Sydney Architecture Images- Central Business District

Former Shell House


Spain & Cosh, Builder/Maker: Howie Moffat & Co


2-12 Carrington Street, Sydney




Commercial Pallazo


Steel/Concrete frame, faced with buff-coloured terracotta cladding. Glazed terracotta tiles, trachyte cladding (ground level). Storeys:12 + basement.


Office Building


  The Menzies Hotel, formerly corporate offices for Shell Oil Co, is a prominent corner building, dominated by a clock tower. It displays a fine ochre-coloured glazed terracotta tile facade. The building is of the Inter-War Commercial Palazzo style. Consistent with this style, the building is clearly divided horizontally into three sections. The lower two storeys are boldly formed as a sandstone base with arched ground floor openings. The central section, of seven levels, has repetitive rectangular windows creating a simple facade. A projecting cornice and columns distinguish the upper two storeys. Like many buildings of this style the use of smoothly finished, durable materials was favoured. The original interior was striking, particularly for the inclusion of the corporate logo. Much of this detail has been lost through subsequent works including the 1978-1979 fitout for the hotel. Travertine wall cladding and wallpaper have been used in the lobby area while the upper levels consist of plasterboard stud walls and suspended ceilings.

Originally "Shell House", this was the fifth building erected by Shell Oil Co in an Australian capital city. It was considered to be one of the finest of the series. Designed by Spain & Cosh and constructed by Howie Moffat and Co, work actually commenced in 1930 with the excavation of the site. The project resumed in 1937 after some years of inactivity, and was completed in 1938. Shell occupied the upper levels down to the fifth floor, the basement (carpark) and lower ground floor (staff dining room). The remainder of the building was leased. The building was noteworthy for its interiors which featured the corporate logo worked in terrazzo on the ground floor and detailing in red lacquer, various coloured marbles and red Scagliola. Externally, the clock manufactured by Gillet and Johnstone of England was a Sydney landmark.

Throughout the 1940s-1960s the works to the building involved the upgrading of services such as the introduction of mechanical ventilation, and the addition of numerous internal partitions. Minor alterations were made to several spaces and suspended ceilings introduced on a number of floors. This work was the product of a large number of design firms and was uncoordinated.

The use of glazed tiles for external wall treatments during the Inter-war period is well represented by the former Shell House. Better examples may however be found at Railway House in York Street, the APA building in Martin Place (refer No 2132), the GPO extensions in Pitt Street (refer No 2149), Oddfellows Building in Castlereagh Street, and the BMA building (refer No 2121). Cultural:The Menzies Hotel is one of the most distinguished examples of the Inter-War Commercial Palazzo style in Australia. It is a very important contributor to the townscape quality around Wynyard Park on a prominent corner site. The building's elegant proportions and original external materials have survived successive refits and internal refurbishment.

Old tram tunnels remain below building, now used as hotel car park.


Along with Robertson & Marks, the firm of Spain & Cosh excelled at
designing office buildings in the Commercial Palazzo style. Two representative
surviving works by Spain & Cosh are the exemplary former
Scottish House (1926) on the corner of Bridge Street and Tank Stream
Way and the former Shell House (1938) on the corner of
Carrington Street and Margaret Street. The latter building is
faced with buff-coloured terracotta and is an extremely 'stripped' version
of the style - as befits the late 1930s - with an incongruous Art
Deco ziggurat rising above the cornice to house a large clock.