Science House (including original interiors)
Statement of SignificanceScience House at Gloucester Street, The Rocks, is of significance to The Rocks, Sydney and the State of NSW for its historical, aesthetic and social values. Opened in 1931, it makes a strong contribution to The Rocks Conservation area, which is of State significance.Science House has long been recognised as a building of exemplary architectural design for its period, receiving the first Sulman Award (Medal) of the Australian Institute of Architects, New South Wales Chapter, in 1932. It was listed early in other heritage registers.Despite changes of use and occupancy, the building retains physical evidence of its strong association with the Australia's three leading scientific organisations that built and first occupied it: the Linnean Society; the Royal Society of New South Wales; and, the Institution of Engineers Australia.Designed in 1928 by a notable and long standing architectural firm, Peddle Thorp and Walker, the building is an outstanding and rare example in NSW of the Interwar Commercial Palazzo architectural style. It illustrates key aspects of the style expressed externally within three classic bands over six storeys: sandstone ashlar coursed base at street level; face brick to the middle three levels; and an elaborate top level marked by a strong cornice and ornamented frieze to both street facades.Within The Rocks, it contributes to an understanding of the history and evolution of the area. It demonstrates the changing aspirations and way of life of individuals and associations in the early twentieth century. As a site and building it demonstrates the important role played by government through land resumptions, the granting of land and enacting legislation in 1928 for the purpose of Science House and its use by the three societies, without which Science House would not have been built or endured.As a building of high architectural merit, it illustrates the changes in building technology and architectural character during the Inter-War period of buildings designed to project an image and status appropriate for corporate and institutional entities. It provides an appropriate setting for adjacent heritage buildings and makes a valuable contribution to a harmonious streetscape of buildings of diverse character and style.The building's social significance is primarily derived from its continuous use from its opening until 1976 by three cultural institutions as a centre of learning and inquiry. It continues to assert its importance, as a suitable home for cultural and learned/educationalactivities, which have varied over time from science, technology and professional, to education and sports. This aspect of its significance, together with the enabling legislation, distinguishes it when compared with other examples of the Interwar Commercial PalazzoStyle.The building is also rare for the spatial organisation and layout of its interior and the quality and intactness of its interior spaces such as foyer, reception, mezzanine, library and theatre. The majority of the internal finishes, although not all original, still can be definedas of exceptional to moderate significance. They allow the internal spaces to continue to interpret the original character, ambience and intent of the designer as recognised by the award of the Sulman Medal.The archaeological resources and relics associated with Science House have high research potential with an ability to make a contribution to the current understanding of the patterns of settlement and land use from the beginnings of European occupation of Sydney into the early twentieth century. The archaeological resources have the potential to contribute to questions regarding community interactions and developments during the nineteenth century. Further research may reveal information about early occupants and settlement in the first decades of the colony and significant archaeological evidence of this period of the site's occupation.
