Warringah Civic Centre Precinct (under consideration) | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Warringah Civic Centre Precinct (under consideration)

Item details

Name of item: Warringah Civic Centre Precinct (under consideration)
Other name/s: Warringah Council Civic Centre, Warringah Coucil Administration Offices, Dee Why Library
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Government and Administration
Category: Council Chambers
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT100 DP1041823


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
former Warringah CouncilLocal Government 

Statement of significance:

The Warringah Civic Centre Precinct is of historic and aesthetic significance as a well-conceived and executed example of a mid-to-late twentieth century integrated building and landscape design. The precinct is of state significance for its design achievement as a group of late twentieth century public buildings. The library and the Civic Centre were both designed by distinguished architects Colin Madigan and Christopher Kringas of Edwards Madigan Torzillo & Briggs Pty Ltd (EMTB) in conjunction with renowned landscape architect, Bruce Mackenzie & Associates.

The buildings were conceived as part of a larger complex of civic buildings (acropolis). Although the full plan did not materialise, the two existing buildings were stylistically integrated in terms of architectural forms and finishes and as an ensemble of free standing building in a cohesive landscape setting. The precinct is an outstanding example of both the harmonious development of a rugged bushland site and of the design of a visually strong and dramatic structure.

The buildings are significant examples of the Brutalist Style demonstrating the move away from the constraints of the modular structural systems to a more flexible form of architecture. The Library helped develop techniques such as concrete textures, for complex concrete forms related to structure and mechanical systems, ramp compositions and reflected natural light. The Civic Centre helped in furthering these techniques which helped develop the techniques for the Australian National Gallery and High Court buildings (in Canberra) including bush hammered concrete textures, for complex concrete forms related to structure, circulation routes and building services.

The Dee Why Library won the prestigious Sulman Award for architecture in 1967. The Civic Centre precinct (along with Dee Why Library, the National Art Gallery and High Court) is significant for representing a high point in the career of architect Colin Madigan, who was awarded the Gold Medal by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects for a lifetime effort in the field of architecture in 1981. The Library and the Civic Centre are of state heritage significance for their association with well-regarded architect Christopher Kringas who made a major contribution to the design development. The entire precinct is of state heritage significance for their association with prominent landscape architect Bruce Mackenzie, who was a leading figure in the establishment of landscape design in Australia and the Precinct represents his innovative ideas of preserving and using the sites' remnant bushland with its native flora and landscape elements.

The two buildings demonstrate technical significance at a state level through the use of copper roofs, precast concrete, post-tensioned and reinforced concrete. The buildings are capable of demonstrating information related to construction techniques, materials and planning issues of the late twentieth century concrete Brutalist constructions.

The Warringah Civic Centre Precinct is of state heritage significance for its aesthetic significance and landmark qualities derived largely from the integration of the sculptural man-made elements with natural landscape elements. The precinct is of aesthetic significance for its wide variety of landscape experiences provided, ranging from sweeping vistas towards the Pacific Ocean to intimate outlooks to the immediate native landscaped garden.
Date significance updated: 08 Feb 17
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Colin Madigan and Christopher Kringas; Edward Madigan Torzillo and Briggs; Bruce Mackenzie
Construction years: 1966-1971
Physical description: The Civic Centre and Library precinct is located on 3 hectares of land at Dee Why, bounded by Pittwater Road, Kingsway Street and St David Avenue. The steeply sloping site rises from the flat coastal plain with large rock outcrops interspersed by native plants. The site was planned as a new acropolis above the Dee Why shopping centre. A vital city centre was envisaged to include along with a civic centre and library, a large auditorium with gymnasium, art gallery and historical museum, a public plaza and a war memorial. The library was designed as a first element of this civic place followed by the Civic Centre.

