Queen Victoria Building | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Queen Victoria Building

Item details

Name of item: Queen Victoria Building
Other name/s: Central Market, QVB
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Market building
Location: Lat: -33.8718214803 Long: 151.2066977660
Primary address: 429-481 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Parish: St Andrew
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP811077
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
429-481 George StreetSydneySydneySt AndrewCumberlandPrimary Address
Market StreetSydneySydney  Alternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
City of SydneyLocal Government 

Statement of significance:

The Queen Victoria Building is an outstanding example of the grand retail buildings from the Victorian-Federation era in Australia, which has no known equal in Australia in its architectural style, scale, level of detailing and craftsmanship. Saved from demolition in the 1980s, and restored to its original glory, the Queen Victoria Building is an iconic heritage building of Sydney and Australia.

Dating from 1898, the Queen Victoria Building represents Australia's largest and grandest Victorian arcade, as well as the largest, most monumental and most intact of the market buildings of Sydney City. The site of the Queen Victoria Building has continued to operate as a market facility for over 190 years, which is a significant historical continuum.

The Queen Victoria Building is a superb example of the Federation Romanesque style, also known as the American Romanesque style and a continuation of the Victorian Romanesque style. It represents possibly the largest and finest example of the American Romanesque style to be constructed in Australia, demonstrating the influence of the prominent 19th Century American architect, Henry Hobson Richardson, in Australia during this period. The building expresses an ambitious use of building technology, excellent craftsmanship and decorative detailing. Both the building exteriors and interiors are remarkable and outstanding for their quality, workmanship, materials, richness, imagery and style. The Queen Victoria Building also represents an important building in the professional work of the prominent City Architect, George McRae (later, the NSW Government architect) and has an outstanding ability to reflect through its aesthetics and scale, the planning strategies of the City Architect for Sydney during the late 19th Century.

The Queen Victoria Building represents an important shift in heritage consciousness in Sydney during the 1980s because of the public outcry that brought about its conservation and, in particular, the historical restoration approach taken for its refurbishment. It also reflects, through its building development concessions, the importance of heritage conservation in more recent government strategies. At the time of its restoration by the 1980s, few original internal features remained such as some column capitals, trachyte stairs and some tessellated tiles surfaces. The present interiors of the building demonstrate an interpretive reconstruction from the 1980s intended to recreate the imagery of a grand Victorian style arcade with considerable concessions made to ensure the place was commercially viable as an ongoing retail shopping centre.

The Queen Victoria Building is a major landmark of Sydney, occupying a full city block, allowing it to be viewed in the round, and forming a major pedestrian link of Sydney City, both at ground level and underground. It makes a significant contribution to the streetscape of the four main streets of the City centre that encircle the building. The building also forms one of the precinct of three key Victorian buildings exemplifying ecclesiastical, government and commercial architecture in Sydney, together with St Andrews Cathedral and Sydney Town Hall. The Queen Victoria Building and these Victorian buildings have a strong presence as the centre of Sydney City.

(SCC, NT, CMP, HO)
Date significance updated: 06 Oct 09
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: George McRae, City Architect
Builder/Maker: Builder/ maker Edwin & Henry Phippard
Construction years: 1893-1898
Physical description: Building:
Designed to fit an entire city block, it is 180m long, 30m wide (Maddox, 2018, 8).
A landmark grand Victorian retail arcade of three storeys, with sandstone clad walls and copper domes, designed in the Federation Romanesque style, dating from 1893-1898. Apart from the ground floor the facade is basically unaltered, being composite Romanesque and Byzantine style on a grand scale to a large city block (NTA).

Constructed of brickwork and concrete with steel roof structure and the exterior faced in Sydney freestone (NTA).

Dome:
The dominant feature is the great central dome of 62 feet in diameter and 196 feet from ground to top of cupola and is sheeted externally in copper, as are the 20 smaller domes (NTA).
There are infact two domes in one - a stained glass inner dome visible from the shopping arcade floors inside, and then an outer larger wooden-framed copper-clad dome above it (Maddox, 2018, 8).

The building consists of basement, ground and two main upper floors with additional levels in the end pavilions (NTA).

The ground floor slopes towards George Street 'partly because at the end of each day they would wash down the market floor and waste and debris would flow onto the street' said City Historian, Laila Ellmoos (Maddox, 2018, 8).