Builder/Maker: John Grant and Sons, Master Builders
Construction Years: 1931 - 1931
Physical Description: This listing includes the significant original interiors.Science House sits on the south-western corner of the intersection of Gloucester and Essex Streets at Church Hill, Sydney. Science House is a six storey building. The structure of the building is comprised of a concrete-encased steel frame of columns and reinforced concrete slabs. The external masonry walls of the building are non-load bearing and merely support their own weight. The design of the principal facades in Gloucester and Essex Streets are divided into three architectural zones mirroring the exaggerated ground floor, piano nobile and attic storey of the Florentine Early Renaissance palazzo type. At Science House the exaggerated 'ground storey' comprises the Ground Floor and Floor 1; the piano nobile Floors 2, 3 and 4 the attic storey, Floor 5. The exaggerated 'ground story' is built of fine quality ashlar sandstone masonry with rusticated joints. In Gloucester Street, the windows have semi-circular heads rising through two storeys. A decorative metal grille fills the semi-circular arches; below the windows have steel frames. The piano nobile at Science House is stretched through three floors and has the most simple architectural treatment. The walls are built of textured brick of subtle colour variations. The window apertures are regularly spaced in nine bays along Gloucester Street, four bays in Essex St. Each window aperture is comprised of a pair of identical double hung timber sash-windows each sash of six panels in the general design and portion of the Georgian style windows. The attic storey is more highly decorated. At window sill level a projecting square profile string course runs along the Gloucester and Essex Street facades. (See Howard 1991 pp15-21 for further detail).Style: Commercial Italian Renaissance Palazzo; Storeys: Six; Facade: Stone and face-brickwork; Internal Walls: The walls are largely undecorated and finished with painted plaster over brickwork.; Floor Frame: Timber (original); Roof Frame: Terracotta pan tiles; Ceilings: Moulded plasterwork embellished ceiling (the main lecture hall); Fire Stairs: South-western corner of the building.; Lifts: Two (opposite the entrance doors), original lift (southern side)Items of moveable heritage including chairs, projectors, heaters and numerous other items are temporarily stored in ASN Co Building, Bay 4, Circular Quay West (S Duyker 17.9.1999)
|Lot/Volume Number||Section Number||Plan Folio Code||Plan Folio Number|
Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: The study area occupies Lots 2, 3, 4 (part) and 7 of Section 64 of the city block bounded by Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester and Grosvenor Streets. Whilst more research is needed it appears that Sarah and William Fielder were the first occupants of the land. William was convicted of highway robbery with John Cobcroft, and John Wood and they were sentenced to death at the 7 May 1788 Old Bailey sessions but the sentence was commuted to transportation for life. William was also known as William Fubbs, and Jack the Gardiner.He came out on the Scarbourgh in the Second Fleet in 1790 and was lucky to survive the voyage as 28% of the convicts on board died and 37% were ill on arrival. His wife Sarah also came out on the Second Fleet as a freewoman on the Neptune. Although no record had been located as yet, it appears that William was assigned to her. Sarah was granted 60 acres at 'Eastern Farm', now the Ryde area, in 1798, but they don't appear to have lived there. The couple settled on the subject site in 1790, William living up to his nickname "Jack the Gardener" began improving the land and Sarah had two sons, William and Richard. In 1806 William is described as being a self-employed gardener in the convict musters.In 1810 Sarah died and William advertised the property, describing it as:"the well-known and eligible Premises situate at the back of the Bonded Store, near the Church, the property of William Fielder, comprising a neat American built House (Weather board), shingled, glazed, the flours (sic) neatly laid, the garden extensive having upwards of 100 choice orange, lemon and other fruit trees; the soil in find condition, being constantly kept in the finest order by an experienced gardener for 20 years and being now well stocked with every vegetable for table use; a convenient stock-yard at the back of the Premises, which command a clear view to South Head, and a vast track of Country. For the Public Business the Situation is rivalled by none, it have been one of the first established in that line by License; and the site it occupies being worth of any improved plan of building- For further information enquiry to be made to William Fielder, the Proprietor, on the Premises."He died in 1812 aged 56 and sons William and Richard inherited the land and farm. Richard was a seaman and was serving on the Governor Macquarie when he was press-ganged by Capt William Case of the HMS Samarang in August 1813. 