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33 Alfred St
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SYDNEY'S FIRST SKYSCRAPER
Located in Circular Quay at the gateway to Sydney’s CBD, 33 Alfred Street has been a prominent feature on the Sydney skyline for more than 50 years and remains the home and headquarters of AMP (the Australian Mutual Provident Society) to this day.
Opened in 1962, the AMP ‘Sydney Cove’ Building, designed by Peddle Thorp & Walker (now PTW Architects), was Sydney’s first to break the city’s 150-foot (46-metre) height limit, imposed from 1912. At 117 metres, it was Australia’s tallest building, almost double the height of anything else in Sydney at the time. It is also considered of state heritage significance.
But the building courted controversy for more than just its scale; its postwar International style was unlike anything Sydney had seen before. The twin crescent towers soared 26 storeys, linked centrally into an H-shape and set free from their podium. They symbolised an emergent new culture, that was dispensing with traditional ties. An observation deck on the top floor was open to the public, offering Sydneysiders views of the city and harbour from a never-before-seen angle.
Aluminium and glass curtain walling was used to capture magnificent harbour and district views. It was also one of the first buildings to use seawater air conditioning, requiring an on-site ‘frogman’ to maintain its water-intake pump house.
Part of this new building language was the use of public art. A Tom Bass sculpture on the western facade depicts the Goddess of Plenty watching over a family, to invoke AMP’s founding principle:
‘Amicus certus in re incerta’
(a true friend in uncertain times).
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