Tea Room:
On the building's first floor at the northern end is a double-height room now used for serving elaborate afternoon teas (ibid. 2018).

Royal Clock:
Featuring animated scenes from history including the comical beheading of King Charles 1 (ibid, 2018).

Piano:
A piano that shoppers can play is a popular feature on the ground floor (ibid, 2018).

Train Sets in the HobbyCo. Window (ibid, 2018)

Royal Dog 'Islay':
with a voice based on radio DJ John Laws (ibid, 2018)

Queen Victoria Statue:
Localed on a plinth in the plaza to the building's southern facade, towards Druitt Street and Sydney Town Hall):
Bronze statue made by John Hughes in 1908. Transported from Dublin, Ireland to Sydney by sea in 1986, restored and officially unveiled in December 1987 (ibid, 2018).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The exterior facades above the awning line are largely intact but heavily conserved. For example, the drum of the dome is of rendered concrete painted to resemble stone and the small cupolas adorning the parapet are of fibre glass construction painted to resemble copper. Below the awnings, shopfronts have been interpretively reconstructed. Externally, the building is in good condition.

Internally some historic fabric remains. However due to wide scale destruction in the past the interiors, which were constructed between 1982-1986, are largely an interpretive reconstruction as opposed to an accurate reconstruction. While some original features and fabric remains, the 1986 "restoration" approach intended to recreate the imagery of a grand Victorian style arcade with considerable concessions made to ensure the place was commercially viable as a retail shopping centre.

The interior has been modified with the installation of contemporary shopfronts, new interior signage, a new contemporary internal colour scheme, new internal lighting, BCA compliant glass and metal balustrades, new floor finishes, reconstruction of ground floor steel entrance gates and selective bathroom upgrades. The recent conservation and refurbishment approach has aimed to clarify the legibility between historic fabric and new fabric. A new vertical escalator system in both the north and south galleries has also been installed. Internally, the building is in good condition.

(GBA 2009)
Date condition updated:16 Feb 04
Modifications and dates: 1893 Construction commences.
1898 Opening of the building.
1917 Major internal alterations including enclosing ground floor, reduction in void sizes, alterations to vertical transport systems and major increase in lettable floor spaces.
1935 Major internal alterations as building is converted to Local Government office space and facilities with shops to external street frontages, removal of most internal decorative elements including glass domes, Art Deco faade added to George Street.
1982-1986 Major conservation and refurbishment of building, returned to use as retail complex.
2006-2009 Major internal conservation of facades and internal refurbishment including new colour scheme, new escalators to north and south void, new signage, balustrades, lighting and shopfronts.
Current use: Retail and restaurant complex
Former use: Aboriginal land, Market, Commercial Offices, Local Government Offices and Facilities, Retail

History

Historical notes: The Queen Victoria Building was designed by City Architect George McRae as Sydney's central market, and constructed between 1893 and 1898. It was named in honour of Queen Victoria in celebration of Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The site, an entire city block, had previously been occupied by a produce market and the Central Police Court. These uses ceased in 1891 and the land was purchased by Sydney City Council (SCC). McRae submitted four proposals for the building.

The building cost (pounds) 374,000 to build (Maddox, 2018, 8).

The Australasian Builder and Contractors' News described the designs in July 1893 as "scholarly Renaissance", "picturesque Queen Anne", "classic Gothic" and "American Romanesque". The style chosen was the latter and the foundation stone was laid in December 1893 by the Mayor, Sir William Manning. This foundation stone was a five-tonne block of granite, levered and lowered into position at the corner of George and Druitt Streets. The ceremony was the first of a series in which successive mayors laid stones and plaques to mark the progress of construction. The building was notable for its employment in the expansive barrel-form roof of engineering systems which were very advanced at the time of construction.

