In the years that followed, the Banking Chamber was repainted in varying colour schemes in the 1900’s, 1929, 1940, 1956 and 1965. A radical plan was instigated in 1939, when the Bank decided to demolish, rebuild and modernise. A new austere building with art deco facade was constructed, but luckily the Domed Banking Chamber and Vestibule were retained.
In 1973, the Commercial Bank announced plans to totally demolish its old headquarters, including the Chamber, and to construct a large multi-story building on the site. There was a storm of controversy as Melburnians rallied to save the building. The creation of the Historic Buildings Preservation Council in 1975 (now the Historic Buildings Council), allowed legislation to be passed to protect Victoria’s architectural heritage. So now, as well as being listed on the Register of Historic Buildings, the Chamber is included in the Register of the National Estate and is classified by the National Trust.
In 1987, as part of asset rationalisation caused by the merger of the Commercial Bank of Australia and the Bank of New South Wales, Westpac sold the site to the Becton Corporation for the construction at 333 Collins Street of a twenty-nine storey tower including the Dome Chamber. Texas based architect Brad Nelsen of Shepherd, Nelson & Wheeler and Bruce Trethowan of Robert Peck, von Hartle and Trethowan were commissioned to conceive a design statement that was to be in the context of the romantic character and urban fabric of Collins Street. The entrance vestibule and arched portico are integral parts of the Domed Chamber and surviving remnants of the 1893 building. The historic Chamber was treated as the nucleus of the design and became the central feature of intersecting foyers, lobbies and galleries and of the external facade and roof treatment. Permits for the restoration of the Dome were sought from the Historic Buildings Council, with that body setting rigourous standards for any work on the historic structure.
After extensive research, which included a lengthy investigation of the decoration and the interior colour schemes, it was decided to reproduce exactly the opulence of the original, and work began in 1988. In 1990, after a fast-track building programme, 333 Collins Street was completed. The project was amongst the most sophisticated developments undertaken in Melbourne. A tower of twenty-nine floors, externally clad in richly ornamented exfoliated granite, rises above the restored Banking Chamber and Vestibule. Topped with a copper dome that sits twenty-nine floors above the original, it has become a distinctive feature of Melbourne’s skyline.
The prominence of the original portico entrance on Collins Street, and the relationship between the street, the vestibule and the domed chamber, have been enhanced by the design of the new facade. The granite-clad edifice follows closely the proportions of Tayler’s original 1893 design scheme and facade.
With is abstract classicism, the new facade sets the tone for the entire skyscraper tower and, at the same time, ties the Victorian scale
of Collins Street frontage back to Tayler’s original design. The low rise domed wing to the east of the central facade section also reflects the rhythm and scale of the earlier Victorian streetscape. The new copper-clad dome atop the office tower (given its antique patina off-site), echoes the form of the famous dome below, and continues the Victorian tradition of domed architecture across the City of Melbourne. Raw materials for the building have been drawn from every part of the Globe. The three-patterned mosaic floor (in the new section) was cut and assembled in Italy while the framed panelwork within the floor design is made of polished granite quarried in Brazil. The exterior facade is crystal flecked pink granite from Texas in three finishes, polished, honed and flamed. Paving and plinths are in polished bluestone from Port Fairy, while the interior dados are of natural sandstone from Gosford.