Library: Warringah Library building consists of a brick base and steel frame structure with precast concrete cladding that is visually strong, dramatic and heavily articulated in both internal and external form. The building's interaction with the essentially natural landscape surroundings, its use of a brick base and precast concrete panel walls floating over the continuous window to express the interlocking forms is expertly handled in design and construction. On the north and south sides of the building the sloping roofed annexes trap sunlight and reflect it into the book stack areas.

The southern entrance has a step and ramp approach from the car park forecourt - one proceeds under a low gallery into the main space. The top entrance, with no steps, is from the access way to the Civic Centre and upper woodland car park.

In sympathy with the sloping site, the planning is organised on three levels. Different ceiling heights, creating interesting special contrasts, flow into each other; the main reading well with high ceilings is surrounded by galleries, and all levels are interconnected by ramps and steps.

A control point is located in the centre of the building on the mid level has visual control over the whole library. Originally both entrance floors were brick paved and all areas were covered in a stippled blue-black carpet. A pale blue carpet recently covered the upper brick entrance and replaced the original carpet after 40 years and is wearing poorly.

Light is from roof skylights and night lighting duplicates the natural source. The original interior was predominantly white relieved by off-white gloss on the exposed structural steel elements and dark cordovan brown on the sloping ceiling of the northern annex. The original Tasmanian Oak vertical timber lining boards and doors are grey wax stained. Some of this boarding has been encapsulated in painted plasterboard. The timber lining boards of the additions to the work room were not stained. The workroom extensions followed Madigan's suggestions (a diagram) but there was no further dialogue between EMT & B and the in house designers (Madigan 2004). The original furniture, designed by the architects, had bright chrome accents with beige and black covers, only one chair remains.

Landscaping: The landscape concept was devised by Bruce Mackenzie who regarded the site primarily as an example of remnant bushland. Mackenzie was an early advocate of the indigenous design ethos in landscaping. Mackenzie using a technique he had found successful during previous work in 1964 on the Pettit and Sevitt sites for Ancher Mortlock Murray & Woolley, initially surveyed the site to establish its characteristics and best qualities. The siting of the building was based around the identified conservation opportunities, so as to preserve as much as possible of the rock outcrops and remnant bushland (Mackenzie 1999).

The different functions of the council are brought together by the broad internal circulation spine or internal street which has great variety in scale and character of spaces.

Pines along Pittwater Road seem to have been planted to reproduce the pines found along the road in the 1912 photograph of Dee Why from the present site when the site was an industrial farm owned by the Salvation Army.

One 25 metre high Norlfolk Island Pine on the Corner of St David Avenue and Pittwater Road is listed on the Warrigah LEP as a landmark.

Civic Centre: The building platforms were supported off the craggy weathered sandstone by concrete piers. On the eastern elevation three soaring prestressed piers 12.8 metres high and 800 mm X 305 mm in cross section support the projecting top level. The deep waffle slabs were cast against Isotex cement wood chip coffers used as permanent formwork. Roof slabs were waffle slabs with insulation, coal tar pitch and gravel surfacing.

The load bearing structure is of reinforced concrete. The majority of external walls are either 230 or 305 mm in situ concrete bush-hammered to expose the coarse aggregate. Elsewhere the concrete frame is in-filled with brick. Internal columns, 305mm diameter, were cast in thin gauge seamless steel tubing which was used as permanent formwork and painted. Columns have tapered cruciform shaped capitals cast in demountable steel moulds.

The spine of the building is a central ramp system which gives access to all levels and is surmounted by a skylight. The central ramp court was seen as an extension of the street into the heart of the building. The ramps are U shaped in section, cast insitu with 150mm slabs and 300mm balustrades. The principal reinforcing is draped post tensioned cables. Expansion joints are positioned at one end of each ramp to provide for the eventual shortening.

The framing for the central roof link across the central ramp is exposed rigid frame steel shaped to architectural demands. Air conditioning ducts are exposed.

