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Commonwealth Bank

Item details

Name of item: Commonwealth Bank
Other name/s: The Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, CBA Building; Macquarie Bank
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Bank
Location: Lat: -33.8673092818 Long: 151.2102322270
Primary address: 48-50 Martin Place, Sydney, NSW 2000
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP182023
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
48-50 Martin PlaceSydneySydney CumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The Commonwealth Bank at 48 Martin Place is culturally significant at a National level as a rare example of Inter-War Beaux-Arts architecture demonstrating outstanding technical accomplishment. It is also of exceptional local and State significance. Located at a prominent address on Martin Place, the building played an important role in the development of the economy in New South Wales during the 1920s. The building was constructed between 1925 and 1928 and is one of the most important examples of its style and type within New South Wales and Australia. 48 Martin Place is one of the finest banking institutions in Australia and the finest in New South Wales. The cultural significance of 48 Martin Place and its setting will be maintained through its association with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (Tanner & Associates Pty Ltd, 2000).
Date significance updated: 06 Jul 00
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: 48 Martin Place - Ross & Rowe Architects and Consulting Engineers; Primary Structure - A.S. McDonald
Builder/Maker: Concrete Constructions; Melocco Brothers (scagliola, marble, terrazzo); J. Ashwin&Co.(stained glass)
Construction years: 1925-1928
Physical description: The Commonwealth Bank building fronts Martin Place on the south, Elizabeth Street on the east and Castlereagh Street on the west. The building is an extensive eleven-storey structure plus mezzanine above ground, with three basement levels. Externally the building displays monumental civic scale and precise, symmetrical detailing utilising classical motifs. The Classic inspiration for the building is evident in the columns used on the exterior:

- Ionic columns on the Martin Place faade,
- Corinthian columns framing the balcony doors, and
- Doric columns on the roof.

The great Ionic columns on the Martin Place faade unite the six central floors, with the remaining floors serving as base and frieze. Above the base storey, strongly expressed with red granite facing, the cladding is pink terracotta blocks arranged in small tessellated effect. Terracotta cladding is also used on the Martin Place columns. At the upper levels, ornate terracotta detailing is included on the cornice, entablature and pilaster capitals. At roof level, the building has a Classical attic storey and dentilated cornice.

48 Martin Place has tremendous civic presence, portraying an image of massive solidity. The rich colour of the facade materials makes the Bank a most eminent landmark amongst its neighbours. It is a magnificent example of Beaux-Arts revivalist architecture, and a visual and technical masterpiece. The style was used to express the wealth and stability of financial institutions emphasising the qualities of:

- a monumental scale expressed by giant order;
- symmetry and the sculptural treatment of the facades;
- comprehensive use of classical motifs and details (both externally and internally);
- up-to-date structural techniques allowing expansive rooms; and
- high quality materials and finishes.

Extensive conservation works have restored the principal public areas to near original condition internally. The Banking Chamber, Grand Hall and Safe Deposit area are impressive in scale and detailing and form a sequence of grand interiors.

The Banking Chamber is detailed in an extravagant neo-Classical style, displaying substantial use of marble, and scagliola on tremendous stylised columns. The banking staff occupy the central space, which features marble, bronze and glass partitions. The main entrance is from Martin Place with access available from both Castlereagh and Elizabeth Streets, and also at the northern end of the building, between the Grand Hall and the Banking Chamber. The lofty ceiling is coffered and treated in a decorative manner, achieved by use of Wunderlich pressed metal panels fixed to the concrete slab. The arrangement had been detailed to give efficient and reflected light. Large bronze lamps supply artificial light reflected off the ceiling, providing diffused general lighting.

The Grand Hall forms a pedestrian way between Castlereagh and Elizabeth Streets. A ribbed barrel dome, embellished with mosaics and stained glass panels depicting prosperous Australian industries at the time of construction, surmounts the passage. Located centrally within the Hall is the Grand Stair, a wide marble staircase with bronze grille balustrade and Queensland maple handrail. The stair converges centrally at the Government Savings Bank's Memorial Window and Tablet located on the northern-most wall. Walls of marble and the sumptuous detail create a remarkable architectural space.