When entering the portico, the fully restored octagonal Domed Banking Chamber is breathtaking. The barrel vaulted ceiling, the granite columns and arches and the elaborate massive wrought iron gate have been restored to their original grandeur. These gates in many ways reflect the perceptions of the era Ð large, bold gates were seen as a solid protection for customers’ money. Paint scrapings were taken to research the original hues and return it to its early magnificence. The original glorious intense colour scheme of buffs, creams, oranges, terracotta and olive green have been faithfully restored with elaborate and intricate mouldings highlighted with gold-leaf. It took a team of up to 20 men working together for a year to recreate the splendour of the dome. Unlike Michealangelo, the team of craftsmen stood upon fixed and mobile scaffolding 30 metres above the floor to handpaint the original colours and stain the timber around windows.Approximately 15 different colours of paint were used and the process of gold leaf applications cost in excess of $100,000. The gold leaf was the final application and when the time came to apply it, work could only proceed when the conditions were absolutely right. It had to be perfectly calm, without a breath of wind. On any day working with the gold leaf, the chamber was literally sprinkled with fine gold dust and protective masks were needed. The magnificent mosaic floor was also restored. Years of cracking and signs of ugly conduit tracking were removed and replaced with careful inlays of original tiles taken from the old administration building. Its focal point is a gift from the past. The Domed Chamber is still recognised by the British Society of Architects as the finest structure of its type in the world.
However this timeless design hides a multitude of user and environmentally friendly features.
INTERIORS & EXTERIORS
The exterior of 333 Collin Street is finished in natural stone, with copper domes and double glazed tinted glass. Finishes in the foyer include granite, sandstone and bluestone. Lift lobbies on each floor are finished in timbers and stone with plaster ceilings and special lighting. The floor covering throughout the office is quality Axminster carpet. Amenities are finished in granite and Tasmanian oak.
The core design is quite different from the traditional cruciform core evident in most Melbourne buildings. Along with the flexible 500mm x 500mm planning module, the core design optimises space planning, resulting in higher occupancy efficiency and savings if tenancies are altered. On typical floors, the dimension between the perimeter wall and service core is in excess of 11 metres. The floor to ceiling height of 2,850mm is 150mm more than the measurement in most other buildings. This height provides space for an access floor and, importantly, ensures a clear cabling zone is maintained throughout the access space. On each floor there is a large, fully equipped kitchen. Many floors have two kitchens. Appliances include a refrigerator, dishwasher and microwave oven.
The 18 passenger lifts at 333 Collins Street perform as well as they look. Interruptions to journeys are minimised by the relatively short lift rises of no more that 10 floors. Average speed varies from 7.0 metres per second for the High Rise elevators, 4.0 metres per second for the Medium Rise elevators and 3.0 metres per second for the Low Rise elevators. Tenants and visitors are not inconvenienced by goods traffic – the two main goods lifts are accessible only at the loading bay and not at the ground floor.
The air conditioning at 333 Collins Street provides both comfort and economy. Comfort is enjoyed because of the heat handling capacity of the system and the numerous, well positioned zones on each floor and the efficient air filtering system. Economies are gained because of several factors, including the ice storage facility, the fresh air cycle and the computerised control system. For building constructed ten years ago or more, the typical heat handling capacity for lighting and for tenant equipment is less than 25 watts per square metre. The 50 watts per square metre at 333 Collins Street is at the highest level of buildings in the CBD.
The 333 Collins Street power supply of 60VA per square metre is amongst the highest available in any building in the CBD. Although this level of power exceeds projected requirements, an additional 50% capacity can be easily added. The back up facility of the two 1.5 MVA generators offer stand-by power on the rare occasion of a power blackout. The stand-by power at 333 Collins Street will provide 50% of all requirements for power in the building and Uninterruptible Power Systems will ensure the continued operation of key building systems.
General office lighting at 333 Collins Street is a comfortable 500 lux. The lights are ultra low brightness to minimise glare and are designed specifically for computer screen environments.
BUILDING AUTOMATION SYSTEM
The building operation system (BAS), by planning maintenance and optimising energy inputs, enables tenants to significantly reduce outgoings. As the system rapidly detects faults in services and energy systems, problems will generally be rectified with no inconvenience to tenants.
A 24 hour, 7-day per week security team provide guard patrol services, extensive electronic surveillance and door monitoring. Coded proximity access control ensures selective after hours access to lifts, tenancies and particular areas of tenancies. Tenants are able to request daily audit reports noting visitors to tenancies or to restricted areas of tenancies.