On 2 November, more than 50 of the city’s most architecturally inspiring buildings will open their doors.

An event from Sydney Living Museums (formally Historic Houses Trust) – an organisation responsible for caring for some of Sydney’s most significant historic houses, gardens and museums – Sydney Open gives unprecedented access to both century-old icons and contemporary award-winning places.

From famed church-come-theatre Eternity Playhouse to the magnificent stained-glass interior of the 19th Century Romanesque Revival QVB, take a peek behind the scenes and get the back story from the architects, building owners and more than 300 volunteers.

The banking chamber at 50 Martin Place, with its lavishly decorated interior of marble and ornate pressed-metal ceiling, once stood as an imposing tribute to the prosperity of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. Today, its distinctive terracotta and pink granite façade is crowned with an immense glass dome as the former financial hub is reinvented as an exemplary modern workplace and Macquarie Group’s new global headquarters.

Paul van Ratingen, director of JPW (Johnson Pilton Walker) the architects behind the recent refurbishment, reveals the thinking behind the work.

50 Martin Place, featuring its new glass dome. Photo by Peter Bennetts courtesy Macquarie Group
Interior of 50 Martin Place. Photo by Peter Bennetts courtesy Macquarie Group

“The building is recognised as one of the finest 20th century bank buildings in the world and one of the most important examples of Inter-War Beaux-Arts architectural styles in the country. As a result of an extensive program of conservation works in the 1980s, Macquarie became custodian of a building that was, in most parts, in original condition, when it was purchased in mid-2012.”

While the original heritage interior is undoubtedly sumptuous, the building’s shortcomings as a contemporary workplace included its limited levels of daylight and restricted views to the outside.

JPW addressed this by extending the existing atrium and adding an interconnecting stair to promote flow between the floors of the building. The expansion is complemented by the introduction of circular all-glass lifts with elegant heritage marble facades.

Although it takes visual cues from Paris’ Neoclassical Grand Palais, the spectacular glass dome is deliberately a highly contemporary structure designed to comfortably integrate with the existing building,

“Macquarie saw the opportunity to incorporate an accessible roof terrace and a new roof extension that could house meeting and conferencing facilities for staff, clients and visitors” said van Ratingen.

“The set-out was determined using the original building visual and dimensional order, including central and cross axis, central atrium and column grid. Whilst the materials, detailing and environmental initiatives clearly distinguish the roof as a contemporary addition that reflects the crafting of the original building.”

We see the new roof addition as the roof the original building deserves.

50 Martin Place, atrium
50 Martin Place, rooftop aerial view

The roof design contributes to the environmental control of the 6 Green Star-rated building by venting relief air from the offices below and increasing natural light through the enlarged skylight. A great achievement for a heritage building that is almost 90 years old.

These significant alterations reclaimed some of the heritage grandeur that was lost in the 1980s and today reaffirms the building’s legacy in the prime civic location of Martin Place – once again bringing attention to Sydney’s original financial centre.

Sydney Open is on 2 November. Head to sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/sydneyopen for the full list of participating buildings and to purchase tickets.

Published: 20 Oct, 2014 | 0 Comments | Tags:

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