Former "Sydney Water" Building (339-341 Pitt St) including interiors & lightwell | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Former "Sydney Water" Building (339-341 Pitt St) including interiors & lightwell

Item details

Name of item: Former "Sydney Water" Building (339-341 Pitt St) including interiors & lightwell
Other name/s: M.W. S. & D.B. Buildings; Sydney Water Head Office; Water Board Buildings
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Government and Administration
Category: Office building
Location: Lat: -33.8765982881014 Long: 151.206430448715
Primary address: 115-119 Bathurst Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
115-119 Bathurst StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address
339-341 Pitt StreetSydneySydney  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

Summary Statement of Significance for the 1939 Building (from CMP by Weir Phillips)
The Former Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board Head Office Building, 1939 Building, No. 339-341 Pitt Street, Sydney, designed by H.E. Budden and Mackey, has state significance. The primary significance of the site/building:
-Lies in its 116-year association with Sydney Water (and its predecessors). As ‘Head Office’ it has high significance in the hierarchy of sites associated with Sydney Water.
-As a fine example of a late 1930s Art Deco Style commercial building. The quality of finishes externally and internally is exceptional. Examples of these finishes survive throughout the building.
-For its association with the architectural practice of H.E. Budden & Mackey, who also designed Railway House and Transport House.
-For the former Ratings Chamber, now heavily modified, but still a significant public chamber of the era.

The site/building also has significance for:
-Its association with many of the leading building manufacturers and craftsmen of the day.
-The three low relief bronze panels designed by Victorian sculptor, Stanley James Hammond.
-The incorporation of technical innovations of the period, such as the laylight of the Ratings Chamber.
-As one of four buildings constructed under the Bertram Stevens lead Conservative United Australia Part (UAP) - United Country Party coalition government augmented Loan Scheme.
-For community heritage and architectural interest organisations.
-For staff and former staff of Sydney Water.

Summary Statement of Significance for the 1965 Building (from CMP by Weir Phillips)
The Former Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board Head Office Building, No.115-119 Bathurst Street, Sydney, designed by McConnel, Smith and Johnson has state significance. The primary significance of the site/ building is:
-As a fine and largely intact example of a progressive and influential Late Twentieth Century International Style high rise building.
-For its association with the architectural practice of McConnel, Smith and Johnson. The 1965 Building is one of a group of buildings which demonstrate the gradual maturation of key characteristics of the work of this practice, in particularly the use of horizontal sun shade devices and other passive climate control measures.
- For its demonstration of, and response to, the unique conditions of the Sydney historic and climatic environment. This building set a ‘benchmark’ in high rise design.
- For the design of a new structural system that provided large, column free spaces and which decreased construction time. The use of materials, in particularly precast elements, was innovative for its time.
- Interiors retain a relatively high level of intactness, excluding the ground floor. There is a clear hierarchy of general office space and executive office space, public and staff-only areas.

The site/building also has significance:
- As the recipient of the City of Sydney Architecture Award in 1971.
- Its 43 year association with Head Office.
- For community heritage and architectural interest organisations.
- For staff and former staff of Sydney Water.
Date significance updated: 25 Mar 14
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. Budden & Mackey (1939) McConnel Smith & Johnson (1965)
Builder/Maker: Howie Moffat & Co
Construction years: 1939-1965
Physical description: 1939 Building, which fronts Pitt Street (part of 115-119 Bathurst St)
The Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage board 1939 Building is a sophisticated example of the progressive design which arose during the Inter-war period. It is a sculptured seven storey building with a variety of rich cladding materials including marble tiles, granite, brass, bronze and glass which combine to form a clear entrance and corner condition. The Pitt Street entrance expresses many traits of the Art Deco Style, such as the relief sculpture over the entry doors, whilst the horizontally articulated panels which curve around the corner are representative of the functionalist style. The bronze spandrel panels which now clad this section of the building were modifications to the original fabric. The base level is defined by the use of granite as a cladding material with large openings to the street. The original central lightwell has been infilled on the lowest two levels to accommodate more office space comprising plasterboard stud walls and suspended ceilings. These alterations detract from the original simple plan. The double volume marble and travertine lift lobby off Pitt Street forms an impressive entrance foyer to the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board building. Elegant marble detailing embellishes the passenger lifts with brass inlays to the floor. Internally the concrete frame structure is expressed by large columns clad in various materials including timber and marble.