McRae is considered by architectural historians to have been one of the leading protagonists of the new construction methods and materials which were then beginning to break down the conservatism of building techniques. In achieving the strength and space of the building McRae used steel, iron, concrete, reinforcing, machine-made bricks, glass, imported tiles, fire-proofing, riveting and hydraulics on an unprecedented scale. The huge building was finally completed and opened with great ceremony on Mayor Matthew Harris on 21 July 1898. In a lavish ceremony, Alderman Harris said that the building was intended to be more than a municipal market. With judicious management, he said "a marvellous centre of trade will be established here." (SCC)

The original concept was for an internal shopping street 611 feet long with two levels of shops on either side. In 1917 and 1935 alterations converted the interior to office space with shops to the external street frontages. (NT)

In the first few decades the QVB had the atmosphere of an oriental bazaar, and the earliest tenants conducted a mixture of commerce, crafts and skills. There were shops, studios, offices and workrooms for some two hundred traders, dealers and artisans. Housed within the upper galleries were more studious and scholarly tenancies, such as bookshops, sheet music shops, piano-sellers and piano-tuners, as well as the salons of private teachers of music, dancing, singing, elocution, painting, sculpting, drawing and dressmaking. There were also more decorous sports including a billiards saloon, a gymnasium for ladies and a table tennis hall.

The building was heavily criticised in the early years of its operation due to its poor financial return. Original real estate advice indicated the building could pay for itself from rents received, within thirty years. The first few years were slow. In 1898 only 47 out of about 200 available spaces were tenanted. This improved by the following year with another 20 tenants joining the list. By 1905, there were 150 tenants, but it was not until 1917 that the building was reaching its maxim tenancy rate. Up until that time there was a continual shortfall between the costs to Council and the rents received and Council was constantly looking at ways of improving its return.

A remodelling scheme was finally adopted by Council in May 1917. McLeod Brothers were awarded the contract for the work in June 1917 at a cost of (Pounds)40,944. The following alterations were undertaken:

* Removal of posted awning and replacement with a modern cantilevered awning with a lined soffit.
* Removal of the internal arcade on the ground floor producing shops running continuously from George to York Street.
* The gallery space was extended on the first floor reducing the void space and the remaining void covered over with a coloured leadlight ceiling (indicated on the drawings as lanterns) so that some light was available to the centre of the ground floor shops.
* The tiled floor was covered with concrete and timber obliterating the circular pavement lights.
* Removal of the entrance from Druitt Street to create one large shop with frontages to three streets.
* A new entrance was cut into the York Street side, to provide an entrance to the stairs and lift at the Druitt Street end of the building.
* New shopfronts were provided to the George Street facade. This work involved boxing in the trachyte columns behind showcases. The line of the shopfronts was extended out past the line of columns and a new marble and plate glass shopfront installed. Leaded glass panels were installed above the transom line, below the awning. The original coloured glass highlight panels were removed and clear glass panels in steel frames installed. The stall-board lights under the shopfronts were also removed, but some new pavement lights were installed to compensate.
* The original timber and glass shopfronts along George Street were re-erected to the shops in York Street providing additional street entrances from York Street, as the market activity in the basement no longer continued.
* New bathroom facilities were provided on a new mezzanine level along York Street.
* One passenger lift in the southern lift core was cut out and a new stair to the basement level installed.
* One lift in the northern stair lobby was cut out and the lift removed.
* A new goods lift was inserted near the central entrance on the York Street side.
* The void space under the central dome was infilled with a new passenger lift.
* Two of the cart lifts to the basement along York Street were removed and the resultant space formed into shops
* The galleries on the first and second floors were cantilevered seven feet out into the void space and the shopfronts moved forward seven feet to increase the available floor space in the tenancies.
* The first floor void area above the entrance at the Druitt Street entrance was formed into a room by inserting a new floor.
* The small passage serving the rooms along the first and second floor, at the Druitt Street end was removed increasing the floor space.
* The existing Concert Hall with a height of 42 feet was remodelled with two new floors inserted into the grand space providing three levels to provide space for the city library.

These alterations in the name of economy and increased floor space destroyed much of the magnificent interior spaces and character of the building. The ground floor arcade was obliterated, the light quality in the basement reduced, the southern entry devalued and the internal voids and galleries reduced and devalued. The alterations were undertaken to remove what Council saw as, 'inherent flaws', in what its Victorian creators considered, an architectural triumph. One of the disturbing aspects of these radical alterations was that now that the building's internal character had been violated and devalued, there was little resistance to further alterations.

The building continued to incur losses and by 1933 the accumulated debt was announced as (Pounds)500,000. No major alterations occurred between 1918 and 1934, but many small alterations to the individual shops such as new partitions, fitouts, and mezzanines were continually taking place.

