Place through a portion of the site bought by the bank. The original design was altered to include a third frontage to Martin Place. In July 1923 the Sydney Morning Herald published a drawing of the proposed bank, announcing that it was the intention of the architects to construct "the most massive building in Sydney." In March 1925 the Daily Telegraph was able to report that building work was about to begin on the bank and that the tender of Concrete Constructions Ltd had been accepted for the early work. There was some public discussion about the tendering process. The Telegraph reported in April 1925 that the Master Builders Association were unhappy that the architects Ross and Rowe had not called for tenders in the general competition but had instead invited eight of the most prominent Sydney builders to tender, builders who were known to possess the plant and organisation required to carry out such a large work.

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 (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
This building made a key contribution to the creation of Martin Place as a major town planning initiative. It reflects in its materials the wealth of natural resources available for building within NSW and Australia. It is an important work in the professional work of the noted architectural partnership Ross & Rowe and the firm Concrete Constructions. It reflects the emergence in the 1920's of large construction companies. Has historic significance at a State level.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
This building is considered to be the finest work of the significant architectural firm of H. E. Ross
and Rowe, one of Sydney’s most prominent commercial architectural practices during the first
third of the twentieth century.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The building has significance for the vast array of quality building materials and finishes used in its execution, its first and unique use of architectural terracotta in Australia, and as an early example of large scale reinforced concrete frame construction. The building has significance for the technology exhibited in the retractable ladder stair fire escape and mechanism, and vault and chamber door mechanism. Has aesthetic significance at a State level. Cultural:The building is a reflection of the 1920's and 1930's transformation of Martin Place because of its powerful role within that streetscape. It is an outstanding example of the commercial Palazzo style which retains a large extent of the intact exterior fabric and remaining intact interiors. It is well resolved both internally and externally using a wide range of quality materials and finishes in an innovative manner.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The building has an outstanding ability to reflect the status of Sydney as a financial centre of Australia. It reflects the way in which a powerful social institution such as a state bank can provide scope for an architectural ambition "to construct the most massive building in Sydney". It is important for its ability to reflect the emergence in the 1920s of large construction companies in a field previously dominated by master builders. Has social significance at a State level.The building is a reflection of the 1920's and 1930's transformation of Martin Place because of its powerful role within that streetscape. It is an outstanding example of the commercial Palazzo style which retains a large extent of the intact exterior fabric and remaining intact interiors. It is well resolved both internally and externally using a wide range of quality materials and finishes in an innovative manner.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Inter War Beaux-Arts style is rare in Australia, with no identifiable distribution pattern evident.
48 Martin Place is an exceptional example, the building exhibiting uncommonly rich detailing and
use of materials as well as confident architectural resolution externally and within public areas
throughout the building.
48 Martin Place is the finest bank building to have been erected in New South Wales during the
first half of the twentieth century, possibly during the entire twentieth century.
48 Martin Place has several features that are rare at a national level. These include: the technique
of using façade terracotta as formwork; the mechanical fire stair; the hydraulic door at the Martin
Place entry; the scale, spatial complexity, detailing and use of materials throughout the public
areas of the building.
The quality of the contribution of 48 Martin Place to the townscape in this part of the City of
Sydney, because of its scale, architectural resolution and presence, is considered to be rare.
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.

Recommended management:

General: Given the high level of significance of the Martin Place Commonwealth Bank, any future use, management and maintenance should be in accordance with the current conservation management plan. All future development shall be in accordance with the relevant planning controls and the policies of the conservation management plan, which should be reviewed on a regular basis. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I189514 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1984Martin Place Civic Design Study
Written 1925Hoskins Iron & Steel Company Ltd 1925
Written 1923Sydney Morning Herald 3.7.1923 p10 (incl drawing)
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City View detail
WrittenHoward Tanner & Associates200048 Martin Place, Sydney : conservation management plan : draft
Management PlanTanner Architects2012Former Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, 48 Martin Place Sydney, Conservation Management Plan

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

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2423828


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