10 men had already deserted the Samarang when Richard was forced to join the ship, he didn't stay long and in September he is also reported as a deserter. The report mentioned that he had a fractured skull, but no details on how it occurred. The Samarang left Sydney in November, without her deserters. Robert eventually became a commander in the British India Company, he died in India in 1827 at the age of 34 without dependants.William Fielder jnr became a shipwright and appears to have inherited all the family's land and in 1830 sold off the city block. In three transactions the block is broken up, two parcels are sold to John Jobbins and the other to Thomas Hancy. Thomas Hancy a baker, purchased the land with the cottage.Land grants and tenure were formalised in the 1830s and between 1836 and 1839, Lots 2, 3, 4, and 7 of section 64 were allocated as follows :· Allotment 7 granted to Thomas Hancy, 2 December 1836· Allotment 2 & 4 granted to William Long, 22 June 1839, Allotment 2 transferred to Charles Arthur Billyard, 3rd November 1851· Allotment 3 granted to James Green, 23 September 1839Between 2010 and 2013 archaeological excavations at 188 Cumberland Street uncovered substantial remains of the rear rooms of a c1820s stone building (including a kitchen) on Thomas Hancy's 1836 grant (Section 64 Lot 7). The 1848 rates records describe Hancy's house as being a 'house and bakehouse'. Thomas Hancy was born on-board the Minorca just before his family reached Sydney in 1801. The family was granted land around Baulkham Hills. In 1820 Thomas petitioned the Governor for a grant to carry on agricultural pursuits, and described himself as: "Memorialist a free born subject of this Colony is 19 yrs of age and resides with his father, William Hancey, at Baulkham Hills, following Agricultural Pursuits and supporting an Honest Industrious Character" He may not have been granted the land, in the 1828 census he is listed as a baker in Kent St, the year after, 1829, he advertises his ships biscuits from 44 Cambridge St, Rocks. This may have actually been in Gloucester St as it is around this time the streets swap names. After his fathers's death in 1830 he buys the block from William Fielder. He married convict Catherine Dunn in 1832 and by that time he is landowner and occupier of his block on the subject site. It doesn't appear to have been a happy marriage despite numerous children born to the couple. Catherine was locked up on several occasions throughout their marriage, but details of her offences weren't located. At least two convict servants assigned to him abscond, and in 1849 he is charged with a breach of the building act. He hadn't kept his chimney clean and it caught fire. In the Sydney Commercial Directory of 1850 he is described as 'Bread and Biscuit Baker, Gloucester St North'. He doesn't remain on the site for much longer; in 1851 he is charged with raping his 14 year old daughter on numerous occasions. His wife was in jail when it occurred and when she was released in March she found out what had been going on since the previous December and reported him. He was acquitted, the jury reasoning that "it being evident from the constant repetition of the act of incest, that the girl was a consenting party" even though they had heard evidence that Hancy threatened to beat his daughter if she revealed what was going on. That same year Hancy left the Gloucester St block, and Charles Nightingale is noted as the owner. No records for the sale had been located at the time of writing.Nightingale owned the block for about ten years, but he didn't live there, he rented the two houses out. The early tenants don't stay long, until in 1861 John Burgess moves into one house and John Tiffen into the other. Both have various spellings of their name, Burgess stays there until around 1866 and his house is then rented to a series of tenants.John Tiffen ran a dairy from his house and yard and remained in occupation until for around 20 years, he moved between 1880 and 1881.Nightingale sold the block around 1862, but again, no sale documents have been located. The chain of ownership becomes slightly confusing, it was most probably sold to William McCurtyne who owned the blocks next door, however the 1863 Rates have John Curtin as the landlord. By 1867 it is William McCurtyne and then in 1877, James Coleman, the next rate record of 1880 has Coleman noted as an agent. However in 1882 P & W McCurtayne are the landlords again. More research into the chain of ownership is required. By 1894 the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney owns the land, and they retain it until the land is resumed in the early 20th Century. None of the tenants remain in occupation long since Tiffen moved out in c1880.Allotment 2 & 4Allotment 2 & 4 granted to William Long, 22 June 1839, Allotment 2 transferred to Charles Arthur Billyard, 3rd November 1851William Long was a convict who arrived at the age of 18 on the Baring. He became a well known publican and ran the Saracen's Head further along Gloucester St and another hotel in George St. The advertisement for the grant appears in the newspapers on the 12 Mar 1839. However, the grant may have been to his father, also called William Long, because in 