Sydney is actually home to a large amount of Renaissance-inspired architecture.
01- Image- Palazzo Strozzi, Florence.
Real Renaissance palazzo in Florence- the source of so much Western architecture.
From approximately 1910 to 1940, the dominant style for Sydney commercial architecture was that of the commercial pallazo.
02- Image- Union Club (1883- 87, demolished).
Based on Barry’s great Reform Club in London, Renaissance language used here to denote dependability and connection with high culture.
This was partly due to the conservative nature of Australian architecture, and partly due to the height limit set (150 ft until 1961) after the scandalously gigantic Culwulla Chambers.
03- Image- Culwulla Chambers, Warehouse style.
The more radical but domestic style of Federation Freestyle. Decidedly unsophisticated.
Above- the hulking mass of Culwulla Chambers shocked Sydneysiders. Anything this high was banned until 1961.
Up until 1910, high buildings in Sydney has been based on either Victorian of Federation/Queen Anne/Warehouse style. This style was, however, somewhat pedestrian for the great commercial buildings that were growing like mushrooms during the 1920s. A more impressive style was needed.
04- Image- University Club (1896- 1900), New York, by McKim, Mend & White.
Also based on the Reform.
05- Image- The Goelet Building (1886-87), New York, by McKim, Mead & White.
The proportions of the palazzo suddenly spring to life on a city scale.
06- Image- The Flatiron Building (1903), by D H Burnham & Co.
A massive Renaissance palazzo complete with well defined base, shaft and capitol.
In New York, McKim, Mead and White had successfully based a high-rise on a Renaissance pallazo. This was a logical thing to do, as small-scale mansions and banks had been doing this consistently through the nineteenth century. The beauty about the commercial Renaissance pallazo style was that, as the building had a well developed base and capitol, the “shaft” could be as long as required without upsetting the proportions of the building.
As this style best suited medium sized buildings without setbacks, it endured far longer in Sydney than elsewhere.
07- Image- Former Daily Telegraph Building (1912-16), King & Castlereagh Streets, Sydney, by Robertson & Marks. 155 KING STREET SYDNEY, The Trust Building.
This building, as with the Herald building below, is a superb civic jesture. As a piece of architecture it exclaims confidence in Sydney and its place in the world.
Interestingly, the Daily Telegraph was designed to house all of the newspaper’s functions, with the printing presses located in the basement and sub-basement. The greater part of the ground floor was given over to large, high, public space – the Advertising Hall – with offices on two levels grouped around it. Above it there was a complicated arrangement of low storeys, double-height storeys and mezzanines accommodating paper storage, stereo room and composing room. On the fourth floor, high-ceilinged spaces were provided for the board room, library and editorial staff, with five storeys of conventional office space above. While hardly satisfying Sullivan’s dictum about form following function, the Daily Telegraph’s facades loosely acknowledged the existence of the differing activities going on behind them, especially the bi-partite treatment of the building’s base.
08- Image- The former Sydney Morning Herald Building. Quite superb.
09- Image- Commonwealth Bank (1913-14), Martin Place & Pitt St. Sydney, by John Fitzpatrick.
The very model of civilised dependability. The “money-box building”.
10- Image- Former Manchester Unity Oddfellows’ Building (1921-23), Elizabeth Street, by John P Tate & Young. Sydney.
Interesting building this. The Oddfellows were a quasi- secret society, whose good deeds included life insurance policies for the poor.
Interesting use of eastern temple language, especially as it is next to the Great Synagogue.
11- Image- Former Farmer’s Store (c 1930). George & Market Streets, by Robertson & Marks. Sydney.
Shows how department stores were viewed as important prestigious social institutions (as they were, with the mail order component tying the country together).
12- Image- Gowings Bros (1912, 1929) 318 George & Market Streets, by Robertson & Marks and C H McKellar. Sydney.
13- Image- Former Shell House (1938), Carrington & Margaret Streets, by Spain & Cosh. Sydney.
This terracotta-clad Renaissance palazzo is very late, about the last example in Sydney. It has a strong Art-Deco influence, but is still strongly bound to the Renaissance massing conventions.
The Rural Bank of Martin Place (demolished) of 1939 was strongly Art Deco. Perhaps Shell saw this as too radical.