Michael Davies Architecture

Redfern Town Hall restoration and development

The cultural significance of the Redfern Town Hall is related to the period of its construction during a pivotal time in the history of the Municipality of Redfern, and it is considered a reflection of Redfern’s period of high prosperity in the 1870’s. The building is also a significant work by George Allen Mansfield. Today, the former Town Hall continues to occupy a commanding position in the streetscape and its retention for alternative uses is indicative of the building’s importance as physical evidence of the history of the area. The building also has social and cultural significance for its association with the Redfern Legal Centre, which has occupied the building since 1986.

Redfern Town Hall is included on the Heritage Inventory of South Sydney City Council (Council of the City of Sydney) but does not appear on the National Trust (NSW) register nor the Register of the National Estate, and is not the subject of any Orders under the Heritage Act (NSW). Despite this lack of recognition, the building works were carried out in accordance with the Burra Charter and a Conservation Plan adopted by Council.

The project involved the restoration, reconstruction and adaptation of the Town Hall, and its re-use as a community facility. In accordance with Council’s Conservation Plan the project involved radical intervention to reinstate the original 1870s facade, the restoration and refurbishment of office spaces and two halls, new amenities, a new commercial kitchen serving both halls, and a lift providing disabled access.

The aim of our conservation work was to return the building to a known earlier state to reflect the principal period of its development from 1870 to 1909 so that it was represented generally as it appeared in the late 19th century. Significant fabric was to be preserved and, where appropriate, restored or reconstructed to its state at the time of its greatest significance. A single but descriptive photograph was available from the City of Sydney Council archives.

The function of the building as a spectator stadium necessitated an uninterrupted view of the field, hence the cantilevered roof structure solution which emphasises the building form and hovers like a giant insect over the seating. A feature of the roof is the triangular support structure connecting the columns to the beams. Paired struts accentuate the roof form and create an elegant colonnade surrounding the building. The building required an electrical upgrade throughout. We chose indirect fluorescent lighting, concealed behind purpose made, shaped baffles floating beneath the ceiling in offices and down lights elsewhere to provide a solution which was both cost and energy efficient.

A state-of-the-art lift and discreet, package-unit air conditioning system were selected to complement the restoration and improve the user environment without detracting from the building’s heritage qualities. A new, purpose-specific concrete roof platform not visible from street level was designed to conceal all plant and equipment. In addition to the new air conditioning system and in accordance with passive design principles, openable vertical sliding sash windows were retained for natural ventilation.

Existing materials such as flooring timbers were preserved early in the programme and reused in the new work. All lead containing paint was removed from the exterior of the Town Hall using a ‘peel off’ system and safe disposal methods.

The BCA stipulated the need for a disabled toilet. By locating this toilet facility within the existing walls of a room in close proximity to the lift meant that both floors could access the amenity without difficulty.