Three open plan administrative platforms are accessed by the ramps from the entrance and a half level walk up system separates the major administrative departments. The open planning was designed to be meaningful it was hoped it would allow public participation to its highest potential. The Council Chamber was designed to be fully opened to public viewing and facilities made available for citizen participation in all deliberations of Council. Councillors I session looked at the rocks and nature outside their chambers. Views to the external landscape of sea, the hills and trees were obtainable from most office positions.

Car parking is located partially behind the building with additional areas located to the northwest, west and south below the plateau, reflecting the topography of the site and covered with a dense canopy of trees.

Warringah Civic Centre building consists of a single concrete structure that is visually strong, dramatic and heavily articulated in both its internal and external form. The building's interaction with the essentially natural landscape surroundings and its use of off form concrete are expertly handled in design and construction
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The buildings are intact and in good condition. The landscaping between the two buildings is in need of upkeep and maintenance.
Date condition updated:14 Jun 17
Modifications and dates: Library - Since the completion of the building in 1966, minor works have been carried out without the involvement of the project architect. The most significant of these additions include additions to the work room and of sun control to the skylight (omitted initially due to financial constraint), the modification of the box gutter, over-cladding of the timber boarded foyer walls (reversible) and carpeting of internal brick pavements (reversible). The western additions were carried out in 1986 (to be verified).

Civic centre - Since the completion of the building in 1973, minor works have been carried out without the involvement of the project architect. The most important of these include the addition of an access stair at the western end of the ramps, the addition of security system with associated partitions, the addition of new exit doors and external catwalks.

Both the buildings are considered to be intact and in good condition.
Further information: Colin Madigan and Christopher Kringas of Edwards Madigan Torzillo & Partners, Architects

Colin Madigan (1921-2011), with his firm Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Briggs, was behind some of Australia's most significant 20th century architectural works. He was a highly regarded and distinguished architect, an Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medallist (1981) and winner of numerous awards for buildings of material significance. He was also made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1984. He was described as being 'an architect whose work sought to reveal an evolutionary thinking while representing in its forms forces he had observed in his education as an architect'. He was heavily influenced by his commitment to the earth, as well as the writings of George Bernard Shaw and his father, who also practiced as an architect (Alessi, Draft LEP assessment, 2011).

Born in 1921 in Glen Innes, Colin Frederick Madigan began his architectural training in his father's Inverell office at age of 14. He moved to Sydney and enrolled at Sydney Technical College in 1939. He studied under influential tutors such as Miles Dunphy, a lecturer in building construction and avid conservationist who encouraged students to appreciate the landscape and natural environment. Madigan interrupted his studies during the Second World War and enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in 1941. He was aboard the ill-fated HMAS 'Armidale' when it was sunk by Japanese aircraft with the loss of 100 lives. He was among the few that survived and spent nine days floating in open seas in a variety of small boats and rafts. He continued to serve in the Navy until 1946 (Alessi, Draft LEP assessment, 2011).
Madigan resumed his studies and qualified as an architect in 1950. In the following year he married Ruby Court-Rice and in 1954 became a principal of the architectural firm, Edwards Madigan & Torzillo, later Edwards Madigan Torzillo & Briggs (1965) and Edwards Madigan Torzillo Briggs International Pty Ltd (EMTBI, 1974) (Alessi, Draft LEP assessment, 2011).

Madigan's early work such as his own house at Narrabeen, a simple 'platform' or elevated pavilion type, steel framed house, shows a push toward progress and modern style influenced by Mies van der Rohe. However, his houses designed in the 1960s demonstrate philosophies more closely linked to the 'Sydney School' in their response to the site, native flora and topography and use of 'natural' materials such as timber and earthy bricks. Also in their asymmetrical massing and roof forms which reflect the slope and topography of the site (Alessi, Draft LEP assessment, 2011).

