Willoughby Incinerator

Willoughby NSW Australia

Completed in 1934, The Griffin Willoughby Incinerator is a remarkable piece of early Australian Industrial heritage. Designed by Walter Burley Griffin and Eric Nicholls, the building is sited at the edge of what is now the Willoughby Centennial Parklands. In 1967 the incinerator was switched off, and the building lay dormant until undergoing adaptive reuse works in the early 1980’s to convert the building first into a restaurant and then a small office building. Vandals, fire, a lightning strike (that forced the removal of the ornate chimney top) and a series of unsympathetic additions all badly damaged the original fabric of the building. In 2006 SJB and Godden Mackay Logan were appointed by Willoughby Council to prepare documentation for the adaptive reuse of the badly damaged and maligned building. No ‘as built’ drawings were completed, so the building was 3D modelled from old photographs and very limited original architectural documentation. This unique interrogation (that could be described as ‘CSI Architecture’) informed a clearer understanding of the original building, including what potentially lay beneath the additions made in the 1980’s renovations.

Modelling the building allowed clear and concise communication of the buildings potential to a huge variety of stakeholders; Walter Burley Griffin Historical Society, NSW Heritage Council, Local Community, Client, Council Officers, Councillors, Consultants and the Builder appointed for the demolition and rectification works. The building rectification works have been a long, arduous and expensive task. Significant concrete cancer necessitated the replacement of much of the built form, while the reinstatement of the original chimney has given the building back it’s sense of scale. The building is now home to an ‘artist in residence’ studio, a community gallery space and a café and community meeting place. The incorporation of a lift to enable equitable access to the building included the commissioning of Artist Richard Goodwin for a sculpture to cloak the lift structure, kicking off the public acquisition program for what will become a public sculpture park. This is an ongoing project that will see this small civic building spread its tentacles into the surrounding parkland as funds become available and if the public’s will is expressed loudly enough.


National Trust of Australia (NSW) Heritage Awards, Highly Commended

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