1840 descriptions of the lot note that William Long is deceased and others refer to the 'Trustees of William Long'. In any case, by the first Rates Assessment in 1845 the land is no longer in the Long family.The Rates list James Green as the landlord of the allotment, perhaps Green brought the lot to add to his own. No record of the transfer has been found for this or the next transaction when Billyard becomes the owner. However, Billyard is not mentioned in the Rates books as the owner of the block in the 1850s.By 1856 McCurtyane owns the block and is running a public house from half of it, the other half is vacant. In 1863 John Curtin is listed as the owner of both Hancy's and Longs allotments, but there is no mention of a public house on the lots, the houses there are all tenanted. In 1877 James Coleman is the landlord of both blocks. From this time the history of ownership is the same as Hancy's allotment. The Commercial Banking Company of Sydney is the landowner until the resumption. Allotment 3 granted to James Green, 23 September 1839Green remains the landowner of this lot and it appears he purchases the lots next door by 1845 when the first rates assessment is carried out. From 1856 the history of ownership is the same as for the other lots.The land was resumed by the government in 1900, and remained Crown property until 16 September 1929, when the site was granted to the Royal Society of N.S.W, the Linnean Society of N.S.W and the Institution of Engineers. There were to erect a building for the accommodation of those grantees and other significant bodies, with the condition that the building would not be mortgaged or leased out without consent of the Governor. Science House was built between 1930 and 1931.The idea of a cooperative venture between the major scientific organisations in New South Wales operating from centralised headquarters and sharing certain facilities had been discussed as early as 1890. On 7 May 1890, the President of The Royal Society of New South Wales, Professor A.L. Liversidge, in his address to the Society's annual meeting expressed a wish for improved accommodation, stating that a central premises for the learned societies was desired - a "modest edition of Burlington House, Piccadilly" (occupied since 1857 by a collection of scientific organisations).Lack of finance prevented the realisation of this venture, although many proposals were raised from 1914 onwards. In the mid 1920s the push for an alliance between scientific bodies in Sydney grew. Encouraged by the erection of the Allied Societies Trust Building in Collins Place, Melbourne by the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects and the Institution of Engineers, The Royal Society of NSW, the Institution of Engineers, Australia, and the Linnean Society of NSW decided to build a home for the leading scientific and technical bodies in the State.These three organisations formed a joint committee in 1926 to pursue the matter. A request was made to the NSW Government for a block of land to build Science House. The request was favourably received and the site at the southwest corner of Gloucester and Essex Streets was selected. Several two-storey residential terraces stood on the site which had previously been resumed for the construction of the city (circle) railway and the southern approach to the Harbour Bridge. The land was granted by an Act of Parliament in 1928 for the purpose of erecting Science House.An architectural competition was then held by the Institute of Architects of New South Wales in 1928 for the design of a new building and the appointment of an architect. The building was to include two halls to seat two hundred and fifty people, a library, meeting rooms, offices as well as ancillary spaces. George J Oakeshott, Howard Joseland and John L Berry were appointed to judge the 33 entries admitted for the competition. On 21 November 1928 the competition judges announced that the first prize of 250 pounds had been awarded to Peddle Thorp and Walker. Second place, with a premium of 150 pounds, went to Leith C McCredie and the third, with 100 pounds, to John Crust. Three other designs received commendations. All of the competition entries were exhibited in Sydney following the announcement of the results.On 24 June 1930 a foundation stone was laid by the NSW Governor, Sir Philip Game and the ceremony was attended by several scientific groups (some of whom later became tenants of the building). They included the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Australian National Research Council, the Institute of Optometrists, the Institution of Surveyors NSW, the Standards Association of Australia NSW, Rod Fishers' Association, the Institute of Architects of NSW, the Australian Chemical Institute, the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, the Wireless Institute of NSW, the Pharmaceutical Society of NSW and the daily and technical press.The building was officially opened on 7 May 1931 by Governor Game.To mark the occasion a series of lectures on scientific subjects was conducted and an impressive display of scientific and technical exhibits which took up two floors