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RESERVE BANK OF AUSTRALIA

Planned for Progress

This film documents the construction of the Reserve Bank’s Head Office building in Martin Place, along with developments in Sydney in the early 1960s.

A transcript is also available.

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Transcript

Planned for Progress. Produced by David Koffel Film Productions. Executive Director: Ralph D. Hogg; Sound: Julian Nathan; Editing: John Wain; Commentary: Phil Haldeman. Presented by the Reserve Bank of Australia. Produced by David Koffel.

Sydney, 1965 a vibrant, expansive, beautiful city, rising from one of the world’s most magnificent harbours. Sydney, Australia’s largest city with a population fast approaching 2 ½ millions. Significant of the city’s momentum and abreast of the most modern building trends is this magnificent granite and marble structure of 25 floors, the new Head Office of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Located in Martin Place, the city’s financial centre, the site selected for the Reserve Bank building was previously owned by the Sydney City Council. It was, from 1831 onwards, the site of no less than four separate churches, a World War II enlistment centre, a city council information office and some once graceful residences, built at the turn of the century. It is a site surrounded by history, reaching back through almost seven generations, back to the days of Captain Cook.

Almost opposite, in Macquarie Street, is Parliament House, commenced building in 1811, and Sydney Hospital, soon to yield to progress and a new building elsewhere in the city. A short distance away is St James Church, designed by the famous convict architect Francis Greenway. The Mitchell Library, with its priceless historical treasures, and the Conservatorium of Music, once the Governor's [Lachlan Macquarie] stables in early colonial times.

The planning of the Reserve Bank building was embarked upon by a special committee inaugurated by the Governor of the Bank, Dr H.C. Coombs. Responsible for the basic building design, this committee included: architects of the Commonwealth Department of Works; a representative of the Bank Mr McGrouther; Professor H. Ingham Ashworth of Sydney University; and Mr J.G. Phillips, Deputy Governor. With knowledge gleaned from research abroad, the project was visualised by the Department of Works architects C.D. Osborne, R.M. Ure, the late F.C. Crocker and G.A. Rowe.

Although the work of excavation was hindered by some periods of heavy rain, a good rate of progress was maintained, and the finished excavation approximately 94 feet by 232 feet, 41 feet deep was completed close to schedule. In October 1961, the first steel girders arrived on the site and the job of constructing the Reserve Bank building proceeded with planned efficiency. This was to be a building engineered to very high standards, to carry heavy floor loads. Thus the structural steel sections were among the largest used in any Sydney building.

At this stage, it is interesting to reflect that the huge frame of the whole 25-floor structure would rise in all, over 300 feet from this comparatively simple beginning.

After two months, the progress was impressive. In all, 5,000 tons of steel were to be employed in a rigid-tight construction of concrete-encased steel and re-enforced concrete floors. A massive web, of steel strength.

Some three months later, the huge structure can be seen to be rising steadily as 100s of tons of steel are swung into position. It is a great mass of steel arranged in a pattern that will provide 370,0002 feet of gross floor area. With more than 17,0002 feet at ground level.

After 15 months, as we climb the northern face of the building with the dogman [a person who directs the operation of a crane whilst riding on an object being lifted by it] we see that the frame has now risen its full 25 floors to a height of 264 feet above street level. Now the last of the steel girders swings into position.

With the addition of selected Australian marble and granite to its façade, the appearance of the Reserve Bank building undergoes a transformation. Before the façades of the building were finally closed off, steps were taken to haul in various items of large furniture and plant. In this instance, one of three very large air compressor tanks, for the air-conditioning system on the 16th floor. In a similar manner, the old board room table came in through 12th floor windows. It would, at an appropriate time, repose in the law library – a memento of the past.

All together, 110,0002 feet of Australian marble and granite were employed in the project, and a combination of these materials provides a striking affect – especially at the vestibule and ground floor level.

Since one of the Bank’s important functions will be to hold some of the nation’s precious gold reserves and currency, the most up-to-date protection measures have been adopted. The massive strongroom door being lowered to the 3rd basement floor, 40 odd feet below Martin Place, is one of a pair. Each door weighs 18 tons, and is the largest, and technically most advanced, ever built in the southern hemisphere. Constructed in Sydney, and equal to the finest in the world, these doors will resist every known form of steel cutting device.

Equally efficient, is the electrically operated armoured car turntable and traversing unit designed to move and rotate a loaded truck speedily in a confined space.

Speedily nearing completion, the building now presents a compelling exterior of marble, granite, aluminium and glass. To complement the external décor of the Reserve Bank building, a competition was organised for Australian artists and sculptors and entries were displayed publicly. The design of a bronze, free-standing piece by Margel Hinder was chosen for the colonnade in Martin Place. Mrs Hinder is seen putting the final touches to the great bronze motif which all welded to a tubulous stainless steel frame, weighs nearly 2 tons. Abstract metal forms designed by Bim Hilder provide a highly-effective wall enrichment on a surface of Wombeyan grey marble in the ground floor vestibule.

Finally, it was time to move into the new premises and no time was lost in effecting the changeover from one building to the other. In preparation for this, plans had been laid months ahead so that all of the Bank’s important documents and records could be transferred across in an orderly manner. Careful coding of every package combined with detailed location plans of each operative section, enabled the whole move to be carried out in the short space of time, of one weekend, so avoiding any loss of valuable working time.

Naturally, a period of settling in was to be expected, but the Bank was moved and ready for business on the following Monday morning. Pleasant surroundings, furnished with good taste and simplicity, contribute strongly to the moral and efficiency of the staff. In similar vein, it seems hard to believe that only three operators control all telephone calls using boards which surely are the last word in simplicity. All inter-communication is simple and direct. This system summons a stenographer from a central typing pool so that executives of the Bank are able to dictate reports, notes or correspondence without delay. Indicative of the extent of the Bank’s day-by-day busy activity, a modern luncheon room functions continuously for six hours out of every working day, catering to the requirements of nearly a thousand people. The board room of the Reserve Bank of Australia is in keeping with the dignity of the institution. It is a setting for the quiet, objective efficiency of the nation’s leading economic and financial advisors.

From the highest floors of the Bank, imposing views of the whole city, present a sweeping panorama, symbolic of the expansion of Australia as a whole. Of a virile growth and progress, in which the Reserve Bank plays an important role.

Thus, from the heart of Sydney has risen the Head Office building of the Reserve Bank of Australia, a structure which proudly is Australian through and through, featuring almost in its entirety quality construction materials and fabricated products which wholly originated in Australia. Planned for progress, it is a building which admirably complements the architectural advancement of a great city and pays fitting tribute to Australia’s economic progress and the forward-reaching spirit of its people.

The End.

A David Koffel Film Production.

Edited version of the original film. 11 minutes duration.