The former Bank of New South Wales building was designed by architects Godfrey and Spowers in 1929 and the building was occupied two years later. Six storeys in height, the faience-clad facade on a sandstone base is derived from ancient Egyptian models in terms of details and proportions. The decorative terra cotta work is set in a rebated frame, which gives subtle prominence to the composition of pilasters and frieze. The ground floor is divided into three sections by sandstone columns with fluted shafts. The columns support a frieze and balcony, with a projecting balcony above. Five storey pilasters are capped by Egyptian-inspired capitals. Above this there is a frieze of carved palm fronds that also acts as a terminating cornice, capping the building. Structurally the building is constructed with a reinforced concrete. The interior of the banking chamber has been altered but the stairwell remains intact.
How is it significant?
The former Bank of New South Wales building is of architectural significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The former Bank of New South Wales building is architecturally significant for exemplifying the architectural eclecticism and exoticism of the late 1920s and early 1930s. It is very unusual for the application of Egyptian motifs. It is an excellent example of the use of decorative terra-cotta faience, which was a popular cladding material in the inter-war years.
History of Place:
The use of faience in this building follows soon after its use at Manchester Unity, Century Bulding and Nicholas Building, all in Swanston Street. A wide variety of tenants occupied the upstair chambers. The ground floor chamber was first renovated in 1959-60 by Stephenson and Turner architects. Installation of an automatic teller machine considerably reduced the integrity of the stone base and bronze-framed window. These items are possibly in storage for future restoration.
Architects Godfrey and Spowers had designed other banks for the company, including an Arts and Crafts inspired building at 502-504 Flinders Street. Robert Haddon, an architect who specialised in designing facades, was employed by Godfrey and Spowers on earlier projects but has not been linked so far to this building. He died in the year that construction commenced.
Another dseign incorporating Egyptian motifs by Godfrey and Spowers was the Masonic Hall in Camberwell, 1928-30. The choice of the Egyptian style was largely prompted by the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter. It was not a common style but joined Spanish Mission and Romanesque in the ecelctic palette of styles used by architects in the inter-war period.