The Safe Deposit area in the basement level is remarkably intact. Great barrel domes create a magnificent groined ceiling of three bays supported by marble pilasters. The ceilings are decorative, and brass pendant lights hang from the centre of each dome. Mosaic spandrels above marble walls are framed by the ceiling vaults and depict wreaths and festoons in rich green and red against a neutral setting. The whole is framed by a green and red leaf and berry motif on deep yellow mosaic tiles. The floors are white marble with decorative black border tiles.

While the lettable office space on the upper floors has been extensively altered, the stairways connecting the upper floors are largely intact. The stairs within the chambers are terrazzo, and balustrades are bronze with timber handrails. Original timber framed hydrant covers with frosted glazed panels and timber and brass mail chutes, no longer in use, have been retained within the stair chambers, along with the floor levels detailed in decorative tiles on the walls. Windows with deep reveals are located at each level of the stair chambers. (Tanner & Associates Pty Ltd, 2000)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is excellent. Archaeological potential is low.
Date condition updated:06 Jul 00
Modifications and dates: Modifications 1928-1984
The building had no major building construction since completion in 1928. The major changes that had occurred in the building since its construction until 1984 are listed below:
- Mechanical Ventilation: Wall fans installed throughout the building. Packaged air conditioning units installed in many areas including the Banking Chamber.
- Lifts: Original lift cars and doors replaced. Marble door reveals concealed by new door frames.
- Banking Chamber: Several major changes were evident in 1984:
- Glazed lantern covered over by ceiling tiles. Glass roof replaced with corrugated steel sheeting.
- Ceiling bays covered over by ceiling tiles. Decoration painted out.
- Original lights removed from all but the perimeter zone.
- Grilles removed from all arched windows.
- Air conditioning units installed on the floor within the work area.
- Original inner entrance doors removed from the Martin Place vestibule.
- Grand Hall: Original decoration painted over and light fittings removed. Stair nosings replaced with terrazzo. Smoke ventilation system installed in the 1960s, glass roof removed and concrete slab installed.
- Office Floors: Tiled terracotta partitions removed from most areas. Original light fittings removed, and extensive surface wiring and fluorescent light fittings installed.
- Central and Northern Lightwells: White tiles removed from the walls. Glass lanterns at the base of both wells removed and framing covered.
- Level 2 Offices: Minor changes include partitioning of the original Boardroom. Original light fittings replaced.
- Level 4 Offices: Suspended ceiling installed over new services and ductwork. Tiles removed and walls rendered.
- Level 9: Caretaker’s flat, dining room, kitchen and professional offices removed.
- Roof: Timber buildings introduced during World War 2. Cooling towers added to serve the Banking Chamber and Level 4.
Modifications 1984-1990
A synopsis of the extensive conservation works undertaken throughout 1984-1990 is provided below:
- Façade Restoration: Hand-cleaning of the terracotta and granite, removal of masons putty and re-pointing.
- Windows: All windows replaced with new welded brass units (subsequently bronzed). Original decorative copper and brass components removed, restored and replaced in their original positions. Internal window frames of Queensland maple restored.
- Scagliola: New wall panels of scagliola introduced and original panels removed, restored and installed in new locations due to the relocation of the lifts. Scagliola applied to columns was stabilised using epoxy injected with fine hypodermic needles into deteriorated areas. Walls were hand-cleaned in-situ.
- Marble and Lift Services: Original existing marble was cleaned and repolished, and relocated in some areas, for example in the north-west lift lobby to accommodate a new lift. Both north-west and north-east lift lobby areas modified by the introduction of new shafts and developed with new marble (from local and overseas sources) to match the existing. Fire stairs and new service ducts introduced while maintaining and protecting the adjacent original fabric.
- Metalwork: Original metalwork elements including the decorative external spandrel units, Banking Chamber entablature, the balustrades, perimeter lamps and writing slopes within the Banking Chamber, external lamps adjacent the Martin Place entrance and entrance doors were removed, stripped to base metal, repaired and straightened, coloured (bronzed) and reinstalled.
- Paintwork: Decorative paintwork to match original colour schemes was newly applied to the ceiling of the Banking Chamber, the Grand Hall vaulted ribs, ceilings of the lift lobbies, the Safe Deposit Public lobby and Vault lobby and the restored original Boardroom.
- Asbestos: Asbestos removed from the ceiling spaces, floors, voids and from behind the decorative metal curtain wall panels.
- Services: Extensive new services introduced into the building, with central facilities housed in new roof buildings integrated with the original towers and colonnades. Existing roof towers restored for reuse as service towers in accordance with the original intention.
- Levels 2 & 3: Original Executive offices (Level 2) restored. Original panelling, doors and hardware on Levels 2 and 3 restored for reuse.
- Banking Chamber and Grand Hall: Banking Chamber and Grand Hall restored and adapted for contemporary banking facilities and creation of a new Foyer for the Head Office by modification of the rear counter line (reducing the counter by one full bay). Works included the restoration of the Martin Place rising bronze door and the renewal of the hydraulic system and controls, the introduction of new stairs leading to the Safe Deposit Vault and installation of bronze lights, reconstructed to match the original perimeter lights within the ceiling bays.
- Safe Deposit and Basement: Safe Deposit areas were largely preserved. A new 32 vehicle carpark was installed, accessed from the Castlereagh Street side of the upper and lower basements with a loading and servicing facility introduced.
- Atrium: Original central lightwell adapted to form an atrium extending from the roof to a garden at Level 2, where the floor has been infilled. The concrete frame was clad in polished granite, with white Carrara marble floors, and the space glazed at roof level.
- Office Floors: The large (1850m2) office floors were modified for modern office use by introduction of air conditioning, suspended ceilings, sprinklers, extensive electrical and communication services. New plant rooms, switch rooms, toilets, tea rooms and fire stairs installed. Original Queensland maple architraves restored.
- Disabled Access: Disabled access provided within a new entrance at Elizabeth Street via a ramp leading to the north-east lift lobby. Disabled toilet facilities provided on levels 1, 3 and 9.
Current use: Bank and offices
Former use: Aboriginal land, town lot, Public Bank and Commercial Offices