Madigan mainly worked on a range of public buildings during the years 1950 to 1967 which included a number of libraries and civic buildings such as the Orange Civic Centre (1950), Warringah Shire Library and Civic Centre in Dee Why (1966) for which he won the Sulman Award in 1967 also the Warren Library (1969), the Mitchell College of Advanced Education (1970), the University of New South Wales Round House (1961) and the NSW Government Tourist Bureau (1956) (Alessi, Draft LEP assessment, 2011).

It has been noted that the Warringah Shire Library was the start of the new direction in Madigan's work. He abandoned the Miesian steel frame influences seen in his early buildings and moved towards more 'heavily sculpted blockish forms' that eventually evolved into major works like the High Court and National Gallery in Canberra and the Students' Residence in Bathurst for which he won the 1970 Sulman Award. What has been noted about the series of buildings designed by the firm, was the sophistication of the building technology and careful consideration of the limitations and possibilities of the materials. The firm's attitude to building technology has been described as 'distinctive' and separated their work from other practitioners in the Sydney School who had a more traditional attitude to building construction (Alessi, Draft LEP assessment, 2011).

The major projects completed between 1968 and 1982, were the National Gallery of Australia and the High Court of Australia, both of which are in the parliamentary zone of Canberra. He began to work on the High Court of Australia after its designer Christopher Kringas (of Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Briggs) died just prior to the start of construction in April 1975. Whilst working on the National Gallery and High Court, Madigan became particularly interested and involved in the planning and design of the entire parliamentary zone. In the 1980s he was a finalist in the Parliament House competition and worked on a Parliamentary Zone Development Plan. From 1982 he also served on the National Capital Planning Committee and lectured and corresponded widely on the subject of Canberra (Alessi, Draft LEP assessment, 2011).

Colin Madigan's buildings demonstrate features of the Sydney Regional and Brutalist styles of architecture, however, he preferred not to label his work. Madigan retired in 1989 and died in September 2011, aged 90 years. In his obituary prominent architect Daryl Jackson stated that: 'His works, constructed between the 1950s and the 1990s, reflect a philosophic substance that connects form to idea, light to mass, structure to detail, and design to the laws of art; all values of a universal kind endemic to the carriage of western intelligence from the beginning of time' (Alessi, Draft LEP assessment, 2011).

Bruce Mackenzie, Landscape Architect

Bruce Mackenzie studied art at East Sydney Technical College and worked in the graphic arts industry before becoming involved in landscape architecture in the late 1950s. He was admitted into the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects in 1969 and became its national President in 1981. Mackenzie began his own firm Bruce Mackenzie and Associates in the early 1980s in which he worked until the business closed in 1993. He is considered to be a foundation figure in Australian landscape design (RAIA information sheet): 'Mackenzie pioneered the use of indigenous Australian planting during the 1960s, with a design philosophy that made much of native structural materials and native plants, and combines a romantic attachment to landscape aesthetics with a pragmatic approach to conservation. He is considered one of the foremost practitioners of the 1960s in the proportion of landscape design that respected and harmonized with natural environments. Significantly his first article extolling the use of native plants was published in Architecture in Australia for November 1966.'

Bruce Mackenzie worked with Colin Madigan on the National Gallery in Canberra for three years. The landscaping, however, was eventually completed to a design by Harry Howard.
Current use: Civic Centre and Library
Former use: Civic Centre and Library


Historical notes: The land that forms a part of the Warringah Civic Centre and Library Precinct was once occupied by the Garigal people. Warringah and Dee Why are names derived from Aboriginal place names.

European exploration of the modern day Warringah began soon after the settlement of Sydney. The CMP prepared for the Civic Centre and Library Precinct provides a detailed account of the history of the site.