"The building exhibits elaborate use of various coloured granite and marble finishes. Architectural terracotta tiles and bands of bronze and copper elements plus the associated bronze windows and curved fenestration to the corner make this building one of the most exquisite examples of the Art Deco style and detail in Sydney, if not Australia. Bas relief panels are strategically placed above the entrance in Pitt Street which depict the water industry and its progression of technology. Internally, in the entrance foyer marble and travertine surfaces are located on the floors and walls, and late 20th century suspended ceilings have been fitted. The entrance doors as a windbreak in the main entrance foyer are late 20th century. The memorial board wall which has mosaic tiles is likely to be an infill from the 1960's. On the ground floor, a number of original surface finishes remain behind superficial fitout including highly significant scagliola clad columns. The building has an interior courtyard where internal offices gain light surrounded by white glazed ceramic tiles to maximise light reflection. The courtyard lower levels were infilled in the 1960's. Internally on upper levels most offices have suspended ceilings from the 20th century although many of the internal terrazzo and travertine floor and wall surfaces survive, as does a considerable amount of original timber joinery. Office fitouts generally have changed over time. The 1939 building is now best viewed from Pitt Street within 100 metres to the south of the building and from the intersection of Pitt and Bathurst Street and to the side lane. " (from Sydney Water Heritage Assets inventory sheet 2006)

1965 Building: McConnel Smith & Johnson (Corner Bathurst & Pitt St, part of 115-119 Bathurst St)
The 1965 Building is constructed of pre cast concrete walls, floors and stairs supported on a steel frame. The acid etched pre cast concrete spandrel panels attempted to relate to the sandstone character of the city and give sun protection to the building and set a precedent for buildings at the time.

The office floors were designed to suit the Metropolitan Water Sewerage & Drainage Board's special needs and to provide good north and south natural lighting - a particular requirement when many of the floors were to be occupied by large drawing offices. To achieve flexibility and maximum use of office space the building has been designed without any interior columns in office areas.

Main services cores are at the eastern and western end to the building where the main passenger lifts are at the eastern end and the mains goods lifts at the western end of the building along with lavatories and kitchen facilities.

While the perimeter construction, floor construction, the main lift core and lavatory areas are considerably intact, many of the office interior fitouts have changed over time. The original Board Room, and office and facility spaces to the north and west of the Board Room still remain substantially intact.

The building is particularly prominent from Bathurst Street west of George Street and from the intersection of Pitt and Bathurst Streets. The southern elevation is largely obscured from George and Pitt Street by other buildings although one can clearly see the building presently from the western side of George Street.

The exterior of the building was to be a direct expression of its plan elements, which are defined by the structure, and the sun-control and cladding systems adopted. It was considered important to control sun penetration into the building in order to reduce heat gain, thus reducing initial and running costs of the air-conditioning system and to control sky glare.

Sun control panels placed at a distance of 3-ft. 6-in. from the windows of the building act in conjunction with horizontal louvered metal screens which they support. The screens have been designed to allow light to reflect onto the inside face of the vertical panels. At the second floor level (where there will be a staff cafeteria) the panels project beyond those above in order to give protection to the deeper windows of the ground floor, to form a series of cafeteria balconies, and a rainwater catchment.

The principal material used on the exterior of the building is precast concrete panels with an acid-etched surface layer of ground granite chips and white cement, probably the earliest such use of a significant nature in Sydney, if not Australia. The metal sun-control screens, also serving as window-cleaning platforms were predominantly off-site construction, resulting in a considerable time-saving in building. The structure is a steel frame with the general office area supported by three rigid frames, spaced at 23-ft. centres and spanning a width of over 70-ft, which broke new ground for BHP for high tensile steel.