History

Historical notes: 1920-1928
The successful growth and development of the Government Savings Bank of NSW over several decades necessitated relocating the operation to larger premises capable of not only accommodating the current requirements but also future ones. Between November 29, 1920 and September 21, 1921 the Commissioners of the Bank purchased five adjoining strips of land (comprising seven properties) between Castlereagh and Elizabeth Streets. The properties had frontages of 280 feet to both streets and a total cost of 298,500 pounds.

The eventual dimensions of the amalgamated site were 45 metres to Martin Place on the south, 59 metres to Elizabeth Street on the east and 63 metres to Castlereagh Street on the west. In addition to its potential for development at the required scale, the site was undoubtedly favoured for its proximity to an established civic district and central location amidst the emerging retail and financial districts of the City following World War I.

It was during the Bank's administration of W. H. O'Malley Wood (President) and H. D. Hall and J. H. Davies (Commissioners) that 48 Martin Place was erected. During a ceremony on March 13, 1922, three foundation stones for the building were laid by:
The Hon. James Dooley MLA - Premier of New South Wales
The Hon. J. T. Lang MLA - Colonial Treasurer
Mr O'Malley Wood - President of the Bank

Construction eventually commenced in February 1925 and 48 Martin Place was completed late in 1928, to be officially opened by the Premier of New South Wales, the Hon, T. R. Bavin, on December 13 of that year. The roof provided panoramic views over the harbour and the city in 1928, and the whole building symbolised the optimism and forward thinking of the 1920s prior to the great Depression, in addition to the prestige, security and strength of the Bank. The location, size and grandeur of the building confirmed a belief in the stability and endurance of the Australian economy in general, and the distinguished place of New South Wales in that development in particular.

At the time of its construction, the building was the most expensive in Australia, having been constructed at a cost of 1,500,000 pounds.

The building was acquired by the Commonwealth Bank in 1932 who occupied the building until its sale to the Macquarie Group in 2009 (TKD Architects, 1/11/2017).

1980-1990
Recognising the importance of 48 Martin Place, the Commonwealth Bank commissioned Australian Construction Services late in 1980 to develop proposals for the conservation and upgrading of the building. Various building elements, in particular the facade, were examined over several subsequent years. Research also included the removal of one window of each type from the south-east corner of the building to investigate the method of detailing and the condition of the metal and working mechanisms.