The first European owner of the site which included the present Warringah Civic Centre Precinct was Wiliam Cossar. The land was leased to Mathew Bacon in 1819. The land advertised for sale following Bacon's death in 1825, was described as having 15-20 acres under cultivation, a good house and other buildings. The property was conveyed to D'Arcy Wentworth in 1825. Wentworth conveyed some of Cossar's grants to James Jenkins in 1825. The original 200 acre grant (including Warringah Civic Centre Precinct) was eventually formally assigned to Jenkins by Crown Grant on 29 August 1834. In 1880, a Deed of Partition was drawn up between the various descendants of James Jenkins. His daughter Elizabeth was awarded 250 acres of Warringah land. She became involved with Salvation Army and due to issues with the Australian Banking Company in 1892, she approached Salvation Army for help. She requested that they assume potential liability and provide successive annuity to the remaining family members and she and her brother would hand over all their property to them. The property handed over to the Salvation Army also included the 200 acres at Dee Why (part of which is now the Warringah Civic Centre Precinct). Elizabeth Jenkins also provided 400 pounds towards the building of a Home of Rest, which is now the administration centre for Pacific Lodge, owned and operated by Salvation Army on the site adjoining Warringah Civic Centre Precinct.

During 1960s, the decision was made to move the Warringah Shire Council to a larger site and The Shire and Municipal Record notes that: The site of a Salvation Army industrial farm on Pittwater Road was selected c1964 to establish a new Warringah civic precinct (CMP).

The proposal put forth by Edwards Madigan Torzillo & Briggs Pty Ltd was accepted and they envisaged the eventual purchase of the remaining Salvation Army land and the building over time of a community precinct. Colin Madigan described it as follows:
'The centre would be built on top of the hill forming a complex; a new Acropolis. A people place, a vital city centre with amphitheatre for drama and music and community activity rooms for art and or cultural pursuits. As you travel north from Brookvale, along the car yard strip past the award winning factory, recently Wormalds, still for sale in total neglect, over the Stoney Range Hill, there on the next ridge you would see this shining place on its green prominence.

A large Public Hall with gymnasium was proposed on the car park facing Howard Avenue (St David Avenue), opposite the church steeple. Even a real market was discussed, how vital that would be. It was recommended that the whole block be acquired for public use, including the Salvation Army facilities. Their charming old house, which still commands the site would be an art gallery and historical museum. And to top it all a War Memorial was to be built at Pittwater Road street level for the moments of introspection, displaying memorabilia. (Talk given by Col Madigan 23/11/91 for Warringah library 25th anniversary)

Warringah (Dee Why) Library
Warringah (Dee Why) Library was the first building built within the Warringah Civic Centre precinct. The library was one of the earliest Sydney metropolitan library services when the council voted to adopt the Library Act in May 1964. The first Chief Librarian Mr. John Ellis took up office in 1965. The Council's vision for the library was: 'A central lending library to house 45,000 books, with pre-fixed cost limits. The library was designed as an element of a civic centre that maybe built on the plateau behind the new building. The architectural forms, a direct interpretation of programme and function, seek to establish a civic place - an urban core for the rapidly expanding Warringah Shire (Sowden, nd).

When the Library opened in 1966: it 'existed in splendid isolation; standing like a citadel alone on a hill.' In the words of the architect Madigan: 'The library breaks away from the Sydney school - clinker bricks, rocks and sleepers, and joins the landscape in a more determined way with its earthy exterior virtually erupting from its location. It becomes part of the landscape, enclosing an interior soft shell of light and repose intended for quiet contemplation as you would feel in a forest - books are made of wood...'

The Library won the meritorious Sulman Award for architecture in 1966 against some stiff competition. The RAIA Sulman's jury report stated: 'The Library, which is sited on a rock platform above the Dee Why shopping centre, blends admirably with the surrounding sandstone outcrops and buildings. A fine choice of materials - base walls and ramps of manganese brick and wall cladding of exposed aggregate precast concrete panels, together with copper roofs, help to achieve an excellent relationship of building to site'.