By the mid 1930s the depression was receding, employment growing, building and business reviving. Time had come to rework the building to further reduce the debt and hopefully return a profit. The Council decided to move its rapidly expanding Electricity Department out of the Town Hall and relocate it in the QVB.

In December 1933, Council voted to approve a major proposal to alter the Queen Victoria Building to suit the requirements of the Electricity Department. Approval was also given to invite tenders for the work. The majority of the work was confined to the central and northern section of the building. Essentially this scheme was to convert the interior to a general office space and install floors in what remained of the Grand Victorian internal spaces. The work costing (Pounds)125,000 was completed by 1935 and included the following changes:

* Shopfronts along George Street were removed and replaced with a new Art Deco facade with 'stay bright' steel mouldings, plate glass windows and black glass facing panels.
* To the York Street facade, new plate glass shopfronts were added with terra cotta tiles over the trachyte columns and remaining areas.
* A new Art Deco fascia and soffit to the cantilevered awning along George Street.
* The passenger lift was removed from the central void under the main dome and the floor infilled to create more floor space and a counter.
* Removal of the glass inner dome under the main dome and infilling with a new concrete floor to provide space for a new air conditioning plant.
* Removal of both of the grand staircases below the central dome to provide a central vestibule, air conditioning plant and locker rooms.
* Infilling of the void to the first floor, northern end, to provide additional floor space.
* Installation of a suspended ceiling under the main glass roof and cladding the glass roof with corrugated iron.
* The existing ground floor level was altered by inserting a new reinforced concrete floor over the existing with a series of steps to provide a level floor addressing each street level.
* Almost all decorative elements, features and mouldings were removed from the interior.
* New suspended ceilings and lighting to all other office spaces with ducted air conditioning services supplied.
* Removal of some of the spiral staircases.

Many of the shops at ground floor level in the southern part of the building were retained although they received new shopfronts in line with the updated Art Deco image. The library in the northern area was retained with no new major alterations. The basement was subject to various alterations such as new concrete stairs, timber framed mezzanines and some new plant equipment, but the long term tenants remained in the basement ensuring little need for alterations.

These extensive alterations attracted little public comment at the time. They were accepted within the name of progress as a necessary solution. It is fortunate that the majority of the facade fabric was not altered above the awning line. Perhaps the strength of the architectural image was too strong even for the most practical minded official. An enduring quality the building has always retained is in its ability to change without loosing its external imagery and architectural strength as an element in the city. Up until the early 1970s the building became the home of the SCC and much of its identity in the city was based on this use even though the external envelope had not changed.

The occupancy by the SCC did however provide some security for the building by providing a constant income base. The SCC undertook continual changes to the building, some being significant alterations but the majority were minor such as new partitions, showrooms and fitouts. For example in the thirty years between 1936 and 1966 a total of 79 separate building applications were lodged with the City Council by the SCC. There is little evidence that any of this work, which was basically related to functional uses and the needs of occupants, proceeded with any concern for the architectural strengths of the building.

Proposals for demolition of the building gained strength by the late 1950s in a city eager to modernise and grow rapidly. The post war boom was in full swing and business confidence high. In 1959, Lord Mayor Jensen suggested a scheme demolishing the QVB and replacing it with a public square. Revenue from a badly needed underground carpark would pay for the demolition of the QVB and construction of the square. This scheme gained much support both from the public and the design professions in general. Jensen further suggested an international design competition similar to the competition for the Opera House site and won much support for the idea.

Architect Harry Seidler called the QVB 'an architectural monstrosity'. Opponents of demolition included Barry Humphries, who penned a poem that read 'How we hate all that sandstone as golden/As obselete guineas/With nowhere to stable our Holden/Or tether our Minis'. Sydney City historian Laila Ellmoos said the threatened demolition came iwth the rise of cars in the city 'There was a demand for parking', 'And there were different attitudes about buildings like this: it's very ornate and decorative so there would have been a view that you needed something functional like car parking'. Ellmoos said McRae designed the QVB in the style of a grand shopping arcade. 'The Strand is another survivor but there were actually five or six other arcades through the city', she said. 'It was part of a fashion for a different type of retailing experience'. (Maddox, 2018, 8).

