You’d be forgiven for thinking the Reserve Bank of Australia head office in Sydney was a gallery of sorts, given its impressive collection of modern art and sculpture. It’s a legacy laid down by the first Reserve Bank Governor, Dr H C ‘Nugget’ Coombs.
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 corporate image, and insisted that its headquarters should be contemporary and forward looking. To that effect, members of the committee overseeing the building design toured overseas, researching trends and facilities used by other central banking agencies.
The result was a Macquarie Street 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.
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 reclad by Arup Facade Engineering, with Australian and Italian stone applied on steel trusses over the original Wombeyan marble, which had become brittle with age.
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.
Foyer; Reserve Bank of Australia Museum.
Talks, tours & more
Tours of the Board area, and the Harbour and Pacific Rooms on Level 20 (limited capacity, bookings made on the day).
Talks on the Bank’s architectural heritage and art collection will be held on the ground floor throughout the day (no bookings required).
Photography permitted in the foyer. No flash photography in the museum.
Reserve Bank of Australia’s involvement in Sydney Open has been made possible by the Reserve Bank of Australia.