Monday, 1 August 2016

1957: Caltex House - leading the way for highrise development

For decades, Sydney had a very strict 46 metre (150 feet) height limit for buildings in the city centre. It was implemented because it was as high as fire ladder could go.

Source: Anonymous. Caltex House. Year Unknown. City of Sydney Archives, Sydney. Accessed July 29, 2016.

In 1957, Caltex House in Kent Street broke this height limit to become the tallest building in Sydney (and Australia). The 20 level/72 metre tower (measured from the rear laneway)  set a precedent for future high rise development in central Sydney. This was achieved through a loophole in planning policy.  The height of the building was based on the Kent Street side, and not Jenkins Lane at the rear of the building. Jenkins Lane was 12 metres lower than Kent Street.

Construction had begun at the start of the previous year and when completed was five months ahead of schedule.

The building was designed by architect Harry Nichols and was built by Civil & Civic Constructions.

Some facts of interest include:

*Australia's first all concrete building.
*Fastest lifts in Australia at the time - It could travel 700feet in a minute. You could travel for instance from level 5 to 15 in just fifteen seconds.
*300 000 sq/feet of office space.
*First office block in Australia to be fully air conditioned.
*14 shops at ground level.
*Capacity for 2000 workers.
*During construction, a new floor was added every 14 days, twice as fast as any building under construction at the time.

The following year, Caltex House lost the tallest building in Australia title to ICI House in Melbourne (20 storeys/84 metres). In 1962, the AMP Building would become Sydney (and Australia's) tallest building at 26 levels of 115 metres tall.

Caltex House conversion september 27 1996 daily telegraph 26 

Source: Skelsey, M. 1996. "Suburb of Units in city centre". The Daily Telegraph, September 27: 26. 

However in the late 1990's, the building was converted into the Stamford on Kent Apartment Tower. Approval was given in 1996, but the final design would differ. An additional eight floors were added to the tower. This was completed in 1999.

Above: Photos of the Stamford on Kent taken by the Author (2008).