Ballarat House’s site was created by the City of Sydney’s ambitious urban project that cut through Wentworth Avenue to connect Oxford Street to the new Central Station. Built originally as a four-storey building in 1916, Ballarat House had an additional floor added in 1924, The architects for both stages were David Thomas Morrow (1871-1935) and William de Putron (1863-1946), who individually and together were significant Sydney architects in the early decades of the C20th.
For most of the C20th, many of the commodious warehouses along the avenue housed clothing manufacturers and tailoring. As one of the most intact and one of the grander remaining warehouses along Wentworth Avenue, Ballarat House is listed by the City of Sydney as a heritage item. With brick perimeter walls and an internal timber structure, it is a robust exemplar of the early C20th warehouse type and construction.
The majority of the current alterations and additions are concentrated on top floor, which for decades was the former Studio 5 and Hill Thalis offices. Works have also been undertaken in the former loading dock on the Foster Street side of the building, converting it into a new entry lobby with a new lift to serve as the main address and provide complying access to the all floors.
On the top floor, a new mezzanine floor has been added beneath a central pop-up roof, while a new roof terrace opens views south west towards Central Station and beyond. Clerestory windows and large openings off the terrace coupled with generous voids provide natural light and ventilation into the centre of the floor plate below to create a memorable new workplace environment.
New amenities and services are centralised under the terrace, with toplight windows providing daylight. These areas are accessed by a ramp, screened by battens recycled on site from replaced rafters. A new open stair, with steel structure and timber treads, connects the existing floor level to both the mezzanine and the roof terrace.
The new works expose and celebrate the original timber construction and roof structure, which had long been concealed. The columns and beams are all Australian hardwood, while the rafters and roof framing were oregon. Steel beams have been introduced to both support the new mezzanine and terrace and to make the building’s structure compliant with today’s earthquake code. All hardwood timber and steel structure has been treated with fire retardant to meet contemporary building code requirements. The part of the hardwood structure which had been charred in a past fire has been left exposed. New windows are timber framed to match the fabric and scale of the original design.
The careful retention, and expression, of this beautiful framed and braced structure creates a compelling scale and rhythm that subtly energises this contemporary workspace.
The alterations and additions to Ballarat House are respectful of the fine original construction, and seek to extend the logic of the revealed volume and structure to create a space full of interplay, light and delight.