MLC Building

Sydney, New South Wales | C.1936

Photo Credit: Bates Smart | Photographer: Tom Roe

The 11-story art-deco building, located on the corner of Castlereagh Street and Martin Place in Sydney, Australia was the former headquarters of the Mutual Life & Citizens Assurance Co. It is a rare and relatively intact example of Art Deco Skyscraper/Moderne style in Sydney.

In 1936 the MLC’s Assurance Society held a two stage competition for the design of its new building to be erected on the site. It attracted more than 70 entries, and the winning design by Bates, Smart and McCutcheon – a well known architectural firm – was selected from a short list of six finalists.

Upon completion in 1938, the structure came in right around the 150-foot height limit imposed by the New South Wales Government, although the tower cheekily rose another 50 foot above.

The ground floor is comprised of honed granite with polished base and trims, while the upper floors and tower are clad in sandstone. The style of the building shows strong influences of ancient Egyptian motifs and is similar to the MLC Building in Melbourne by the same architects.

Although MLC was taken over by the National Australia Bank in 2000, the large, red, carved letters “MLC” are still visible on the clocktower, although there are no clock faces.

Historically speaking, the location is one of only a dozen major commercial office buildings constructed in Sydney during the second half of the 1930s. Its quality of design and use of materials make it one of the principal contributors to the architectural character of Martin Place – which is recognized as one of Sydney’s finest urban spaces.

Today the building has taken the name of the Henry Davis York Building, for the law firm which is the current main tenant.

AWA Community Insight:
robstantinople I believe offices in this building doubled for the interior of the American Embassy in Saigon in Philip Noyce’s “The Quiet American” (2002).

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