Following the relocation of the Commonwealth Taxation Department in 1983, who had occupied the floors above the Banking Chamber since the 1930s, the Commonwealth Bank took the opportunity to engage in a major restoration project for this notable City property. After a series of feasibility and design studies were undertaken by Australian Construction Services, with input from Mr Peter Freeman of the Australian Heritage Commission, the Commonwealth Bank decided, in early 1984, to make 48 Martin Place Head Office for the organisation.
The restoration programme was undertaken in three stages between 1984 and 1990:
Stage One: Internal demolitions, scaffolding and hoarding, and asbestos removal;
Stage Two: Major works of restoration, reconstruction and refurbishment, internal construction and services installation;
Stage Three: Final interior fitout and finishing (Tanner & Associates Pty Ltd, 2000).

The Commonwealth Bank sold the building to the Macquarie Group in 2009 (TKD Architects, 1/11/2017).

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)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Banking-
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 Significant Places How are significant places marked in the landscape by, or for, different groups-Monuments and Sites
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 Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Building settlements, towns and cities-National Theme 4
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Adapted heritage building or structure-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Architectural design-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Townships-
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 Subdivision of urban estates-
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 Suburban Consolidation-
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 Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages main street-
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 Creating landmark structures and places in urban settings-
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 Urban landscapes inspiring creative responses-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour (none)-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in offices-
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. State government-
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. Federal Government-
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. Developing cultural institutions and ways of life-National Theme 8
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. Adaptation of overseas design for local use-
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 - Interwar Commercial Palazzo-
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 - Federation Academic Classical-
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. Creating works of art-
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. Designing in an exemplary architectural style-
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 - Interwar Classical-
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. Interior design styles and periods - Inter War-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Ross and Rowe, architects-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with A.S. McDonald, engineer-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with the Hon. James Dooley MLA, NSW Premier-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with the Hon. J.T. (Jack) Lang MLA, NSW Treasurer, Premier-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with O'Malley Wood, President, Government Savings Bank of NSW-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with the Hon. T.R. Bavin, NSW Premier-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with the Melocco Brothers, terrazzo, scagliola, marble, mosaic specialists-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with J. Ashwin and Co., stained glass product manufacturer-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The building at 48 Martin Place represents the importance of the savings bank movement established in New South Wales (Campbell’s Bank 1819), which founded the pattern for the other Colonies, and of which both the Government Savings Bank and the Commonwealth Bank were successors.

48 Martin Place is associated with prosperous industries within New South Wales at the time of its construction. Stained glass panels within the Grand Hall depict the ‘basic sources of wealth’ as they were seen in the 1920s, which were ultimately connected to banking.

The Government Savings Bank promoted thrift, playing an important role as the 'People’s Bank' for the average citizen who could deposit small sums and gain interest, including children via school savings accounts. The institution operated a wide network of offices and branches throughout suburban and rural New South Wales.

The Government Savings Bank is directly associated with much of the suburban development of the 1920s in New South Wales by providing home loans through the Advances for Homes Department. This assisted subsequent prosperity within the building industry and associated services.

In 1931, the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was the largest savings bank within Australia and the second largest in the British Empire.

The distinguished location, scale and majestic style of the new Head Office signified the optimism and confidence of the 1920s following World War I, the belief in the stability and endurance of the Australian economy and the pre-eminence of the Sydney CBD financial centre.

The project instigated by the President and Commissioners of the Government Savings Bank was remarkable in scale and cost, providing a considerable boost to employment and the building trade in NSW in the 1920s.

The building is associated with the emergence in the 1920s of large construction companies.

The project was instrumental in the expansion of Wunderlich within New South Wales, who effectively established a new Australian industry for the creation of terracotta blocks.

The Government Savings Bank was directly associated with critical political and financial events of the Depression period.

As a major financial institution representing small investors, the collapse of the Government Savings Bank in 1931 had a devastating effect upon the lives of ordinary citizens.

The Bank was a significant and conspicuous casualty of the conflict between Federal and State governments over economic policies to relieve the Depression. The closure contributed to division within the Labor party that was brought about by the contentious policies of the New South Wales Labor government under J. T. Lang’s Premiership.

The collapse represented a crucial loss of confidence at a critical time in the Depression that was encouraged by media reports. Loss of confidence also arose from the dispute between Federal and State Labor governments and general fear of the policies instigated by NSW Premier Jack Lang.

