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Inter-War Commercial Palazzo C. 1915—C. 1940

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  12 The Astor
 Macquarie Street
019 The Block (Dymocks Building) 5 Martin Place
004 Commonwealth Bank Building
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  14 Martin Place
005  Colonial Mutual
341 George Street
011 Westpac
343 George Street
012 Virgin Megastore
The problem of the high-rise commercial building was explored in America from the 1880s onwards, and in Chicago some significant attempts were made to express the steel-framed structural system which was supplanting the load-bearing external wall in tall office blocks (see INTER-WAR CHICAGOE5QuE). But it was necessary for the steel columns and beams to be clad with stone, brick or terracotta for fireproofing reasons, with the result that many façades continued to adopt a traditional expression. Most often the model was the fifteenth- or sixteenth-century three-storey Italian townhouse or palazzo, and the problem was how to ‘stretch’ the horizontally emphasised, low-rise palazzo into the strongly vertical proportion imposed by the high-rise city building. The commonest solution was to treat the ground floor (and sometimes a mezzanine) emphatically as the base of the building, give the repetitive office floors above a simple, neutral treatment, and provide a strong termination at the top of the façade by means of a boldly projecting classical cornice. Detail and ornament followed classical precedents. If the building was of steel or reinforced-concrete framed construction (and most were), this was not readily discernible on the exterior; façades displayed more wall than window. In the United States, leading exponents of this style were McKim, Mead & White and Carrére & Hastings. The style also appeared in Britain, although commercial buildings there did not achieve heights comparable with those in the United States.
The Inter-War Commercial Palazzo in Australia generally followed overseas models, which were well documented in architectural periodicals. Banks, insurance companies and well-established, conservative financial institutions regarded the style as appropriate to the image they wished to create. Smoothly finished, ‘permanent’ materials were favoured for street facades. Ashlar stonework and architectural terracotta (faience) were the preferred materials, and they could usually be afforded by those who chose to build in this style.

Shell House, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA. McMichael & Harris, architects, 1928—32. Here the decoration of the base and top is less traditional in design.
Manchester Unity Oddfellows Building, Elizabeth Street, Sydney, NSW. John P. Tate & Young, architects, 1921. The epitome of the ‘stretched’palazzo, with embellished base and summit.
  Quoted from:
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present"
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.


See also- http://www.sydneyarchitecture.com/GALL/GALL-PALAZZO.htm