Demolition proposals at the time were largely postponed by the continued presence of the SCC in the building. The SCC required another long lease which was granted by the City Council in 1961. The SCC was planning a new large building opposite town hall and required the existing facilities in the QVB to be retained until its completion. The City Council was in no position to refuse the SCC and thus the demolition proposals were temporarily thwarted, although opinion was always behind demolition and a reuse of the site at the time.

A form of demolition actually started in 1963 with removal of the cupolas on the roof. Concern about their stability was given as the reason for their removal. The contractor paid for their removal, in fact made a larger profit out of the sale of the salvaged cupolas as souvenirs and garden decorations, than for the contract to remove them.

As the new SCC building was nearing completion the question of the QVB's ultimate fate was approaching again. The debates in the late 1950s and early 1960s were largely deflated by the continued occupation of the SCC and other long term tenants, but, as this was not an issue any more, the debate was to enter another stage.

By 1967 calls for its preservation were being made by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) declaring it should be saved because of its historical importance. Calls were also made not only for its preservation but also for its restoration by stripping away the numerous disfigurements, restoring the glass vaulted roof, ground floor arcades, tiled floors, and stone stairs. Many schemes were promoted such as linking the building by underground tunnels to the Town Hall and other city buildings, schemes involving constructing nightclubs or planetariums under the dome, with shops on the lower levels, art galleries, hotel rooms etc on the upper levels. Although these plans would have to wait, the Council actually spent considerable funds on renovating the City Library.

Demolition was still the favoured option by many in the Council. Even as late as 1969 the Labour Party candidate running for mayor in the City Council elections stated that, if elected he would propose demolition of the QVB, which he said was 'a firetrap to make way for a new civic square'. Shortly after and perhaps as a threat to possible demolition, the National Trust upgraded its classification to category 'A', which defined it as 'urgently in need of acquisition and preservation'. By 1971 the Royal Australian Institute of Architects entered the debate advocating preservation, on the grounds of the QVB's historical importance.

In 1971 the new Lord Mayor, Alderman Emmet McDermott, leader of the Civic Reform Group, announced that the QVB would be 'preserved and restored to its original state'. There was no suggestion of how that was going to take place, but such a statement became very much the turning point in the buildings history and eventual fate.

The building was to be saved, but there was no plan or suggestions about where the funds were to come from. In 1979 the Town Clerk, Mr Leon Carter stated; 'The Council is determined that the high cost of rebirth of the QVB will not fall on the blistered shoulders of the weary ratepayer'.

Restoration proposals were held up by a combination of lack of funds and continuing disagreements between Council, potential operators and stakeholders such as the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

There were lengthy deliberations about what it would become - the options included a hotel, casino, museum and apartments (Maddox, 2018, 8).

Finally in 1979 a team was established between Architects Stephenson & Turner and Rice & Daubney, Engineers Meinhardt and Partners, Kuttner Collins & Partners for administration, with financial backing by IPOH Garden Berhad. Key conservation groups backed the plan. Negotiations about plans and leases continued for almost three years, but eventually on 1 August 1983 the Lord Mayor and IPOH Garden, signed a ninety-nine year profit-sharing lease.

Malaysian company IPOH Garden's development scheme was estimated to be worth $89m. During this time the statue of Queen Victoria was lost, only to be refound in a backyard in Ireland (McNab, 2018, 1). IPOH Garden's scheme came with a 99-year lease (Maddox, 2018, 8).

The building reopened at the end of 1986 in time to catch the busy Christmas trading season. The work took almost four years to complete and included a new underground carpark, linking tunnels and a restored interior. As almost nothing of the original interior fabric was left intact the work largely involved reconstructing the details and atmosphere of the place. The completed project can be considered a sound commercial scheme, but not a true reconstruction. A museum approach to conserving the building was recognised by all authorities as being unworkable as the building would be empty and devoid of the life the restoration brief considered essential.

A statue of Queen Victoria was erected a plinth in the plaza to the building's southern facade, towards Druitt Street and Sydney Town Hall), in 1987. It is of bronze, and was made by John Hughes in 1908. The statue was transported from Dublin, Ireland to Sydney by sea in 1986, restored and officially unveiled in December 1987 (ibid, 2018).

