50 Martin Place

Macquarie Bank’s new global headquarters at 50 Martin Place has undergone extensive refurbishment to become the largest heritage building in Australia awarded a 6 Star Green Star rating.

The refurbishment of 20,000 square metres has transformed the 1928 building into sustainable commercial office space over 11 levels, involving the overhaul of building services and systems, a new fitout, the widening of an existing atrium and the construction of a two-storey domed roof and glass shuttle lifts.

The bank held its first event on Wednesday night to mark its new home, acquired in 2012, with about 200 people attending, including top chiefs of the bank, some clients and development teams.

Now MacBank is known for its dramatic nesting places and this one is no different. It’s highly modern on the inside, as could be expected, but the exterior is the antithesis of MacBank’s über-slick One Shelley Street with its dramatic structural diagrid framing, or even its 1 Martin Place building where some staff will continue to reside.

Image: Peter Bennetts

Instead, in this iteration, architects Johnson Pilton Walker has kept the Beaux-Arts heritage façade intact, as it must, and extensively reconfigured the inside, where BVN Donovan Hill has delivered a very light coloured and white desked space with black carpeted floors.

For JPW and the other consultants – lead engineering consultant Arup, builder Brookfield Multiplex, project manager Savills and quantity surveyors MBM – the big challenge was how to integrate the needs of the modern investment bank with the need to retain one of the most solid and grounding of symbolic banking chambers, the Commonwealth Bank headquarters that gave its shape to one of the famous money boxes gifted to most Australian children in decades past.

The original “money box” building is at 5 Martin Place and is itself going through a rebirthing with a new 10-storey tower erected in a cantilever over the existing building. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, several of the consultants on 50 Martin Place are involved.

At Number 50, while the outside couldn’t be touched because of heritage, the inside had already been stripped nearly bare in years gone by so there were no inconvenient skirtings or cornices or even staircases to worry about retaining.

Image: Peter Bennetts
Image: Peter Bennetts

New concrete floors were put in, the plant floor on the tenth level converted to useable space, an additional floor added to make now 11 useable floors – two below ground levels, and a new glazed dome inserted over the top two floors that will feature a client meeting room and an auditorium for 250 people. The dome is triple-glazed with a low-e coating and features an interesting expanded mesh blind that can screen out the hot summer sun but retain light penetration.

The original atrium was considered too narrow so it was widened, shedding light throughout the building right down to the trading rooms on the lower levels.

Lead consultant Arup provided ESD engineering, as well as building services, fire engineering, and lighting and audio-visual system design.

It created a first-of-a-kind airconditioning system for Australian commercial property for the building, which uses full fresh air through a raised access floor, and incorporates chilled beams and cooling units integrated into trading desks. Arup said this would deliver superior performance while freeing ceilings from bulky ductwork to expose the original architecture.

“To take such a distinctive property and fully modernise its working environment in a manner sympathetic to its heritage status was a complex task,” Arup NSW region leader and project director Andrew Pettifer said. “The atrium in particular required a holistic approach from all our disciplines to achieve the desired environment, and close collaboration with the project team to deliver Macquarie’s vision.”

Builder Brookfield Multiplex said undertaking significant demolition works, widening the atrium, and constructing the dome, bespoke circular glass shuttle lifts and internal atrium stairway was not without its challenges.

“Site logistics were complicated by the busy CBD location and the confines of the existing building, construction had to be carried out with minimal disruption to the Commonwealth Bank still operating on the ground floor and the building had extensive heritage-listed aspects,” Brookfield Multiplex regional managing director, NSW David Ghannoum said.

However, Mr Ghannoum said, previous collaboration with Macquarie Bank on One Shelley Street had provided a solid foundation for the project.

The Green Building Council of Australia welcomed the building and its 6 Star Green Star – Office Design v3 rating.

“50 Martin Place is a shining example of why heritage buildings can be our most sustainable buildings – as the greenest architecture is created from that which is already there,” GBCA chief executive Romilly Madew said.

“Macquarie Bank has preserved a Sydney icon for future generations, while creating a productive, efficient and sustainable workplace for its people today.”

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