APA Building | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


APA Building

Item details

Name of item: APA Building
Other name/s: Lindt Café
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Commercial Office/Building
Location: Lat: -33.8680115738 Long: 151.2109010560
Primary address: 53-63 Martin Place, Sydney, NSW 2000
Parish: St James
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOTS1-11 CP/SP73146
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
53-63 Martin PlaceSydneySydneySt JamesCumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Marshall Investments Pty Ltd & 53 Martin Place Pty Ltd1Private 

Statement of significance:

The construction of the APA building marked the beginning of the development of the eastern end of Martin Place and Phillip Street as a major commercial and professional precinct. It was designed and constructed for the former Australian Provincial Assurance Association Ltd on a block purchased to construct a new headquarters for the association.

The APA Building exhibits a high level of architectural quality in terms of its proportions, facade treatment and vocabulary of detail. The building was designed to formalise and define the new major civic thoroughfare of Martin Place. The structural system utilised in the building facilitated a very short construction time and reduced noise problems.
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Designer/Maker: David W. King
Builder/Maker: Kell and Rigby
Construction years: 1936-1936
Physical description: The APA Building occupies a site with a frontage of 123 feet to the south side of Martin Place. The block extends through from Elizabeth to Phillip Streets, has a frontage on these two streets of 57 feet and the main entry is located on the central axis of the Martin Place elevation.

The building is limited by the 150 feet height limit in force at the time. It consists of 12 main floors, a lower ground floor and basement and a set back roof (12th) floor with an intermediate tower floor and lift motor room over.

The facade is polished red granite to the lower ground and ground levels with a combination of moulded and extruded glazed terra-cotta blocks to the exterior of the upper levels, including the roof (12th) floor and tower. The terra-cotta blocks are glazed in a light cream tone splattered with white and are supplemented at the roof parapet level with a triple row of deep green glazed terracotta bands. The terra cotta blocks were supplied by Wunderlich Limited and were chosen for their durability, permanence of colour and self cleaning character of material.

The external form of the building is dictated by the grid of 9ft 6in. This is expressed externally as a truncated triangular pilaster, which runs in an unbroken line from an expressed balcony form at the level of the 2nd floor to the facade setback at the level of the 12th (or roof) floor. These pilasters continue in an abbreviated form against the face of the 12th floor setback, the overall effect being one of a major vertical emphasis and one of symmetry.

The windows to the main office floors are of particular interest, being A.S. Spiers patent box frame types of Queensland Maple, which allow the sashes to be reversed for cleaning. Steel windows are used to the light well of the building, providing some measure of daylight to the toilets, main stair and rear office areas.

The main entry is from Martin Place and is via a set of trachyte steps to a glass automatic entry doorset. The original timber entry doors of inlaid Queensland maple are in their original positions. The entry opening is surmounted by a cast bronze lintel bearing the inscription 'No. 53' and has surface mounted letter to the granite over stating 'APA Building'.

The main entry foyer walls are of cream Botticcino marble with a skirting and architraves of dark green Verte Des Alpes marble. An imposing pair of green scagliola columns with original bronze-framed glass doors and top glazing flank each side of the foyer. The ceiling is of plaster with a heavily corbelled cornice and a domed recess for the central light. The original bronze lift doors, set into the south wall of the foyer, have been painted over.

The main stair features treads, risers and landings of white marble, a handrail of Verte Des Alpes marble with solid balustrades of cream scaglioda and walls of cream scagiola. (Romey 1990:4-9)

The most significant aspect of the structural system utilised for the APA Building was the speed at which the steel and concrete composite system allowed the work to proceed. The use of bolted structural steel not only reduced the noise level of the process, considered a major problem at the time when riveting was still common, but allowed for the steel frame to be erected in a period of fifteen weeks. Equally impressive was the curing of the concrete which was poured at the rate of two floors in five working days.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is good. Archaeological potential is low.
Date condition updated:01 Oct 97
Modifications and dates: 1936 - constructed
early 1940s - western half of the roof (12th floor) completed and caretakers flat removed
mid 1940s - removal of detailed lift lobby
1961 - façade thoroughly cleaned and minor alterations
mid 1960s - new doorway built into the existing window opening on the corner of Phillip Street and Martin Place. Lower ground floor windows to Elizabeth Street and Martin Place enlarged and reveals trimmed with black granite. New aluminium doors and glazing installed into the openings and original awning on the Elizabeth Street facade removed.
late 1970s - major part of the building air-conditioned and lift lobbies refurbished
1989 - remaining APA signage removed with the exception of that over the main entry.
Current use: Office Space
Former use: Office space and restaurant


Historical notes: The development of a new headquarters building for the Australian Provincial Assurance Association Ltd in Martin Place was intrinsically connected to the development of Martin Place itself. When on April 8, 1936, the extension of Martin Place to Macquarie Street was opened, a series of development sites along each side of the new thoroughfare were made available by the Sydney Municipal Council. The first two sites sold were those between Elizabeth Street and Phillip Street. The northern block was sold to the Rural Bank of NSW and the southern block was purchased by the Australian Provincial Assurance Company Ltd on May 23, 1935, for the sum of 83,000 pounds.