Establishment of the Commonwealth Bank is associated with the philosophy of the Federal Labor government prior to World War I for state control of banking.

48 Martin Place has been consistently used as a financial centre and public banking facility, and continues to provide evidence of its associations.

The restoration of the Bank between 1984 and 1990 was a significant conservation project by an important government institution, reflecting the prosperity and confidence of the banking industry during the 1980s.

48 Martin Place represents an important conservation project, enabling the revival of several trades and skills associated with the heritage industry. The building represents the ability of older buildings to maintain original functions at a time of major institutional and technological change in banking.

The intactness of the original Bank building retains the ability to demonstrate the original customer service procedures and the hierarchy of the management structure. Many such features were preserved during the restoration.

48 Martin Place is an excellent example of the continuing American influence on the design of large commercial buildings in Sydney and contains many features of turn-of-the-century American financial institutions. The direct contact with American architecture is significant.

The building was commissioned by the first president of the Government Savings Bank of NSW at 48 Martin Place, W. H. O’Malley-Wood, and Commissioners H. D. Hall and J. H. Davies.

The building is associated with political figures James Dooley (former Premier of NSW) and J. T. Lang (former Colonial Treasurer), who along with O’Malley-Wood laid the foundation stones in 1922.

48 Martin Place represents the finest work of the significant architectural and engineering firm of H. E. Ross and Rowe. The surviving comprehensive documentary record of the original sketch, design and construction drawings enhances the importance of this association.

48 Martin Place represents a building constructed within the final phase of use of the combined skills of architecture and engineering within the architectural profession.

The building was directly associated with the firm after completion when Ross and Rowe moved their practice into the building. (Tanner & Associates Pty Ltd, 2000)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
48 Martin Place is a magnificent example of Beaux-Arts revivalist architecture - a visual and technical masterpiece.

The building is aesthetically distinguished. The façade materials are detailed in rich colours that make the building distinctive amongst the significant streetscape of Martin Place. In particular, the terracotta is aesthetically distinguished not least because of its contrast to the traditional masonry materials of the surrounding buildings. The roofscape has been designed to integrate service elements with the neo-Classical design of the remainder of the building, with respect for the high visibility of the roof. Internally, the extensive use of Australian marbles and scagliola provide rich appeal. The building reflects the materials and wealth of natural resources available within NSW and Australia at the time of its construction.

48 Martin Place displays high quality craftsmanship and high quality materials throughout.

The building displays tremendous civic presence through its monumentality and consistent use of classical motifs. It is prominently located over the width of an important city block. (Tanner & Associates Pty Ltd, 2000)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Commonwealth Bank is an important financial institution and Sydney has been the National Headquarters since 1913. 48 Martin Place was originally constructed as a Head Office (for the Government Savings Bank of NSW) and is significant now as the Head Office for the Commonwealth Bank, an institution of national importance. In 1990, operations were relocated from 120 Pitt Street, the original Head Office.

48 Martin Place provides evidence of the significance of banking to the community, especially in a government and business sense. The building was designed to represent the status of banking institutions in the public esteem through the instruments of government and politics, and reflected the stability and confidence of the era which were considered as an important part of banking. While the building itself remains a symbol and the importance of banking is still acknowledged, current community values and the regard for politics and large institutions in general have changed.

The Martin Place Executive offices on Level 2 were designed for and originally occupied by the Commissioners and the Senior Executive Officers. The prestige of their design and location is directly connected with people who hold authority within the Bank. Social significance can be attributed to these rooms as they continue to be used by Senior Executives. (Tanner & Associates Pty Ltd, 2000)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The building demonstrates superior technical accomplishment, utilising innovative and unique design and engineering features and technical innovations, including the use of terracotta blocks as permanent formwork over a majority of the façade.

The Martin Place entry doors display significant technical innovation, being hydraulically operated vertical action doors housed in special cavities in the basement.

The mechanical fire escape operating from Level 1 and incorporating a false sill and keystone is the only known example within Australia. The physical evidence of the mechanical fire escape, albeit retained in a non-working state, provides a major source of information.