of Science House was organised by the owner- occupier societies. The exhibition covered all the main branches of science and technology including geology, botany, zoology,physics, chemistry, agriculture, astronomy, surveying and architecture.In 1932, Science House received the newly created Sulman Award (Medal) of the Institute of Architects of NSW under the award category of a public building. The building was described at the time as the headquarters of the three societies, 'the tenants being confined to kindred organisations, such as the Royal Australian Institute of Architects'.In 1953 Peddle Thorp and Walker designed a three storey addition with similar architectural elements to the original design but the plans were abandoned due to the financial constraints of the owner institutions. In 1954, the Science House Extensions Committee was dissolved. The three societies occupied the building until 1976, when they had to vacate the building following its resumption in 1970 by the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority (SCRA).In 1978 an administrative headquarters of State sporting associations was established in Science House. The Department of Sport and Recreation leased and operated the building giving offices to many sporting organisations. The large hall on the ground floor was used as an auditorium for talks. The building housed 11,000 books, journals and also 1000 films covering many areas of sports. In 1982 a Hall of Champions (including a Sports Museum) was set up within the building in order to commemorate outstanding sportsmen and women from New South Wales.In 1980 the then Director of the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority, Dr. Magee, suggested that a possible extension of Sports House (as was then known) be considered to allow the development of a Public Service administrative block to accommodate the Department of Sport and Recreation.In 2005 Science House was occupied by Australian Centre for Languages (ACL) and Curtin University. ACL was a private institution that provided English language courses to international students. In 2010 the building was unoccupied.By 2014 the property was fully occupied. The leaseholders (tenancies) comprised New York University (NYU) which occupied the ground, first, second and third floors. The fourth floor contained four tenancies: CPM Realty; Baseline Constructions; Aidacare Pty Ltd; and, Catalina Consultants. Baseline Constructions also occupied the fifth and sixth floors..
Historical significance: Science House was used continuously since the building was constructed until 1976 by a number of institutions as a centre of learning and scientific inquiry.The building reflects Sydney's and Australia's scientific, intellectual and cultural development of the time from three institutions' amalgamation of activities, occupying a building especially designed for their requirements. This idea of a shared home befittingthe needs of several organisations was a novel idea to Sydney.The site and building plays an important role in the evolution of The Rocks and the important role played by government through land resumptions, the granting of land and enacting legislation for the purpose of Science House and the use by the three societies,without which Science House would not have been built or endured.Science House still demonstrates the specific requirement for the design to provide a lecture hall with demonstration facilities, meeting rooms, offices and a library. The building can continue to interpret the existence of the scientific community within the physical fabric of the city and is still able to be used for cultural and educational purposes. The intact significant architectural features displaying their reference to science include the Science House external sign over the entrance to the building, the crest with three lamps located internally over the entrance doors of the foyer, the lecture hall with its bio box, blackboard, demonstration desk containing sink and gas connection and other meeting rooms including Edgeworth David Room (reception) and the foyer fitted with book cases.Accordingly, Science House satisfies this criterion at a STATE level.
Historical association: Science House has a strong and special association with the Linnean Society, the Royal Society of New South Wales and the Institution of Engineers Australia as well as significant groups and persons:· The three institutions of scientific learning and inquiry believed strongly that a central place of learning was required.· The architectural firm, Peddle Thorp and Walker which won a design competition and then saw the design through to its completion. Peddle Thorp and Walker grew to become one of the largest and prolific architectural practices in Australia continuing to this day.· Science House was the first building to receive the Sulman Award (Medal) in 1932 named in honour of one of Australia's leading architects, Sir John Sulman, (NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects). The award marks Science House as a worthy example of design excellence.Accordingly, Science House satisfies this criterion at a STATE level.
