The Hellenic Club

Project status: Completed in 2015
Location: Sydney, NSW

Photography: Brett Boardman

This is a project that recognises the importance of ‘found’ history in buildings. It is also one where the future of a declining club could be secured for posterity.

The Hellenic Club, established in 1926, purchased the current site in the 1950s, since which time no building work had been undertaken. The project involved moving the Club premises from Elizabeth Street into the previously unoccupied and dilapidated building on Castlereagh Street and revitalising the street-frontage with a new cafe and restaurant. A new restaurant was also created on the ground floor of the Elizabeth Street building.

The Castlereagh Street building, known as the “Australian Workers Union Building”, was constructed in 1878 and renovated in the 1920s. It had since been left to fall into disrepair and had been unoccupied for over 30 years, the ground floor being informally used as a car park.

The original vision of the client was for the existing building to be demolished and for a tower to be built. After much discussion and contemplation, however, the current proposal was pursued.

The treatment of the Australian Workers Union Building was driven by a desire to preserve a sense of ruin.

Rather than attempting to restore the building to its original state, the project sought to retain its plain present state.

Subtle intervention involved a revitalisation of the street-frontage and the introduction of fire services in a staged manner which allowed the preservation of the building. This work then enabled the restaurant fitout to proceed on ground floor as well as future uses at the upper levels in due course and as the club developed its financial stability.