The main Safe Deposit Vault door and small-scale emergency doors employed the most up-to-date technology of the time, and have not required replacement since their installation. The technology extended to the treatment of the retracting floor around the main door, used to allow the door to swing freely for opening and closing, and also to keep it in place during the Bank’s operating hours.

The reinforced concrete frame was a large-scale concrete structure used relatively early within Australia.

The strong rooms located within the columns display a significant degree of technical innovation.

48 Martin Place has strong associations with creative achievement within Australia and the building has lost little of its design and technical integrity. The visual/sensory appeal and landmark/scenic qualities remain as strong as they were initially.

48 Martin Place is a well documented and researched building. In addition to the original drawings, a remarkable surviving source of information, much of the research potential was investigated and recorded in the recent conservation work (1984-1990). Considering the thoroughness of the previous conservation work, the building is unlikely to yield additional information. (Tanner & Associates Pty Ltd, 2000)
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Beaux-Arts style is rare in Australia, with no identifiable distribution pattern evident, and the building exhibits uncommonly rich detailing and unique use of materials.

48 Martin Place is a rare example of an early 20th century financial institution within the country, remarkable in its setting within the Martin Place streetscape and in exceptional condition.

The technique of using façade terracotta as formwork and also special features such as the mechanical fire stair and Martin Place hydraulic door are rare within Australia. (Tanner & Associates Pty Ltd, 2000)
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:

Recommendations

Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementReview a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsement48 Martin Place CMP CMP conditionally endorsed by Heritage Council 15 May 2001. May 15 2001
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
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions ORDER UNDER SECTION 57(2)
TO GRANT SITE-SPECIFIC EXEMPTIONS FROM APPROVAL

Commonwealth Bank

SHR No. 01427

I, the Minister for Heritage, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, in pursuance of section 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, do, by this my order, grant an exemption from section 57(1) of that Act in respect of the engaging in or carrying out of any activities described in Schedule C by the owner, described in Schedule B on the item described in Schedule A.

The Hon Mark Speakman SC MP
Minister for Heritage


Sydney, 11th Day of November 2016


SCHEDULE A

The item known as the Commonwealth Bank, situated on the land described in Schedule B.

SCHEDULE B

All those pieces or parcels of land known as Lot 1 DP 182023 in Parish of St James, County of Cumberland shown on the plan catalogued HC 2991 in the office of the Heritage Council of New South Wales.

SCHEDULE C

1.Internal fit out works to non-significant spaces and fabric post-1980 located within the office areas on Levels 1-9 (excluding the atrium and Level 2 historic meeting rooms)
(a)Fit out works to the interior of the building including replacement of
non-original floor coverings;
(b)Removal, relocation or modification of existing partitions;
(c)Installation of new partitions;
(d)Removal, addition or modification of existing workstations and
non-significant joinery;
(e)Installation of new workstations and joinery;
(f)Minor modification of lighting, mechanical services and essential fire services to insert internal layout changes;
(g)Relocation, removal or modification of existing data and power cabling and audio visual equipment;
(h)Installation of new data and power cabling and audio visual equipment;
(i)Modifications to existing raised access flooring; and
(j)Removal or relocation of existing artwork and signage.

Provided that the works are:
(i)Located within the office areas on levels 1-9, excluding the atrium, areas of original pressed metal ceilings on Level 1 and the historic meeting rooms on Level 2;
(ii)Are reversible with minimal physical impact on significant fabric;
(iii)Do not obscure significant door and window architraves; and
(iv)Do not obscure windows to the perimeter walls.

2.Interior painting of non-significant spaces
Repainting of previously painted walls (in the same or different colour scheme) within the office areas on levels 1-9, excluding the atrium, and the historic meeting rooms at level 2.
Jan 13 2017

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0142717 Nov 00 15011885
Local Environmental PlanSydney City LEP 2012 itemI189504 Dec 12   
National Trust of Australia register      
Register of the National Estate 641422 Nov 76   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Commerce Walking Tour View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Commerce Walking Tour View detail
Management Plan (HC endorsed)Tanner & Associates Pty Ltd2000Conservation Management Plan - Commonwealth Bank, 48 Martin Place, Sydney 48 Martin Place, Sydney Under review
WrittenTanner & Associates Pty Ltd2000State Heritage Inventory form

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: 5045790
File number: S90/03730; EF14/5374


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