Aesthetic significance: Science House is characteristic of the Inter war period Commercial Palazzo style of architecture with highly refined detailing both externally and internally. It is widely recognised today as an outstanding example of its type and, at the time of its construction, it was the recipient of the first RAIA NSW Chapter Sulman Award (Medal) in 1932.The building exhibits the principal characteristics of the style with a firm sandstone base with large arched windows, a plainer brick central portion with a repetitive, well proportioned pattern of windows and a strongly expressed top floor embellished with classical detail and elaborate cornice.Important internal spaces such as the original cruciform foyer, original Lecture Hall, original Reception Room (Edgeworth David room) on the ground floor possess fine detailing and spatial qualities that have intact fitout and finishes.The two major street facades at Gloucester and Essex Streets contribute greatly to the streetscape character and add to The Rocks area's significant historic buildings. The building is sympathetic in its scale and materials to its surroundings which are both old andnew. It also takes advantage of the corner site with its two decorated facades, which can be viewed from the nearby streets. The pantile clad hipped roof also can be seen in prominent view cones such as from the Sydney Harbour Bridge.The blank wall of the north east elevation of the building assists the setting of the adjoining and adjacent heritage buildings. It enables the scale, form and roofline of the heritage buildings to be appreciated against a neutral backdrop in key views from Cumberland and Essex Streets, in marked contrast to the high rise buildings of the CBD.Accordingly, Science House satisfies this criterion at a STATE level.
Social significance: Science House possesses strong social values associated with for its continuous use as a centre of learning, inquiry and a place of gathering. From the uses that have occurred since 1976, when occupation by the three societies ceased, the building still asserts itssuitability for use by cultural and learned/educational institutions. It continues to be valued by the community as shown by its listing in a number of heritage registers including the State Heritage Register and community support for its listing in the State Heritage Register (Royal Society of NSW Bulletin March 2008).Accordingly, Science House satisfies this criterion at a STATE level.
Research significance: The significance of the archaeological resources have the potential to make an important contribution to an understanding of the early settlement of colonial Sydney and subsequent patterns of land use and settlement. The archaeological resources associated with the Science House site are likely to have a high degree of integrity.Accordingly Science House is considered to satisfy this criterion at a STATE Level.
Rare assessment: Science House provides evidence of a rare association of three scientific bodies to create shared facilities, possibly unique to Sydney. Science House, although not a unique example of the Inter war period Commercial Palazzo style, is an extremely refined version that demonstrates key attributes of the style. Recognition of its value by the first award of the Sulman medal elevates its architectural merit above other examples and therefore contributes to its rarity.In addition, It makes a significant contribution to The Rocks and those aspects of its history that demonstrate the evolution of settlement and the changing aspirations and way of life of individuals and associations. As a building of high individual architectural merit, itdemonstrates the changing building technology and architectural character of the Inter-War period.Accordingly, Science House satisfies this criterion at a STATE level.
Representative assessment: Science House possesses all the primary characteristics of the Commercial Palazzo style, which was popular from the late Federation period until World War II to project the image and status of corporate and institutional entities. It makes a valuable contribution to a harmonious streetscape of buildings of diverse character and style, within a conservation area of State, and National significance.Accordingly, Science House satisfies this criterion at a STATE level.
Intact assessment: The preliminary historical, physical and comparative analysis indicates that there is potential for historical archaeological relics, deposits and structural remains to be present in the Science House site. It is likely that relatively intact evidence of nineteenth and earlytwentieth century, and possibly of the 1790s, occupation of the site to be present, which would have the potential to respond to research questions.
Physical condition: The physical condition of the building is good. See details of work undertaken in 1995-96 in modification field below.Archaeology Assessment Condition: Mostly disturbed.
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities associated with systematic observations, experiments and processes for the explanation of observable phenomena.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0466||Sport House including Original Interiors||21/10/1980||2465|
|Local Environmental Plan|
|National Trust of Australia Register||9763||Sports House||09/11/1981|
|Royal Australian Institute of Architects register||4700626|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||01578||Science House||10/05/2002||2868||85|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Within a National Trust conservation area||10499|