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Sydney Open 2017

Image of the foyer ceiling.

The Bank participated in Sydney Open on 5 November 2017, with talks about the building's design and architecture as well as the recently issued new $10 banknote. A special series of talks described selections of the Bank's art collection.

The Reserve Bank of Australia was created by act of Parliament in 1959, with a charter to work for the economic prosperity and welfare of the Australian people. Governor Coombs had specific ideas about its operations and insisted that its headquarters should be contemporary and forward looking. To that effect, members of the committee overseeing the building design researched trends and facilities used by other central banking agencies.

Image of visitors in the Museum foyer

Sydney Open visitors gather in the Museum foyer

The result was a building that embraced aspirations of the International style. Designed by the Commonwealth Department of Works and completed in 1964, the 20-storey head office was a beacon of rationalism and clarity. Its grand double-height lobby featured granite-faced columns and a futuristic ceiling of gold-anodised aluminium.

Visitors in the Bank’s foyer with Bim Hilder’s wall-enrichment in the background

Visitors in the Bank’s foyer with Bim Hilder’s wall-enrichment in the background

The building was extended in the late 1970s along Phillip Street to create basement access for cash delivery. In the early 1990s its exterior was re-clad by Arup Facade Engineering, with Australian and Italian stone applied on steel trusses over the original Wombeyan marble, which had become brittle with age.

Image of a painting by Charles Blackman

Visitors admire a painting by Charles Blackman

As an art lover, Coombs had driven the Bank's early acquisitions and commissions, including its 'wall-enrichment' by Bim Hilder, and the abstract sculpture of its Martin Place forecourt, by Australian-American artist Margel Hinder. Coombs's vision remains today for all to enjoy.

For more information visit the Sydney Open website.

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