The floors were constructed in precast pretensioned twin tee units 4-ft. wide and 22-ft. long, and covering the whole of the general office area. On top of those are a 2 1/2-in. concrete screed.

An intrusive awning was constructed at ground floor level in 2001 to protect pedestrians from spalling concrete.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The facade and external form of the original seven storey 1939 Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board building have been well maintained. The original building has a concrete encased steel frame and internal light well which has been filled in at the lower two levels. The exterior is clad in rich modern materials which provide a progressive, self-confident architectural expression. Intrusive Elements:Infilled light well (lower two levels), interface with northern section of adjoining 1960s office tower, internal fitouts, external spandrel cladding.

1965 Building: Externally, the building shows evidence of exfoliating concrete and a catch scaffold was constructed in 1999/early 2000. Internally, the building appears in good condition.
Date condition updated:09 Feb 07
Modifications and dates: Alterations include new fire door installations in the southern ground floor façade, and evidence of some louvres and air conditioning systems fitted to windows. A new fire door is noted on the eastern elevation in Pitt Street. Major modifications in 1965. Minor fitout changes continually until the present.
Further information: 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 offices
Former use: Government offices

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. 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 http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani )

"The Board's first office, occupied in April, 1888, was at Circular Quay, close to the present Overseas Shipping Terminal. The building was considered to be in an inconvenient locality, and in January 1890, the Board moved to premises on the west side of Pitt Street (No.289) near Park Street. In March 1891, a block on the corner of Pitt and Wilmott Streets, with a frontage to Pitt Street of 72-ft. and a depth of about 83-ft., was resumed and offices erected on it. These were occupied by the Board in May, 1893. In 1911 an adjoining 87-ft. frontage in Pitt Street was bought and extensions completed in 1918. Additional land and buildings at the rear of the office were acquired in 1929 and 1936, and that part of Stewart Lane separating the Board's property was resumed, thus providing a block approximately 160-ft. square. This, together with shop premises fronting Bathurst Street, provided for comprehensive planning for present needs and future development. In 1936 it was decided to clear the site and erect a new building consisting of a basement, ground floor, mezzanine and six upper floors. This was completed on December 24 1939, and was occupied on January 2 1940. The building was designed by the renowned architectural practice of Budden and Mackey who also designed both Transport houses in Macquarie Street and in York Street, Sydney. Howie Moffat & Co. were the builders, and sculptor Stanley Hammond was responsible for the prominent bas relief over the Pitt Street entrance. " (from Sydney Water Heritage Assets inventory sheet 2006).

The 1939 Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board Building was designed as the new head office on the site of its former structure. The architects were Budden & Mackey and the builders Howie & Moffat. The building was completed at the end of 1939 and was notable for its external use of cream coloured tiles above the base floor of red granite and colonnade of curved black granite piers. Internally the public spaces were particularly noteworthy for their design, scale and finish, using combinations of structural glass, metals, marble and fine timbers.The building is also noteworthy for its uncommon use of architectural sculpture by Stanley Hammond. It represents the benefits of water and is used to "educate" the passers by. The upper floors were used by the various departments of the board including the major administration rooms which were on the first floor. A library, lecture hall and lunch room were located on the sixth floor.

The 1939 building was always intended to be extended, however the 1965 addition was not as originally anticipated. A tall tower designed by McConnell Smith and Johnson was constructed to the north and was integrated with the existing; this work caused considerable change to the earlier building but also set a precedent for building design and construction at the time.

The office floors have been designed to suit the Board's special needs and to provide good north and south natural lighting - a particular requirement when many of the floors were to be occupied by large drawing offices. To achieve flexibility and maximum use of office space the building has been designed without any interior columns in office areas.

Main services cores are at the eastern and western end to the building where the main passenger lifts are at the eastern end and the mains goods lifts at the western end of the building along with lavatories and kitchen facilities.

