• Pan Am waiting area (Max Dupain).

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

One of Snelling’s last, and most generously budgeted, interior commissions was for a Pan American Airways travel agency. He provided five interview desks, a public waiting area, storage and a prominent sign to attract attention on the Sydney city street. Dealing with a floor space raised 4 ft 6 in above the footpath outside, his key practical problems were how to conceal an intrusive (15-ft-long) existing staircase and how to maximize an atmosphere of brightness and spaciousness.

To cover the staircase, Snelling created a zigzag planter box and storage unit, both faced with vertical timber boards. Behind and beyond this ‘indoor garden’ feature of the waiting area, the zigzag structural strategy continued with a floor-to-ceiling wall incorporating three projecting service desks and a series of wall-mounted, backlit boxes displaying travel posters.

The waiting area was finished with white marble floors (continuing from the building foyer), and a ceiling coated with noise-absorbing Vermiculite plaster. In the office zone, the ceiling was lowered, creating a deep bulkhead across the back of the public area that allowed the agency’s illuminated sign to be seen easily by people on the street. The sign was created by cutting out the ‘Pan American Airways’ lettering from the plywood fascia panel of the bulkhead, then backlighting the panel with fluorescent tubes, concealed behind opal plastic sheets that diffused the light.


—Architecture and Arts. 1956. ‘Interiors: Airways booking office, Douglas Snelling, architect’, July, pp. 26–27.

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

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

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