The treatment of heritage buildings has come a long way since the 1990s when Sydney’s South Eveleigh railway yard was first renovated.
Then, the structure was simply carved up without much consideration to its fabric, the machinery or the implements scattered within the Victorian brick 20-metre-long warehouse that was completed in the 1880s.
The building was formerly used for a number of high-tech offices and, for a brief time, a conservatory of music, as well as by a blacksmith, who continues to operate at the revamped site.
Designed by Sissons Architects in association with Mirvac Design, the Buchan Group and heritage consultant Natalie Vinton, director of Curio Projects, the latest restoration project has seen the building’s past come into its own.
“The 1990s makeover ignored much of the yard’s heritage, including the hundreds of pieces of machinery and artefacts,” says architect Nick Sissons, partner of the practice, who worked closely with architect and director Christian Cooksley.
Housing a number of offices, retail, a cafe and event spaces, the project brief also called for establishment of an education and museum area on a mezzanine level, so that visitors could trace the history of the railway yards.
A large contemporary mural, known as the worker’s wall, is now located on one side of the entrance and includes a list of names of unionists who worked in the building in its heyday.
Although the original railway tracks that ran down the length of the building were removed due to their poor condition, new steel tracks have been added.
There is a clear reminder of how trains were repaired, with parts taken off the carriages and sent to different sections in the warehouse.
The Davey Press, a centrepiece in the building, has been retained, along with the H-style steel columns on either side of the tracks. Many of the smaller implements are arranged in new steel and glass cases.
The architects also retained the original foreman’s shed – Sutho’s office – named in honour of the worker. The faded bluish-painted timber shack, now used by the blacksmith, still features its weathered patinaed timber. A new steel display case carved into its side shows some of the many implements that were used at the time.
While the past has been fully integrated into the new design, a lightweight mezzanine level was added which is capable of being dismantled without interfering with the building’s heritage fabric.
“The former arrangement had a third level, but it didn’t fit comfortably within the roof space,” says Cooksley. Likewise, new skylights were strategically placed in the roof to provide additional light in important spaces such as the seating areas for the cafe.
“We were guided by the 16 original bays we inherited, creating a series of villages, with mini-atriums to loosely delineate the spaces, Cooksley says.
For the area dedicated to events and exhibitions, Sissons took its design cue from the handsome arched tiered brick windows of the Victorian building.
Although trains moving through the centre of the railway yards have long since gone, there is still a sense of what it would have been like in the 1880s when the yard first opened.
One clearly gets a sense of the weight that was moved around, given the monumental steel H-columns and the machinery.
Mindful of not wanting to detract from the building’s history, changes made to meet current fire or building standards were engineered with great skill.
One of the few major structural changes was the inclusion of a moving walkway that leads below the building into an adjacent car park.
“With these projects, it’s about finding the right balance – approaching the present with a certain amount of confidence as much as with some trepidation,” Sissons says.
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Source: Thanks smh.com