The QVB's modern history includes quirky moments: such as when a woman surpised security guards when she drove a red Mini Minor through its ground floor, exiting onto Market Street, in 1987. Browsing with a curried egg sandwich, actor Nicole Kidman called into a jewellers and bought Tom Cruise's wedding ring in 1990. The stained glass windows were damaged by the Hilton (hotel) bombing that killed three men, across George Street, in 1978 (Maddox, 2018, 8).

By 2006, after successfully trading for twenty years, comprehensive plans were being prepared to conserve the exterior and refurbish the interior of the building to ensure the place was commercially viable as an ongoing retail complex. The major upgrade of the building's interiors were designed by the architectural firm Ancher Mortlock and Woolley in association with interior design firm Freeman Rembel and included installation of:

* Contemporary shopfronts, interior signage, a new internal colour scheme, new internal lighting, BCA compliant glass and metal balustrades, new floor finishes, reconstruction of ground floor steel entrance gates and selective bathroom upgrades.
* A new vertical escalator system in both the north and south galleries.

The recent conservation and refurbishment approach has aimed to clarify the legibility between historic fabric and the new fabric which must be continually updated to ensure the building is viable as an ongoing commercial complex. After its successful refurbishment, the QVB was officially reopened by the Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore on 25th August 2009 (GBA 2009).

In 2018 the QVB celebrated its 120th birthday with a special night-time celebration event. The building has played host to notable people such as Queen Elizabeth II, singer Elton John, actors Nicole Kidman, Billy Connolly, Robin Williams, Burt Lancaster, singer Olivia Newton John and Rod Stewart (McNab, 2018, 1, 4). The building reputedly receives 33 million people passing through per year - averaging more than 90,000 a day. The landmark has survived the rise of suburban Westfields (shopping mall complexes) and online shopping. It has outlived the trams that stopped running down George Street and has been around long enough to see them come back. Built when deliveries were by horse and cart, it has seen off the monorail that ran down Market Street (Maddox, 2018, 8).

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 Developing discrete retail and commercial areas-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Operating market and retail complexes-
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
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 19th 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 Beautifying towns and villages-
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 - Victorian-
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. 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 - Federation Romanesque Revival-
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. work of stonemasons-
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. Applying architectural design to utlilitarian structures-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1900-1950-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1950-2000-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1850-1900-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Living in suburbia-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Activities associated with relaxation and recreation-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Developing collections of items-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Gathering at landmark places to socialise-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Visiting heritage places-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going shopping downtown-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with George McRae, architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Queen Victoria Building is an outstanding example of the grand retail buildings from the Victorian-Federation era in Australia. Constructed in 1893-8 as a grand gesture of Civic pride and Victorian confidence, the Queen Victoria Building is the largest, most monumental and most intact of the Sydney City market buildings, and represents the largest and grandest Victorian arcade in Australia. At the time of its construction, the main dome with a span of 19 metres was the largest dome in the southern hemisphere. The site of the Queen Victoria Building has continued to operate as a market facility for over 190 years, which is a significant historical continuum.

It is an important building in the professional work of the City Architect, George McRae, which in association with the Manning Building and City Corporation Building, demonstrates the varied repertoire of the McRae period. This building has outstanding ability to reflect through its aesthetics, the scale of the planning strategies of the City Architect during the late 19th Century. It is significant as the site of the city library from 1933 to 1987, and of a range of many other uses including council offices. (NT)

Saved from demolition in the 1980s and restored to its original glory, the Queen Victoria Building is an iconic heritage building of Sydney and Australia (HO). It is a significant adaptive reuse project for the 1980's, representing an important shift in heritage consciousness of the 1980's towards an "historicist" approach to refurbishment and an early example of a "conservation" project without the preparation of a conservation plan. The successful adaptive reuse of the Queen Victoria Building in the 1980s was of major importance to the development of the conservation movement in the city, which resulted in the retention of many important public and private buildings in the city. (NT, CMP)

The site of the QVB also forms part of the elevated areas surrounding and including Hyde Park which was originally a large ceremonial site for Aboriginal people.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Queen Victoria Building site is associated with Governor Macquarie, who dedicated the site for use as a market in 1810. It is also associated with George McRae, the prominent City Architect during the late 19th Century, who later became Government Architect of NSW from 1912-1923. The building has associations with many original early tenants of the market building, including Quong Tart, the prominent 19th Century businessman and philanthropist, and household names such as Lindemans, Penfolds, Singer, and the Young Women's Christian Association. (CMP)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Queen Victoria Building is a superb example of the American Romanesque style in Australia, which expresses an ambitious use of building technology, excellent craftsmanship and decorative detailing, internally and externally. The building is possibly the largest and finest example of the Romanesque style to be constructed in Australia, demonstrating the influence of the American Architect, Henry Hobson Richardson, in Australia during this period.

