John Derrick 

Executive Director, Grosvenor Place

We spoke to John Derrick, Executive Director of Grosvenor Place – the iconic office tower designed by Harry Seidler & Associates as a ‘civic sculpture’ – about his organisation’s philosophy of ‘Culture at Work’.

The important and longstanding partnership between Sydney Living Museums and Grosvenor Place has seen the organisations work together creatively to enrich the cultural lives of visitors, clients and customers by providing access to the rich history and heritage of our city. 

Q: What motivated Grosvenor Place to sponsor SLM’s city museums, and what have been the benefits of the partnership? 

A: When Harry Seidler AC OBE designed Grosvenor Place in 1982, he was ahead of his time in understanding the importance of space, views and light, and incorporating art and civic spaces into buildings. As a result, Grosvenor Place is widely considered to be an architectural work of art designed for a successful work-life balance in a stunning environment. SLM complements Harry Seidler’s vision for Grosvenor Place by making cultural experiences accessible to building occupants. 

Our partnership facilitates our brand promise of Culture at Work, while also supporting the important work of SLM. At Grosvenor Place, we’re very focused on our customer experience; as part of that, we endeavour to foster a culture-rich workplace. We’ve been able to offer our customers enriching cultural experiences both at our workplace, Grosvenor Place, as well as outside our building, at venues rich in history. 

Q: What design inspiration can you see transferred from Rose Seidler House to Grosvenor Place? 

A: The colourful mural on the rooftop of the northern piazza of Grosvenor Place is a giant replica of the artwork painted by Harry Seidler in the early 1950s on the wall of his parents’ home, Rose Seidler House. Curated by Greg Holman of Harry Seidler & Associates, the piece represents a link to Rose Seidler House and is the first rooftop artwork of its kind in Sydney city. The unique mural was inspired by Seidler’s time in Brazil in 1948 while working for the celebrated architect Oscar Niemeyer. Influenced by buildings such as Rio de Janeiro’s Ministry of Education and Health of 1936, the original mural on the wall of Rose Seidler House is composed of bright hues and meandering free-form line work. The Rose Seidler Mural at Grosvenor Place consists of coloured gravel and cut glass laid between aluminium-plated shapes, with many of the materials sourced locally. 

Q: What projects or initiatives is Grosvenor Place currently working on? 

A: The ways in which we work have changed remarkably since Grosvenor Place was conceived. Yet Harry Seidler’s vision was so forward thinking that the building can be constantly transformed to meet the needs of the modern workforce. The recent opening of The Grosvenor, an innovative new business lounge, is a case in point. The lounge reimagines Harry Seidler’s masterpiece split-level lobby design into a flexible and contemporary shared workspace for building occupants. 

Q: What SLM projects (exhibitions, displays, programs) have inspired you and why? 

A: The revitalisation of the Hyde Park Barracks, completed in 2020, is groundbreaking. SLM has created an immersive experience using cutting-edge technology that brings you on a journey through history. I was amazed to discover how relics had been naturally preserved within the foundations and uncovered during construction work, providing an added insight into the previous life of the Hyde Park Barracks. 

Q: What qualities describe SLM best? 

A: SLM is authentic, offering considered perspectives on Australia’s shared history in the context of Sydney’s built environment. 

John Derrick. Courtesy Grosvenor Place 

Portrait of man in blue shirt with dark red tie and suit jacket.

John Derrick. Grosvenor Place