Text description provided by the architects. The Old Tannery, a stout brick factory-style edifice built for the training of tanners in the 1930s, enjoys no official heritage status. However, our clients viewed it differently. Kane Construction, a building company that pursues unusual and inventive building projects, wanted their Sydney office building to reflect this interest.
The main original building is two-storeyed, with robust ironbark trabiated structure, exposed bearers, joists and timber cross bracing, and handsome oregon trusses. Next to this were a few ad hoc buildings of lesser quality, with single brick skin in very poor condition.
The brief was to use the main Tannery classroom building for offices, print room and reception, which we located on the ground and first floors, and meeting rooms, two of which we housed on a new mezzanine floor. The building also needed WCs, a kitchen and impressive foyer area, and some means of identifying the company from the street without using overt street signage. Adequate car and bicycle parking and access for the disabled were also required.
We decided to keep the main old corner building, exhibiting its sturdy craftsmanship, and to demolish the add-on sheds to make way for a new building for the main stairway, foyer, WCs and kitchen. This new part would be in a contemporary ‘landmark’ shape, but aligned with the original building, in the same scale and in strongly industrial-looking materials. It would be visually distinct from the original building so that the strong shape of each could be appreciated from the street.
The new building was conceived as a striking interlocking double wedge form, cantilevered above the remnant front brick wall of the demolished shed, and connected to the old building via a glazed slot serving as a passageway. It is a sculptural pavilion in industrial materials: concrete finished through the centre in a double height glass lining, and clad in pre-rusted weathered metal.