Commonwealth Bank Market Street

Location: 46-48 Market Street, Sydney
1954 - This 12 storey office tower was the first major building to be completed after the end of World War II and was the catalyst for a flourish of new high rise buildings that changed the skyline of the inner city during the latter years of the 20th century. It would have been built higher but a legal limitation of one hundred and fifty feet was in place at the time of construction. In excavating, difficulties arose due to the Wynyard-Town Hall underground railway line which passed below the site. Three concrete columns had to be extended through the railway tunnel walls to foundations some sixty feet below ground level.

As the bank's image was to be seen as being part of the community, public art was paramount and included a sculpture and bas-relief by Lyndon Dadswell, and sandstone panel by Gerald Lewers (1905 1962) on the York Street facade, both completed in 1956. Lyndon Dadswell's sculptures grace a number of Sydney buildings. He created the sculpture on the Union Building in the University of Sydney in th 1950s; the sculpture on the Jewish War Memorial in Darlinghurst in 1965; the sculpture on the Maritime Services Building (now Museum of Contrmporary Art) in the 1940s; Dadswell and Henry Epstein ceated the fountin and bronze gates in Sandringham Gardens in Hyde Park, a memorial to King George V and King George VI (1952). Dadswell was the first sculptor to be appointed an official war artist of the Second World War.

Gerald Francis Lewers (1905-1962), sculptor and construction engineer, and Hettie Margaret Ernestine Lewers (1908-1978), artist, were husband and wife. From 1953 until his death Lewers received over fifteen major commissions, among them 'Relaxation', a reclining 'sandstone figure of heroic size' (University House, Canberra), and the sandstone relief on the York Street front of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (Sydney, 1954).

About the Building

The site of the bank was purchased in 1939 and plans drawn up for a nine storey building in 1941. However, building was deferred due to war. The bank reviewed the plans again after the war though in August 1949 the City Council notified the bank of their decision to widen Market Street, effectively reducing the overall width of the site. Subsequently the bank sold to the City Council a strip eight feet along Market Street from George to York Streets. The result was that new plans were drawn by the Commonwealth Department of Works for a twelve storey building accommodating the banking chamber over three floors; one on the lower ground, one, on the ground and another on the first floor linked together by escalators. The building design was typical of the aesthetics of the 1950's.

Its twelve storey tower with three floors underground complied with the existing building height of one hundred and fifty feet. Construction to ground level was by Master Builders, Hutcherson Brothers Pty Ltd, and the remainder by Concrete Constructions Pty Ltd. In excavating, difficulties arose due to the Wynyard Town Hall underground railway line which passed below the site. Three concrete columns which extended through the railway tunnel walls to foundations some sixty feet below ground level were required.

At the time of construction the building innovative for its air conditioning which was distributed through perforated metal ceiling tiles giving complete distribution over the entire floor, and had air distribution through twin ducts to each zone on each floor, one carrying hot the other cold, which were mixed at the points of distribution.

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