Dee Why Library enjoyed great initial success. Ultimately, however, the library proved too small. The library was extended in 1979 on the northern and western sides of the building. The additions did very to alleviate the problem. In 1985, a master plan that assessed the requirements of the site concluded that the Library had less floor space ration per capita that other local government areas and inadequate administrative areas. It was also concluded that the problems could not be solved by changes in layout or furniture. The options were to extend the existing library by 322 sqm, relocate the administration area or reduce the library service. As a result the administration section was refurbished in the 1980s.

Although there were plans in 1989 to relocate the library, the plans were never carried out. Alterations to the existing building in recent years include the addition of sun control to the work room, modification of the box gutter, sheeting placed over the timber panelling in the foyer and carpeting over the brick paving.

Warringah Civic Centre
The Library building was considered as the first of a series of buildings for the Warringah Civic Centre Precinct. According to the Shire and Municipal Record (1973): 'It was always envisaged that the second stage, built of the Civic Centre site, would establish the necessary civic centre, an urban core for the Shire in the heart of Dee Why business and commercial district.'

The Library building covered only 3% of the site. The next phase of the site's development, was the construction of the Civic Centre. EMTB were not automatically awarded the project. As Madigan recalled: 'In 1971 we had to fight to retain our position as architects for the Civic Centre.'

The Civic Centre was designed to be complementary and supportive of the existing Library and to create a unity between the two buildings. A model for the envisaged Civic Centre was published in 1971. The building was designed with regard to the rugged terrain of the site and the vistas it afforded. The Shire and Municipal Record of 1974 recorded that: 'The magnificent site on which the new building had been erected rises steeply from the flat coastal plain and blend perfectly with the native foliage and craggy natural rock. The integration of this setting with the ocean views to the east and north and view of the Terry Hills to the north and west, required the building to be carefully located to realise advantages for the building, the public and the staff.'

The Civic Centre building was officially opened 1 September 1971. The Shire and Municipal Record of 1974 recorded that: 'The Civic Centre has four levels, with the Council Chamber on the lowest level. The Council Chamber can be opened up by means of large black vinyl sliding doors onto the central circulation space The central space flows on and up giving access to all departments which are planned on office landscaping principles. The main departments are organised on three levels above the Council Chamber. The central gallery has a half level walk up ramp system which connects the departments and is the main public access way through the building. A public reception area with views of the ocean is at the base of the central gallery. Consideration was given in master site planning to accommodate future extensions to the various departments and to make allowance for multi deck car parking The possibility also exists for the development at a later date of a Civic Theatre to complete the amenities of the Civic Centre for the fast developing Warringah Shire.'

Civic Centre Precinct Landscape
The landscaping of the Civic Centre Precinct was designed by Bruce Mackenzie in parts and carried out by Council's Parks and Gardens Staff in conjunction with the building of the Civic Centre. The original qualities of the site defined Mackenzie's design. The management of the existing natural elements was the most significant design decision. The main purpose of the landscaping was to 'conserve' and not to 'impose'.

The Shire and Municipal Record of 1974 recorded that: 'Sandstone boulders that had to be moved during construction were stockpiled and relocated in conjunction with the landscaping programme. A large bush area on the southern side of the building was left in its natural state and pathways have been constructed through this area from the front to the rear of the Centre and on to the adjoining Shire Library. Gardens around both buildings have been planted with native trees including eucalyptus, banksias, acacia and casuarinas and grass trees have been planted among the weathered sandstone outcrops.

Special lighting has been used which compliments the architectural design of the building and the landscape, and the bush growth and rock formations are highlighted by concealed floodlights.'

