• Matson shopfront at Berger House (Max Dupain).

Berger House, 82–92 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, 1955–56

Matson Lines commissioned Snelling to design a central Sydney travel agency to sell cruises across the Pacific to the United States West Coast on its new ships Mariposa and Monterey. His response was to ‘implant a South Sea Island personality’ upon the interior. As with the neighbouring Pan American Airways offices (completed around the same time), he divided the tenancy into a reception space and a general office, with further subdivisions created by a combination of high planter boxes, reception benches, and see-through screens that were fixed to seem to hover between the floor and ceiling.

All furniture featured metal tube legs to emphasize the idea of levitation above a white floor flowing throughout. In the reception zone, a dramatically undulating ceiling screen of timber dowels was installed, conceptually suggesting waves across the sea and technically influenced by Alvar Aalto’s 1930s furnishings and undulating space-divider screens for the Finnish pavilion at the 1938–39 New York World’s Fair. Contrasting this timber ceiling were suspended, backlit ceiling panels of white acrylic.

In an inventive use of wartime technology, Snelling coated the back wall of the office light well with radiant paint designed to glow under ultraviolet toplighting. Another notable feature was the large map of the company’s Pacific shipping routes, placed behind the reception desk.

Sources

—Architecture and Arts. 1956.Interiors: shipping booking office, Douglas Snelling, architect’. July, pp. 28–29.

—Architecture in Australia. 1956. ‘Shipping office, Sydney NSW’. July–September, pp. 42–44.

—Pemberton, Gary J. 1984. Douglas B. Snelling: A Monograph of His Works (dissertation). New South Wales Institute of Technology, Sydney.

—Sydney: Snelling Estate, Snelling’s portfolio of selected works, ca. 1964, including photographs of this prohect by Max Dupain.

—Trevillion, James. 1995. The Adventures of Douglas B. Snelling (dissertation). Sydney: University of Technology.