The building is comprised of 12 office floors, a ground floor and basement. The frontage along York Street is 18.3 metres and 21.3 metres along York Lane. The building is surmounted by a steel tower which gives the building an overall height of 111 metres above street level. The building is steel framed and faced in brick with polished trachyte facing at the ground floor. (Graham, Alcock Giles Tribe)
The building is vertically modelled to give a skyscraper appearance. A Pegasus is depicted in relief sculpture on a plain brick parapet at the top of the building. Pegasus, a winged horse, was chosen by Sir Ernest Fisk as a suitable association with the work of Australia's great wireless undertaking. The building retains the original Fisk system of double glazed windows. The communications tower was designed as an integral part of the building and its supports are part of the structure of the building.
The York Street Entry Foyer and Lift Lobby is faced with Wombeyan Russet marble with simple Art Deco streamlined detail and the letter AWA over the entrance. The former Vestibule (main ground floor) interior retains its silver ash timber panelling. Above the panelling there is a series of symbolic plaster relief's executed by Otto Steen. Three relief's comprise three 'themes'. In each corner are figures representing the four ancient elements - earth, water, fire and air. Over the entrance surrounding an AWA symbol are the signs of the zodiac. A series of small relief's along the north and south walls represent various nations, symbolising the unification of the world throughout radio. (Graham Alcock Giles Tribe) The former Entrance Lobby interior retains a map of the world incised into the polished trachyte wall above the auditorium doors.
Other significant interiors include the fifth floor Boardroom, ancillary offices and executive bathroom
1937 - construction began
1939 - construction completed
Physical condition is excellent. Archaeological potential is low.
The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters (Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani).
With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney (Heiss, Sydney City Council).
The AWA building was built as a new headquarters for Amalgamated Wireless Australia Ltd.. This company, amalgamated in 1913, was the first to manufacture commercial radios in Australia, in 1920 (Dictionary of Sydney, 2008). It had exclusive rights throughout Australasia to the patents, 'present and future', for both Marconi and Telefunken (products). (later Sir) Ernest Thomas Fisk was a founding director of AWA, with the roles of General and Technical Manager. In 1916 he became Managing Director and in 1932 was made AWA Chairman (Johnson, 2020, 10).
The building was designed by Robertson, Marks and McCredie in association with DT Morrow and Gordon. Its Art Deco style, with polished trachyte facing at ground level, was intended to signal a progressive and go-ahead firm. The tower was modelled on Berlin's Funkturm Tower, built a few years earlier, and both took inspiration from the Eiffel Tower in Paris (ibid, 2008).
Council approval for the building was obtained in August 1937 and excavation was completed by December that year. Construction commenced and was finished towards the end of 1939 (Graham Alcock Giles Tribe).
York Street follows a ridge and at 112 meters tall the building and tower dominated the then low-lying 1930s Sydney skyline. It remained Sydney's tallest building until the 1960s. The tower was 48 metres and at the 97 metre point of hte building there was a viewing platform. For many years the tower wore the sign 'Beam Wireless', a service providing radio contact to commercial shipping on the England-Australia route introduced in 1927 (ibid, 2008).
The AWA building was one of Fisk's most visible achievements at the helm of AWA, ...as the new headquarters of the company. As one would expect of Fisk, the building was innovative, distinctive and practical... It was, for a time, the tallest structure in Sydney (with its steel radio transmission tower structure on top). Fisk no doubt chose the Art Deco style to signal AWA as a modern, progressive and go-ahead company. Overall, the building is vertically modelled to give a skyscraper appearance but within the rather limited heights allowed in the City of Sydney when it was completed in 1939 (Johnson, 2020, 14).
Originally the building housed a number of different uses. A restaurant was located in the Basement, the Ground Floor contained a sales room, major Vestibule and Beam Chamber, whereby the public could dispatch radiograms. The upper floors contained office space (Amalgamated Wireless being major occupiers), a radio school and broadcasting studios (Graham Alcock Giles Tribe).
AWA was first into television manufature, and in the 1960s large AWA neon logos were attached to the building to symbolise this fact. In later years the company expanded into a wide range of electronic products, including gaming systems (ibid, 2008).
In the early 1980s the basement ceased functioning as a restaurant and became office space. (Graham Alcock Giles Tribe).
In 2000, when AWA folded, the building was sold to Jupiter's Casino Group. It remains known as the AWA building, although the big red AWA signs have been removed. The tower which was demolished and rebuilt in 1994, remains illuminated at night, but the viewing platform has long gone (ibid, 2008).