Modern Architecture and New Brutalism in Australian Architecture
Modern architecture was an invention of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was a reconciliation of an idealised vision of society with the forces of the industrial revolution. The Dee Why Library symbolises this attempt at reconciliation in the face of the rapid progress that the Shire had made in recent years. In November 1966, Manly Daily identified the building as an expression of the forces of change in the local area:

'Warringah Shire Library is the hallmark of the 'coming of age' of the shire; its emergence from the era of the week-ender, through the sprawling, swiftly passing years of record development to a future of vigorous yet gracious living As contemporary as to-day the library brings to the shire that stature of maturity it is an expression of faith, a faith in this and succeeding generations, and it is, too, a citadel of knowledge from which will march forces of knowledge and culture'

Although modern architecture had begun to make an impression on the Australian landscape in the 1930s, it did not get underway until the late 1940s following the lead of architects such as Harry Seidler and Sydney Ancher. During the 1960s and 1970s Australian architecture generally conformed to worldwide trends by breaking away from the simplicity demanded by the prevailing Functionalist styles towards more sculptural and often extroverted forms of expression. The preference for lightness and minimalism in design and construction, which were long established tenants of modern architecture, were gradually rejected in favour of 'weight, toughness and elaborate articulation (Apperly et al, 1989). The robust and raw architecture that resulted was inspired by the later works of Le Corbusier. Peter and Alison Smithson in England put a theoretical leadership to what was referred to as the 'New Brutalist Movement'. The first recognised Brutalist building was the Smithton's Hunstanton Secondary School in Norfolk, England, 1949-54 designed by Peter and Alison Smithson.

'The Brutalist ethic was one of social concern, urban responsibility and integrity in the expression of material, structure and function. The aesthetic, in theory, would be as powerful image that derived from these considerations' (Taylor, 1990). Col Madigan, in a letter to Anne Higham of the RAIA (dated 1 June, 2004), stated in reference to the Warringah Civic Centre: '...(the building) expresses the integrity and the veracity of the structure and finishes in no uncertain terms...'

The New Brutalist movement had a profound impact on Australian Architecture. Key Australian architects who worked in this style include EMBT (Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Brigs); Harry Seidler; Ancher, Mortlock, Murray and Woolley; John Andrews; and Cameron, Chisholm and Nichol. Some Australian examples include Seidler House in Killara, NSW (1967); Sydney University Law School (1969); Union Building, Macquarie University, North Ryde (1968); National Carillon, Canberra (1968); Canberra School of Music (1976); High Court of Australia, Canberra (1980); and National Gallery of Australia (1982).

During the 1960s, evidence of New Brutalist influences was found commonly in the buildings of the Sydney School, a regional movement that modified Brutalism with a combination of influences from Arts and Crafts, traditional Japanese architecture and the work of Flank Lloyd Wright (Apperly et al, 1989).

In its purest form, New Brutalism cannot be regarded as a 'long lived' architectural movement. The movement waned in the mid-1970s as the validity and relevance of such an unadorned and abstract form of aesthetics was questioned.

Australian Native Landscaping
Although the use of Australian flora had been a constant theme in Australian gardening since 1788, this has always been used with reservations. By the 1960s, however, the use of native plants was becoming a popular enthusiasm. One of the chief promoters of this concept was Bruce Mackenzie. He focussed on the extension of natural flora; hardy natives took the place of green lawns and important plants. Existing contours, rocks and trees were used as the main determinants of landscaping composition.

Understanding the natural environment was further encouraged through the early landscape courses established in Australia in the 1960s. Government departments began to adopt positive policies by employing landscape consultants and the National Parks and Wildlife Service was formed in 1967 and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects was formed in 1967.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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. Landscaping - 20th c bush garden 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 - 20th century Modern Movement-
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 - 20th century Modern Movement-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Christopher Kringas, Architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Colin Madigan, architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Bruce Mackenzie, landscape architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Warringah Civic Centre Precinct is of state heritage significance as early examples of the Modern Movement: Sydney School and New Brutalism. The Civic Centre Precinct is of historic significance as part of a mid-to-late twentieth century integrated building and landscape design, and as an important example of Australian civic architecture from the early 1970s. The two buildings were conceived by the same design team from Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Briggs (EMTB) led by Colin Madigan and Christopher Kringas.

