• The Woolworths boardroom and entertaining suite (Max Dupain).

Market and Pitt Streets, Sydney 1963–64

On the first floor of Woolworths’s then-headquarters on the corner of Market and Pitt Streets (now the Centrepoint shopping centre), the company installed a new suite of air-conditioned executive meeting facilities. This included an entrance lobby, a circular boardroom, a large entertainment/dining area, storerooms, a cloak room, toilets, bar, and kitchen, with an indoor garden planted with a sinuous edge along one wall of the main area.

The rooms were distinguished by Canadian redwood panelling along key walls, a spectacular ceiling light featuring dramatic arrays of inverted glass cones, and an indoor garden that thrived under eight hours of simulated daylight from Grolux lamps controlled by time switches. Enclosing an existing balcony over Pitt Street, Snelling also sandwiched 8 ft fluorescent tubes between white, external panels and internal glazing, bouncing more ‘daylight’ into the entertaining area.

With different combinations of switches, staff could create a variety of lighting moods for these spaces. Movies could also be projected onto a screen fixed behind timber panels. The entertaining room could be divided into cocktail and dining zones, and its table could be extended from a circular shape for 12 people to an oval seating 22. In party mode, the room could accommodate fifty to one hundred guests with food served buffet style. Floor-to-ceiling timber panelling curved around one end of the entertainment zone, to hide an unattractive wall and columns as well as air conditioning outlets. It incorporated doors to access service equipment. The kitchen, with a central island unit, was finished with white tiles and stainless steel benches and commercial cooking equipment.

Sources

—Contactor, The. 1966. ‘Boardroom suite in the modern manner – all electric’, June, Sydney: Sydney County Council, pp. 84–85.

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

—Philippine Architecture and Building Journal. N.d. ‘Woolworth Ltd. executive suite interiors: Douglas B. Snelling architect’, pp. 46–47.

—Sydney: SLNSW MLMSS 8801/01, notes by John Gibbins on Snelling’s Woolworths interiors.

—Sydney: Snelling Estate, Snelling’s project portfolio, ca. 1964, photographs by Max Dupain.