Sydney Architecture Images- Central Business District

Perpetual Trustee Building

architect

Designer/Maker: Robertson and Marks, Architects.
Builder/Maker: Messrs Walter Gawne and Sons.

location

33- 39 Hunter St, Sydney

date

1914-17

style

Commercial Pallazo

construction

Steel/Concrete frame, stone cladding.

type

Office Building
 
The Perpetual Trustee Company Building comprises 1 ground level, 7 upper levels and a basement. With the exception of lightwells to the sides, covers the complete area of the site. The overall style of the building is Edwardian 'Grand Manner' which is characterised in the building by Baroque inspired columns, mansard roof form embellished with dormer windows and dominant overhanging cornice supported on brackets.



THE BASE - is bounded at the top by a large cornice at the level 2 window sill and at the bottom by courses of rusticated trachyte. The base is articulated by a screen of giant order trachyte columns. Flanking both sides of this screen are bays of smooth rusticated stonework which extends vertically to level 7.

THE SHAFT - springs from the level 2 cornice and terminates at the metal cornice between Level 6 and 7. The shaft's plain appearance is modulated by the presence of a string course at the Level 2 ceiling height and flanking the east and west bays of smooth faced rusticated stonework.

Recessed panels between the windows and heavily detailed stonework further define the area between the Level 2 cornice and string course. The section of facade between the vertical bays is punctured by 5 window openings per floor and is relatively plain with relief being provided by simple projecting window sill blocks and stone cavity vents. The vertical bays are characterised by one large window and a simply designed spandrel block.

THE CAPITAL - Dominated by a 2 storey mansard, this section of the facade provides a terminating form to the building. The Level 6 cornice spans the middle vertical bay and is bounded by extensions of the side bays which finish as pediments. The cornice is fabricated from high quality pressed copper sheet and projects forward the face of the facade by approximately 1000mm. It is supported by double brackets in mid span and single brackets at the ends. The brackets are copper clad and are decorated with classical motifs such as garlands and female heads.
(Jackson Teece et.al. 1996: 40-41)

History

The Perpetual Trustee Executor and Agency Company Limited was set up in 1885. An attempt at incorporation failed on the grounds that the company did not have enough capital for security. Following this failure, the company was dissolved in 1886 and the Perpetual Trustee Company was formed with a base of 1 000 000 pounds. Application for incorporation passed through State Parliament in June 1888. The Company became one of the first trustee companies to be established in Australia and took place at a time of complex development in the commercial economy.

The site of the Perpetual Trustee Company building was part of a town grant made to William Henry Roberts on 4 July 1837. The property changed hands numerous times and was subdivided into two lots in 1881 before the Perpetual Trustee Company Limited gained freehold possession of the subdivision on the corner of Hunter and Castlreagh Streets in June 1913. Previous owners included Elizabeth Catherine Countess of Carnarvon, the Right Honourable Henry John Earl of Dill and Edward Stafford Howard, all of England, in the 1880s. The intent of the company in purchasing the site was the erection of a new office building to house their own operations together with additional space for leasing.

The building was designed by Robertson and Marks, Architects, and was constructed between 1914 and 1916 by general contractors Messrs Walter Gawne and Sons. Several aspects of the work were contracted out to sub-contractors. In 1916 the building was opened after some unspecified delays. At the time the new building was the dominant development on the southern side of Hunter Street between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets and replaced what was probably one of the last Georgian era buildings to be removed from Hunter Street.

Between 1917 and 1933 The Perpetual Trustee Company Limited occupied the Ground, First and Seventh floors. In 1936 they occupied the Second, Third and Fourth floors. In 1938 Robertson and Marks applied for approval to convert the then flat roof space to the rear of the building into additional office space and to modify the rear stair for the installation of a lift service. Work carried out in 1959 to remodel the original Hunter Street entry, radically refit internal spaces and to partly infill 2 of the lightwells resulted in loss and damage to, and obscuring of major portions of original internal fabric.

Further work was carried out after 1959 and the building's setting was drastically altered by the construction boom of the 1960s. The adjoining 22 and 24 storey buildings, have since reversed the dominant qualities of the Perpetual Trustee Company building. In 1988 the most recent, reasonably major internal fitout took place, obscuring much of the 1959 work to the entry vestibule.

The Perpetual Trustee Company continues to reside in the building in Hunter Street.
(Jackson Teece et.al. 1996: 6, 15-36)

--------------

Both the Daily Telegraph and Robertson & Marks' next commercial
Palazzo - the Perpetual Trustee Company Building (1914-17) at 33-39
Hunter Street - show a competence and maturity in their design suggestive
of the mid-1920s rather than the preceding decade (Fig 24).
The central part of the facade of the Perpetual Trustee is sober and predictable
but the composition is given a lively, unconventional twist by
the flanking bays. Strongly rusticated and displaying quasi-Chicagoan
fenestration, they ignore the main cornice as they rise to Mannerist pediments
at attic level. Nevertheless, the facade as a whole maintains a
sense of dignified order.

The materials used for the facades of the Daily Telegraph, the Perpetual
Trustee and the Commonwealth Bank established a precedent that was
often followed in the 1920s and 1930s: a base clad in polished trachyte
and a shaft and capital faced with smooth-faced slabs of Sydney or
Hawksbury sandstone. Other cladding materials used less frequently
were brick and architectural terracotta.

The materials used for the facades of the Daily Telegraph, the Perpetual
Trustee and the Commonwealth Bank established a precedent that was
often followed in the 1920s and 1930s: a base clad in polished trachyte
and a shaft and capital faced with smooth-faced slabs of Sydney or
Hawksbury sandstone. Other cladding materials used less frequently
were brick and architectural terracotta.

Richard Apperley
On the site previously.

 

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