The Queen Victoria Building is a major landmark of Sydney, occupying a full city block, allowing it to be viewed in the round. It forms an important component of the three major Victorian buildings grouped in the centre of Sydney City including St Andrews Cathedral and Sydney Town Hall.

The building is a rare and outstanding example of a grand scale composition for a market building with a highly intact but extensively restored original exterior and reconstructed interior. The design is well resolved both internally and externally, and the building is particularly noted for its use of stone on the facade and colonnade. (NT)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The community value for the building is evidenced by the major public outcry in response to its proposed demolition during the 1980s, which played a major role in its conservation at that time. The Queen Victoria Building holds a special place in the community as a major city landmark for its appearance, function, imagery, quality, grand interior spaces, and as a major meeting place and pedestrian link through the City. It is a much loved and well used building. (CMP) It is significant for its ability to reflect, through its building concessions, the importance of heritage to the government and community at large. (SCC)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
It is significant as an early and innovative use of concrete technology. (NT) The construction was also innovative as the main dome with a span of 19 metres was the largest dome in the southern hemisphere at the time and has further significance for its steel construction. The surviving examples of original WC cubicles and urinals represent significant relics and are unique. (CMP)
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The building is rare in Australia as possibly the largest and finest example of the Romanesque style to be constructed in Australia, and as the largest and grandest Victorian arcade in Australia. Although a number of buildings in Australia exhibit similar characteristics as the Queen Victoria Building, such as the Strand Arcade (built 1890), the Royal Arcade of Melbourne (built 1869), the Freemantle Markets of Western Australia (built 1898), and the Federation Romanesque building of the Societe Generale House of Sydney (built 1894), the Queen Victoria Building is unique in Australia and has no real comparison in the nation as an example of the Federation Romanesque Style, as a market building, or as a retail arcade, in terms of its scale, level of detailing and materiality. It was rare for such a large public building in Australia to be designed and constructed in the Romanesque style, with the smooth faced stonework being an unusual interpretation for the style.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The Queen Victoria Building represents an outstanding example of the grand retail buildings of the Victorian-Federation era in Australia, which has no known equal in Australia in its architectural style, scale, level of detailing and materiality.

The Queen Victoria Building represents the largest and grandest Victorian arcade in Australia, and the largest, most monumental and most intact of the market buildings of Sydney City.

The Queen Victoria Building represents a superb example of the Federation Romanesque style, also known as the American Romanesque style and a continuation of the Victorian Romanesque style. It represents possibly the largest and finest example of the American Romanesque style to be constructed in Australia, demonstrating the influence of the prominent 19th Century American architect, Henry Hobson Richardson, in Australia during this period.

The conservation of the building largely due to the public outcry against its proposed demolition, and the historical-based restoration approach to the refurbishment of the building in the 1980s represents an important shift in heritage conservation during the late 20th Century, which led to the conservation of further buildings in Sydney City. (NT, CMP)
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:

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
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 As gazetted 5 March 2010:

