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Sydney Open

Image of the foyer ceiling.

The Bank has participated in Sydney Open each year since 2014. The event provides visitors an opportunity to learn more about the Bank's architecture, interior design and 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.

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.

Until the next Sydney Open, you can learn more about the architectural significance of the Reserve Bank of Australia building by viewing our online feature Unreservedly Modern.

To find out more about the next Sydney Open, visit the Sydney Living Museums website.

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