While the perimeter construction, floor construction, the main lift core and lavatory areas are considerably intact, many of the office interior fitouts have changed over time. The original Board Room, and office and facility spaces to the north and west of the Board Room still remain substantially intact.

The building is particularly prominent from Bathurst Street west of George Street and from the intersection of Pitt and Bathurst Streets. The southern elevation is largely obscured from George and Pitt Street by other buildings although one can clearly see the building presently from the western side of George Street.

The exterior of the building was to be a direct expression of its plan elements, which are defined by the structure, and the sun-control and cladding systems adopted. It was considered important to control sun penetration into the building in order to reduce heat gain, thus reducing initial and running costs of the air-conditioning system and to control sky glare.

Sun control panels placed at a distance of 3-ft. 6-in. from the windows of the building act in conjunction with horizontal louvered metal screens which they support. The screens have been designed to allow light to reflect onto the inside face of the vertical panels. At the second floor level (where there will be a staff cafeteria) the panels project beyond those above in order to give protection to the deeper windows of the ground floor, to form a series of cafeteria balconies, and a rainwater catchment.

The principal material used on the exterior of the building is precast concrete panels with an acid-etched surface layer of ground granite chips and white cement, probably the earliest such use of a significant nature in Sydney, if not Australia. The metal sun-control screens, also serving as window-cleaning platforms were predominantly off-site construction, resulting in a considerable time-saving in building. The structure is a steel frame with the general office area supported by three rigid frames, spaced at 23-ft. centres and spanning a width of over 70-ft, which broke new ground for BHP for high tensile steel.

The floors were constructed in precast pretensioned twin tee units 4-ft. wide and 22-ft. long, and covering the whole of the general office area. On top of those are a 2 1/2-in. concrete screed.

In 1994 the (then) Australian Heritage Commission published a report prepared by Associate Professor of Architecture Jennifer Taylor titled "Post World War II Multistoried Office Buildings in Australia (1945-1967). This report discusses the period covered in relation to the architectural history of the development of multistoried office buildings in Australia's city centres. The report identifies "Milestone" and "Notable" buildings in relation to particular aspects of construction. In this regard, the 1965 MWS& DB building was identified in the report as a "Milestone" in relation to Urban Issues:Streetscape as the "1st tall building in central Sydney, and for creation of a new urban plaza"; as a "Notable Building" in relation to "Urban Issues: Landscaping"; and as a "Milestone" building in relation to "External Skin: Sun Control" for its "unique use of precast concrete in combination with horizontal metal louvres."

The successor of the MWS&DB, Sydney Water, sold the both the 1939 and 1965 buildings to Multiplex Bathurst Street Pty Ltd in 2008.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The 1939 Building stands on a site that has an unbroken association with Sydney Water (and its predecessors) from 1891 to the present. The 1939 Building has historic significance as part of a long tradition of erecting fine quality buildings within the CBD to house government instrumentalities, particularly where they served as the primary point of contact between the government and the public and marking a significant phase in the administrative history of Sydney Water.

The 1965 Building has historic and aesthetic significance as part of a pattern of post-World War II development during the 1950s and 1960s and as an example of Late Twentieth Century International Style architecture, a style that would dominate commercial architecture from the mid-1960s to the 1980s. The building received the City of Sydney Architectural Award 1971.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The 1939 Building is closely associated with key figures within Sydney Water and its predecessors, such as the president of the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board at the time of its construction, T.H. Upton. The inception and quality of the building stand as a testimony to the initiative of the elected and appointed members of the Board. The 1939 Building has a strong association with the professional staff of Sydney Water. The roles carried out by these staff members encompassed the design, construction, administration and maintenance the metropolitan water and sewerage system. The 1939 building is associated with prominent architectural firm Budden and Mackey and the 1965 building with architects McConnel Smith and Johnson.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The 1939 Building provides a fine example of a late interwar period Art Deco Style commercial building. Architects working in this style in the 1930s turned away from the geometric influences of the 1920s towards the more streamlined, modern lines of the Functionalist Style.