David W. King, a young architect, was appointed to prepare a design for the project and to oversee the construction. The brief was to erect premises to the full building height, and to design in conformity with that of the surrounding buildings.

The contract was let to builders Kell and Rigby following the calling of tenders in February 1936 and construction began in early June 1936, subsequent to five months of preliminary work and excavation.

The structural systems selected for the project was that in common use at that time, a structural steel frame with reinforced concrete floor slabs and concrete encasement to the steel work. This composite systems allowed for extremely rapid construction of the superstructure and work on the steel frame commenced on June 3rd 1936 and was completed on September 17th, a period of fifteen weeks.

The building was opened in May 1937 and was considered successful by the press of the period. The first tenant was of course, the Australian Provincial Assurance Association who occupied the ground floor, three quarters of the first floor and all of the basement, but other floors were taken by the legal firm of Allen, Allen and Hemsley, by a government department and several smaller organisations, including the architectural practice of David King himself. The lower ground floor was occupied for many years by a quality restaurant (Cahill's) with direct access from Elizabeth Street via steps.

With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, many of the tenants, including the APA, relocated to other premises and the Department of Manpower and Industry effectively took over the building. Exceptions to this move were the practices of both Allen, Allen and Hemsly , and David W. King. It was during this period that the western half of the twelfth floor was completed. This level had previously been completed at the eastern end only, due to the 150 foot high limit affecting the building differentially in regard to the change of level between Elizabeth and Phillip Streets. The eastern end had been used as a caretaker's flat, with the western half utilised as a roof garden.

After 1945 the APA resumed occupation of the building and were to remain in residence until 1989.

In 1987 the APA which was undergoing restructuring finally sold the building to Noden Pty Ltd.

In August 1989 the building was sold to the Charter Property Group. (Romey 1990:2-4)

In December 2014 the Lindt Chocolate Cafe on the ground floor of the Phillip Street frontage was the scene of a siege on 15-16 December 2014, when a lone gunman held staff and customers as hostages. The siege resulted in the death of two hostages, Mr Tori Johnson and Ms Katrina Dawson, and also the death of the gunman Man Haron Monis. After the siege, memorial flower bouquets filled nearby areas of Martin Place and many Sydneysiders came to Martin Place to mourn and reflect. Subsequent memorial services were held in the city at the nearby St Mary's Cathedral and St James' Church, and condolence books were set up in other Lindt cafes.

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)-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Involvement with the Second World War-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The construction of the APA building marked the beginning of the development of the eastern end of Martin Place and Phillip Street as a major commercial and professional precinct. It was designed and constructed for the former Australian Provincial Assurance Association Ltd on a block purchased to construct a new headquarters for the association. The Association subsequently remained in the building for over fifty years. The building represents a brief period of economic expansion between the end of the depression and the Second World War. The architect David W. King occupied a suite in the building for over thirty years and was largely responsible for ongoing maintenance and alterations to the building during this time. (Romey 1990:36)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The APA Building exhibits a high level of architectural quality in terms of its proportions, facade treatment and vocabulary of detail. The building was designed to formalise and define the new major civic thoroughfare of Martin Place. The building presents a uniform and harmonious composition around the three sides of its block. (Romey 1990:35)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The structural system utilised in the building facilitated a very short construction time and reduced noise problems. The plan of the building and use of windows and light well enabled a high level of efficiency in terms of natural lighting and ventilation. (Romey 1990:35)
SHR Criteria f)
The APA Building is the last remaining example in Martin Place of what was a consistent group of structures exhibiting a conformity of scale, facade treatment and vocabulary of detail. (Romey 1990:35)
Integrity/Intactness: The main fabric of the building has survived largely unaltered since its construction in 1937. (Romey 1990:35)
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 - Site Specific Exemptions Record converted from HIS events

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 materials.
(b) alterations to the interior of the building, except insofar as such works would affect-
- the Martin Place entrance foyer;
- the external appearance of the building;
(c) The minor repair of the building where minor repair means the repair of materials and includes replacement of minor components such as individual bricks where these have been damaged beyond reasonable repair or are missing. The replacement should be of the same material, colour, texture, form and design as the original it replaces.
(d) Change of use;
(e) Subdivision
Jan 19 1990
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
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.

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


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0068202 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0068219 Jan 90 11 
Local Environmental PlanCSH LEP 4 07 Apr 00   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenPeter Romey1990Conservation Plan for APA 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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045409
File number: S90/03181, HC 33520, 10/20759

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