SCHEDULE C

Site-wide:
1.All Standard Exemptions
2.All works and activities in accordance with a valid development consent in force at the date of gazettal for listing the Queen Victoria Building on the State Heritage Register.
3.Minor modifications to a valid development consent in force at the date of gazettal for listing the Queen Victoria Building on the State Heritage Register where the Director of the Heritage Branch is satisfied that:
a.The proposed works are substantially the same as the development for which consent was originally granted, before any modifications to that consent, for the purpose of this exemption only; and
b.The Director has been notified in writing of the works proposed to be undertaken under this exemption prior to commencement of works, and the Director has provided written confirmation that the works are exempt.
4.Changes to operating hours.
Exteriors:
5.Re-paving and minor alterations to existing external hard paving that:
a.is compatible with the significant characteristics of the item;
b.does not require excavation deeper than the foundations of the existing paving;
c.will have no adverse or irreversible impact on significant fabric, including landscape and archaeological features;
d.will not obstruct significant views or features; and
e.is in accordance with the assessment and recommendations of City of Sydney Council's heritage specialist.
6.Removal and replacement of temporary existing non-illuminated external signs and decorations, such as flags, rigging, banners, merchandising, Christmas tree and associated decorations.
7.Development of temporary hoardings when facades are undergoing maintenance or conservation.
8.Maintenance of or minor changes to external awnings.
9.Changes to external glass roof shading and replacement of clear glazing as clear to glass roof.
Underground and basement levels:
10.Non-structural works to the Queen Victoria Building's two basement levels and connecting arcades provided they have no effect on the floor voids, fabric and configuration of the original stairs, or original tiling.
11.Subterranean alterations to existing retail, road and rail tunnels and arcades, including alterations below the southern forecourt pavement on Druit Street, which do not require excavation.
12.Any works to the car park including changes to its operations, loading dock, entry and exit.
Back-of house and services:
13.Non-structural works to the back-of-house interiors including management offices, service or support areas, store rooms, security rooms and plant rooms provided they have no effect on decorative plasterwork or joinery.
14.Electrical, mechanical and hydraulic services maintenance and essential upgrades located within the building envelope and on the roof top within the envelope of the existing plant, including roof exhaust fans and associated support duct work.
15.Upgrade mechanical equipment relating to lifts and escalators constructed since 1986.
16.Refurbishment of bathrooms with no effect on remnant heritage fabric, such as original urinals, partitions and tessellated tiles as identified in the Conservation Management Plan.
Retail tenancies:
17.Changes and development of kiosks existing at the date of gazettal for listing the Queen Victoria Building on the State Heritage Register.
18.Changes to seating and table arrangements on all levels.
19.Replacement of shopfronts to Ancher, Mortlock and Woolley design as per approved D/2006/1068 Drawing Number DA1-700 Rev A.
20.Maintenance repairs of shopfronts to Ancher, Mortlock and Woolley design as per approved D/2006/1068 Drawing Number DA1-700 Rev A
21.All tenancy fit out works and changes of use that comply with the current version of the Queen Victoria Building Design and Fitout Guide approved by City of Sydney.
22.Removal or replacement of non-original inter-tenancy walls.
Signs, fittings, furnishings and finishes:
23.Work or changes to clocks and other interior non-original fittings and furnishings with no effect on remnant heritage fabric identified in the Conservation Management Plan.
24.Removal and replacement of temporary internal signs and decorations, such as flags, rigging, banners, merchandising, Christmas tree and associated decorations.
25.Maintenance of internal paint finishes.
26.Changes to or development of roof access platforms.
27.Changes to internal lighting.
28.Interior maintenance and conservation of historic fabric.
29.Replacement of deteriorated non-original tessellated tiles to match existing.
30.Replacement of carpet finishes.
Mar 5 2010

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0181405 Mar 10 361153
Local Environmental Plan     
National Trust of Australia register Town Hall Group 21 Apr 75   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
National Trust City Register  National Trust of Australia (NSW)David Sheedy No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Management PlanCity of Sydney State Heritage Inventory form for Queen Victoria Building
WrittenD Sheedy for the National Trust of Australia (NSW)1974Queen Victoria Building Classification Card
WrittenE Balint, UNSW School of Building1984Historic Record of Sydney City Buildings
WrittenGeraldine O'Brien2003Dowager to vamp in a dash of bold colour (SMH 19/12/03)
WrittenGraham Brooks & Associates2009Queen Victoria Building, Sydney, NSW : archival recording stage 2
WrittenGraham Brooks and Associates2003Conservation Management Plan - Queen Victoria Building
WrittenJonathan Bryant, Graham Brooks and Associates (GBA)2009Queen Victoria Building Heritage Database Suggested Amendments
WrittenMcNab, Heather2018'Arch 'too hard to climb'
WrittenMcNab,Heather2018Hear ye! Hear ye! Long Live our QVB'

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: 5053525
File number: 09/0840; S90/02772


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