Former Railway House (Part of Transport House) Including Interiors | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Former Railway House (Part of Transport House) Including Interiors

Item details

Name of item: Former Railway House (Part of Transport House) Including Interiors
Other name/s: Railway House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Office
Location: Lat: -33.8673387274487 Long: 151.204282243516
Primary address: 11-31 York Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
11-31 York StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The scale and architectural quality of Transport House is a reflection of the importance of the Railway system to Sydney and NSW. It also documents the process of centralisation and rationalisation of state administration. Transport House is one of the most intact Art Deco buildings in Sydney, and one of the earliest fully resolved Art Deco expressions in CBD (along with ACA at King and York Streets). It is an important building by prominent firm of H. E. Budden and Mackay, and was awarded a Sulman Medal in 1935 and Royal Institute of British Architects Medal in 1939. Substantial important intact office interiors survive. The building is rare for its scale and extensive use of green terracotta facing, considered the most impressive in Sydney. It is a major element in the townscape of Wynyard Square precinct.
Date significance updated: 13 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.


Designer/Maker: H. E. Budden & Mackey
Builder/Maker: Railways Department
Construction years: 1934-1936
Physical description: Transport House is a 12 storey steel frame office building above Wynyard Station, designed by H. E. Budden & Mackey in the Inter-war Art Deco style. The framed structure supports a broad, asymmetrically facade, with horizontal bands of large bronze-framed windows. Contrast is provided by a modulated tower vertically emphasised by fins. Above ground floor the facade is clad in green terracotta tiles. The building features two main entrances incorporating stairs and escalators leading to Wynyard station. The interior of the building retains original office fitouts with fine timber joinery and decorative plaster ceilings. The first floor windows are notable for their individual design. Awarded the Sulman Medal in 1936 and the RIBA Medal in 1939, this building is an elegant example of 1930s commercial architecture. Transport House forms part of a group of buildings of a similar scale. Fragments of the underground railway spaces between George Street and Railway House, also designed by H. E. Budden & Mackey, survive in York Street. Category:Individual Building. Style:Inter-War Art Deco. Storeys:12 + 3 basement levels. Facade:Glazed terracotta tiles, alumin./glass shopfront, bronze framed windows, trachyte cladding. Side/Rear Walls:Rendered masonry. Internal Walls:Plasterbd. and stud, plastered brick, glass, ceramic tiles, Marble facing, timber and stud, glass. Roof Cladding:Waterproof membrane, conc. paving units. Internal Structure:Conc. encased steel frame. Floor:Reinf. conc. slab, carpet, terrazzo. Roof:Reinf. conc. slab, steel framing. Ceilings:Exposed floor structure, decorative plaster, susp. acoustic tiles. Stairs:Reinf. conc. stair, steel baluster and handrail. Fire Stairs:2. Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:11, 1 goods lift, 2 otis escalators with timber treads also operate down to Wynyard Station. AirConditioned:Yes
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
In general, the exterior and interiors of Transport House are largely intact although the interiors are progressively being modernised. An extensive use of tiles characteristic of the Art Deco style.
Date condition updated:13 Jan 06
Modifications and dates: 1936
Further information: High Significance:Streetscape qualities, external envelope and overall form. Original internal fabric and finishes such as joinery, plaster ceilings, Art Deco motifs, glazed tiles, original office fitout elements. Medium Significance:Concrete encased steel frame and concrete slab. Low Significance:Later internal fitout.

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: Government office
Former use: Government office


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. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters.

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.

(Information sourced from Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City )

Transport House, formerly Railway House, was designed by H. E. Budden & Mackay and completed in 1936. The building caused enormous controversy through the use of day labour in its construction but the aesthetics and design were well received. It was described as being colourful without being vulgar, and modern without being extreme. The building was designed to accommodate all the various offices of the Railway Department and included the Commissioner's Suite and the "Trouble Room". Externally the building was faced with trachyte at the ground level and above with green toned terracotta tiles; green was the colour for the railways. Windows were set in bronze features, including wrought iron balustrading and metal window louvres. These were produced by the Department's Chullora workshops. The building won an early Sulman Medal in 1935 and the Royal Institute of British Architects Medal in 1939. the interiors have been progressively adapted since its construction, particularly the lift and entrance lobbys. The most substantial impact has been in the demolition of the northern wall to permit access to the adjoining building.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Transport House is an important example of the centralisation and rationalisation of state administration. It reflects the importance of the Transport Department in NSW. It was an early winner of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Sulman Award (1935), and a Royal Institute of British Architects Medal (1939.) The building reflects the impact of the city railway and Harbour Bridge on 1930s development. Has historic significance at a State level.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Transport House displays an extensive use of green glazed terracotta tiles to the facade. Has aesthetic significance at a State level. Cultural:Transport House is an excellent example of the Art Deco style applied to a building in the modernist tradition. Strongly marked entrances contrast with the horizontality of long bands of windows over most of the facade. It is a major contributor to the townscape quality of the Wynyard Park precinct. The fenestration configuration is most unusual for this time ie. balance of horizontal and vertical elements. Substantial areas of intact office interiors survive.
SHR Criteria f)
Transport House is an outstanding building in the modernist tradition, and provides evidence of the advent of a mature Art Deco sensibility in Sydney in the unusual context of a Government department building. The large area of the facade completely clad in green glazed terracotta tiles is extremely rare in Sydney and NSW.
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: Transport House is of such high significance that a conservation plan is warranted to guide future management, use and maintenance. The overall from of the building should be preserved. Exterior: Any future development should preserve all external envelope materials and details in accordance with the Conservation Plan. Interior: Original internal fabric and finishes should be restored or reconstructed in accordance with the Conservation Plan, where appropriate research has been undertaken. The building should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, or a Conservation Management Plan, should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. There shall be no vertical additions to the building and no alterations to the fa├žade of the building other than to reinstate original features. The principal room layout and planning configuration as well as significant internal original features including ceilings, cornices, joinery, flooring and fireplaces should be retained and conserved. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, should not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the relevant planning controls.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I1975*14 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1939Building, p16, 24 Feb 1939, (Journal).
Written 1937Architecture, p52, 1 March 1937, (Journal).
Written 1936Building, p21ff, 12 June 1936, (Journal).
WrittenAllman Johnston Associates.1999Railway and Transport Houses, 11-13 York Street, Sydney : draft conservation plan
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenRice Daubney1999Transport House, 11-31 York Street, Sydney : stage 2 works (Railway House) : statement of environmental effects /

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: 2423858

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