The 1939 Building incorporated important technical advancements made during the interwar period including use of a large central laylight and glazed brick light well to maximise natural light, and up-to-date building services, such as a Carrier air conditioning system.

The 1965 Building has significance as an example of the Late Twentieth Century International Style. This building demonstrates the distinctive shift evident in Sydney architecture in the mid 1960s away from the clear glass panels of ‘curtain wall’ architecture of the 1950s, towards solid cladding, ‘a quite aggressive expression of structure.’

The 1965 Building has technical significance for the design of a structural system that facilitated the Water Board’s requirement for large open spaces and the need for rapid construction. The length of the span in the Water Board building is considered to be important; at the time it was considered unlikely that any other tall building in the world had a greater span. The particular double tee units in the floor beams had not been used for the
building of this type and size before. This mode of construction provided for the maximum use of off-site manufacture and in situ assembly of prefabricated components, and was later used in other buildings designed by McConnel, Smith and Johnson.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The 1939 Building has significance for past and present employees of Sydney Water and its predecessors, many of whom can demonstrate long term employment with the Board. This association particularly relates to the professional staff. There was often a deep divided between those who worked at ‘Head Office’ and other Water Board employees. The memorial boards and books within the building commemorate the war service of all Water Board employees.

The 1939 Building has significance for heritage and architectural interest groups, as indicated by heritage listing on statutory and non statutory registers at a national, state, local and community level. Particular groups who have expressed interest in the building include the National Trust of Australia (NSW), the RAIA and the Art Deco Society of New South Wales.

The listing of the 1965 Building on the S170 Register of Sydney Water provides evidence of its significance to the organisation. As part of the Head Office for over forty years, many people within the organisation identify with it.

The 1965 Building is listed as a building of significance by RAIA Twentieth Century Register of Significant Buildings. It is also discussed in architectural reviews. As such, it has interest for architectural groups.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The 1939 Building has significance under this criterion for its ability to demonstrate high quality design and construction in a commercial building of the late 1930s. When viewed within the context provided by contemporary examples from the 1920s and 1930s, the building has the ability to demonstrate the development of the Art Deco Style in the late 1930s. The building provides fine examples of popular materials and finishes of the day
and how they were combined to achieve particular effects. Given the quality of the construction and finishes and the relatively high level of intactness, the building has the ability to demonstrate the work of many of Sydney’s finest craftsmen.

The Sydney Water Building 1965 has significance under this criterion for its ability (as outlined above) to provide information on the concerns that informed the designs of a progressive architectural firm of the 1960s. The urban and environmental concerns evident in the design of the building are indicative of this period. The building contributes to an understanding of the development of a unique Australian style in high rise architecture.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The 1939 and 1965 buildings are rare within the City of Sydney, in terms of their long term use and purposeful design for a single government authority.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The buildings are representative examples, respectively, of an Inter War Art Deco commercial building, and a Post War International style building.
Integrity/Intactness: High
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 Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board buildings, 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 Local Environmental Plan 2012I167214 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 2006Sydney Water Heritage Assets inventory sheet
Written 1940Building, p17ff, 24 Jan 1940, (Journal).
Written 1940Decoration & Glass, p11ff, Feb 1940, (Journal).
Written  SCC Records (BAs, DAs)
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City View detail
WrittenArchitecture In Australia1966Head Office Extensions; Metropolitan Water, Sewerage & Drainage Borad, Pitt & Bathurst Sts, Sydney
WrittenJennifer Taylor/Australian Heritage Commission1994Post World War II Multistoried Office Buildings in Australia 1945-1967 - section on "External Skin: Sun Control"
WrittenR. Lumby Art Deco Society Newsletter, (Journal)
WrittenTruman, Zaniol and Associates.2001Sydney Water head office buildings, 115-123 Bathurst Street and 339-341 Pitt Street, Sydney : heritage assessment & conservation management guidelines
WrittenWeir Phillips2008CMP - Sydney Water Head Office, 1939 Building and 1965 Building

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: 2424134


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