The Dee Why Library has historic significance as a highly regarded example of late 1960s architecture. Constructed in 1966-67, the building won the Sulman Award in 1967. The Warringah Civic Centre, 1970-71, has historical significance as a widely known example of late twentieth century Brutalist architecture. It was an early example of a building designed extensively using reinforced in-situ exposed concrete construction. The techniques of bush-hammered concrete wall finish, circulation routes and mechanical systems were later used in the National Gallery and High Court buildings in Canberra. The library along with the civic centre demonstrates the development of modern architecture in NSW and Australia.

The precinct is also significant historically as an early example of an Australian native landscape design work of Bruce Mackenzie. It reflects Mackenzie's conviction that working with existing native landscape features would promote a unique Australian form of expression. The Warringah Precinct is innovative for the retention of the native bushland setting within a large scale public building site. The approach reflected an appreciation for the Australian native bushland and was symptomatic of wider social concerns and changing attitudes towards the Australian environment.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Warringah Civic Centre Precinct is of state significance for its association with architects Colin Madigan, Christopher Kringas and the firm Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Briggs (EMTB). The Civic Centre was the first of the major buildings designed by EMTB using reinforced in-situ concrete construction. Col Madigan, one of the architects-in-charge, was awarded the Gold Medal by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1981 for his lifetime contributions to the field of architecture.

The precinct is associated with Bruce Mackenzie, the landscape architect, who was a leading figure in the establishment of landscape design and in incorporating the Australian native bush landscape in his designs.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The two main buildings in the Warringah Civic Centre Precinct and the Bruce Mackenzie landscape are of aesthetic value at the state level individually and in their native bushland setting. They demonstrate the transition and progression from the Sydney School of Architecture style towards Brutalist architecture.

The Madigan and Kringas designed buildings proved to be prototypes for the National Gallery and High Court buildings in Canberra. The Civic Centre was the first major building designed by EMTB using reinforced in-situ concrete construction. The design ideals of social, environmental and aesthetic values developed in these buildings led to their culmination in the landmark National Gallery and High Court buildings in Canberra. The Library's technical and design excellence was recognised when it was awarded the Sulman Award.

The buildings and the precinct have landmark characteristics. The buildings and their inter-relationships to the surrounding landscape provide monumental and sculptural qualities. The buildings within the site, both internally and externally, provide opportunities for a variety of view corridors to the Pacific Ocean and the immediate landscaped surroundings. Some of the original views, however, have been lost over time.

The precinct is significant for its native bushland setting, which contributes to the unique Australian identity of the site and provides an interesting setting to appreciate the Brutalist buildings.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Warringah Civic Centre and Library buildings are of state heritage significance as important buildings of the Brutalist style of architecture. They offer potential to research and understand Brutalism and concrete construction techniques and reveal design philosophies used at the time.
SHR Criteria f)
The Warringah Civic Centre Precinct is of state significance as largely intact examples of Brutalist style of architecture as applied to prominent public buildings in the late twentieth century, in a substantially intact native bushland setting. Examples of such buildings are increasingly rare as the numbers of Brutalist buildings are reducing due to many of these buildings being demolished or redeveloped.
SHR Criteria g)
The Warringah Civic Centre Precinct is of state heritage significance as an example demonstrative of the development of Brutalist style in Australian architecture during the 1960s and 1970s. The precinct also demonstrates the increased interest in Australian native landscapes and its integration with built environment during this time.
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.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - Icons Project Nomination for SHR listingIncludes library and bushland 03 Sep 04   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenApperly, Richard; Irving, Robert; Reynolds, Peter1989A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture. Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present
WrittenAustralian Architecture since 19601990Taylor, Jennifer
Management PlanWeir + Phillips Architects and Heritage Consultants2004Draft Conservation Management Plan for the Civic Centre Precinct

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: 5055679
File number: H04/00306-1,2; EF14/28280

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