Sydney Town Hall restoration

An extensive heritage refurbishment and sustainability upgrade.

Project Status: In progress

What we’re doing

Sydney Town Hall was built on the site of an old cemetery with yellow block sandstone from Pyrmont and is one of Australia’s greatest sandstone buildings due to its sheer scale and intricate carvings.

Extensive conservation works began in 2012 and the final stage started in June 2020.

The building façade is currently being polished, repaired and replaced with local Sydney sandstone during this 2-year project. Conservation work is also being carried out on the historic stained glass windows.

Earlier stages of the project restored the city’s civic heart with a revitalised sandstone façade, conservation work to the clock tower, cleaning and tuning of the grand organ – among the largest in the world – while new sustainability elements were introduced.

Heritage refurbishment

Heritage architect Peter McKenzie worked closely with 2 teams of expert stonemasons, Traditional Stonemasonry and HBS Group, to revive historical elements of the building and add new features.

The stonemasons carved and lifted sandstone blocks weighing up to 2t and crafted intricate designs to sit atop the columns of the 55m tall clock tower. The stonemasons worked tirelessly to refurbish 140-year-old sandstone, which included carving out 26m of new sandstone.

The work included seismic bracing behind the belfry columns. The bracing is made from a high-tech stainless steel normally used to make submarine propellers and will protect the clock tower from possible earthquake activity.

The 2.5m diameter Town Hall clock – purchased in 1884 from ‘reliable’ British clockmakers Gillett, Bland & Co – has stood the test of time. The clock’s mechanism has been wound by hand for more than 120 years and has now been fully restored.

The grand organ’s pipes – nearly 9,000 of them – were each delicately removed, hand-cleaned and measured as part of its massive refurbishment. The work was completed by specialists, from organ building firm, Peter DG Jewkes, and accredited organ specialist Dr Kelvin Hastie, an expert in working with 19th and early 20th century organs.

Sustainability upgrade

We seized the refurbishment opportunity to green Sydney Town Hall with improved energy efficiency.

New elements include low-voltage LEDs to illuminate the building, smart sensors to switch off lights in areas not being used, new hydraulics and storm water infrastructure, which will help reduce up to 20% of water use.

The sustainable lighting and smart sensors will help reduce up to 30% of energy use alongside 240 solar panels on the northern roof of Sydney Town Hall roof supplying up to 48kW of power to the building.