Sydney Architecture Images- Central Business District

The Royal Automobile Club


Designer/Maker: H.E Ross & Rowe
Builder/Maker: William Hughes and Co.


89-91 Macquarie Street, Sydney




Commercial Pallazo


Steel/Concrete frame, stone cladding.


The Royal Automobile Club (1926-28) by Ross & Rowe, on the corner of  Macquarie Street and Albert Street, Sydney, achieves an appropriately residential character by using small windows and, above the sandstone base, brick facing with sandstone quoins and trim.

The RAC building is an important and relatively rare surviving example of a purpose built gentleman's club from the early 20th century and continues to provide a number of its key original services and facilities for members. It is also significant as the home of the first motoring association in Australia - the Automobile Club of Australia of 1903 (later the Royal Automobile Club) - and it is strongly associated with this function in the community. The building is also socially significant through its long tradition of providing overnight accommodation for visiting country members.

The RAC building is a particularly fine example of Interwar Commercial Palazzo providing a casebook example of the features and aesthetic aspirations of this architectural style, as transposed from the United States to Australian - and here particularly Sydney - conditions. This aesthetic/architectural significance is enhanced by the relatively high degree of intactness of the building's major features and fabric, particularly on the main exterior elevations, including the face-brick and stonework, steel windows and doors, and the fine stone and wrought iron colonnade. Internally, key spaces such as the main entry hall with its marble floor and column cladding, the dining room with its coffered ceiling and lead-light glazed dome and major function and circulation areas provide richly detailed spaces which retain much important original character and fabric. The building is also a good representative example of the work of its architects H.E. Ross and Rowe, a leading Sydney firm of the Interwar Period.

The building's aesthetic significance is also enhanced by its key location on the corner of Macquarie and Albert Streets and the care with which the building's massing and facade detailing relate to and exploit its site. The overall scale/massing, materials, detailing and Neo-classical inspired detailing of the building also assist its sympathetic integration into the Macquarie Street streetscape with its large number of important late 19th and early 20th century buildings. High Significance:The architectural form and surviving original fabric of the major external elevations, particularly to the front and two sides - including face brickwork, stone dressings to facade and colonnade, steel windows and doors, main front door and steps, original lamps, foundation and opening stones, etc. Also the original lift motor room on the roof.

Internally, all original features (including layout) and fabric, particularly to major spaces such as the front entry lobby, vestibule and Victoria Room on level 3 (including the lead-light glazed dome and crystal chandelier , the dining room, lounge and library on level 4, the main terrazzo stair with its tiled dado and the original boardroom and billiard room. Also original features and fabric in the basement garage.

The Royal Automobile Club building was designed by the architectural firm of H.E. Ross and Rowe, erected in 1926 and opened in 1928 and occupies an important site on the corner of Macquarie and Albert Streets. It is a fine and characteristic example of the Interwar Commercial Palazzo style used for major commercial buildings both locally and overseas, particularly in the United States. The major facades are divided into the characteristic three-part classical/Italianate division and feature dark face brickwork with lighter coloured sand-stone dressings to the five stories of the main building. A fine stone colonnade lines the main Macquarie Street elevation and has an accessible terrace with wrought iron balustrade. Steel-framed french doors give access from the first floor. On the rear elevation both the main ground floor level and three below this (levels 1-3 + basement carpark) have cement rendered walls and much of the detailing of the upper brick walls is also in render. Though largely intact externally, the building has had a number of internal alterations and extensive redecoration particularly to the residential accommodation, function rooms and service areas and the original basement car park. Category:Individual Building. Style:Inter-War Commercial Palazzo. Storeys:5 storeys + 3 levels basement. Facade:Face brick & sand; steel framed windows & French doors; timber & glass front door. Side/Rear Walls:Face brick; stone dressings to exposed sides & rendered to rear; steel windows. Internal Walls:Concrete encased steel frame & reinf. conc. beams.. Roof Cladding:Membrane to flat areas with fake-turf where visible to neighbouring tower block. Internal Structure:Conc. encased steel frame & reinf. conc. beams. Floor:Reinf. Concrete slabs; marble, terrazzo, tile, timber and carpet finishes. Roof:Reinf. conc. slab. Ceilings:Decorative plaster, coffered in some rooms; flat plastered finish; modern plaster board. Stairs:Concrete with terrazzo treads, timber handrail & steel balusters; ceramic-tile dado; new reproduction stair from entry level to Albert St exit;. Fire Stairs:Concrete fire stair near lift. Sprinkler System:Yes. Lifts:Two passenger lifts and one goods lift; two dumb waiters. AirConditioned:Yes