Qantas HouseLocation: Chifley Square, Sydney
1950-57 - Qantas House is a fine example of an intact, post-war, multi-storeyed Australian office buildings from the first phase in the 1950s, and is from the small group in Sydney of this group designed prior to the amendments to the Heights of Buildings Act in 1957 that heralded the subsequent 'high-rise' phase. It has particular rarity with Australia for its unique shape, the outstanding quality of its curtain wall facade.
A variant of the post-war International style of architecture, Qantas House represents transitional aspects of 'moderate' 1930s European modernism, combined with the latest in post-war curtain wall technologies and materials and is the best design response to its setting in Australia from this period. Although altered internally, its external facade remains largely intact.
Historically significant as the first planned world headquarters for Qantas Empire Airways, at the time Australia's only, and Government-owned, international airline, the building, and in particular the aerofoil-shaped aluminium mullions of its curtain wall, gives form to Qantas' forward looking and expansive image at a time when air travel was taking off. Qantas Airways remained as its sole occupant for twenty-five years and remains associated with the building through its lease of the ground floor. The building s interior, significantly altered in the 1980s, was refurbished in 2004.
Architects: Rudder, Littlemore and Rudder
Qantas House is distinguished by its graceful, segmented, curved facade which consists of a 46m high, double glazed curtain wall of green glass with enamelled blue-green steel spandrel panels. It is located on the western side of Chifley Square which itself is located at the intersection of Elizabeth, Hunter and Phillip Streets in Sydney.
In following the curve of Chifley Square, the building's plan respects the semi-circular form which was proposed for the northern side of the square in its original design of 1908. Qantas House is still a distinctive feature of Chifley Square and its curved form provides a welcome pedestrian area at the front of the building. The reinforced concrete structure of the building is relatively conventional. However, the planning is noteworthy in that the service cores are assymmetrically placed adjacent to the boundaries with the adjoining buildings. This allows for the inclusion of a light well at the rear of the building, ensuring the penetration of light deep into the interior. It also means that the curved line of the building against the sky is not interrupted by vertical projections of centrally located service cores.
In its new company headquarters, Qantas wished to project a progressive image with the use of the latest imported curtain wall technology combined with Australian materials such as granite, marble and a variety of timbers. Oantas House was the first office building to use Australian black granite from Adelong and Bookharn green granite from the Yass area. Marble was sourced in the country town of Mudgee and the Wombeyan Caves area. Queensland maple was used extensively throughout the building and other timbers featured included walnut, mahogany and sycamore. As well as being chosen for aesthetic and patriotic reasons, there were economies to be achieved through the use of materials which could be found close at hand.
The desire to reflect a specifically Australian character was rare in office interiors of the 1950s. In keeping with the prevailing International Style, the Australian theme in Qantas House was reflected more in the choice of materials than in the way they were used.