Cameron Offices 1968-1977, Canberra
Design: John Andrews International
Heritage Listing: Nominated by the RAIA to ACT Heritage Register
Fiche: Cameron Offices Fiche by Docomomo Australia – 2006 (Pdf)
Description: The Cameron Offices, located along Chandler Street, Belconnen Town Centre, is an example of significant architecture and an educational resource. The office complex is a very good example of the Late twentieth-Century international Style (1960-) and the Late Twentieth Century Brutalist Style (1960-). The design incorporates most of the features which are specific to the styles including: Late Twentieth Century International Style (1960-): cubiform overall shape, structural frame expressed, large sheets of glass, plan, smooth wall surface. Late Twentieth Century Brutalist Style (1960-): strong shapes, boldly composed, expressed reinforced concrete, large areas of blank wall, off-form concrete. The following features are of additional significance: The precast, post-tensioned concrete T floor beams with the integration of the lighting and airconditioning; the landscaped courtyards with Australian native plants and water features; the structural system for the office wing’s floors where the gallows beams support the floors by hanging ‘columns’; the stepped floors at half levels; overhang of the upper floors for sun-shading to the north; Corbusian (ribbon) window motif; assertive cantilever; long expressed reinforced concrete balustrades along the ‘Mall’. The office complex is Canberra’s (and Australia’s) first and only true example of architectural example of “Structuralism” where buildings are integral to and contributing elements of an overall urban order rather than separate and individual elements. Although the town plan for Belconnen was later altered during construction of the complex, it still exhibits this theory making it significant. The structural system incorporated in the office wings where the floors are supported by columns to the north and are hung from “gallows” beams to the south is a technically innovative solution. The use of post-tensioned precast concrete for much of the structure was a relatively new building type. The architecture of this office complex may contribute to the education of designers in their understanding of Late Twentieth-Century architectural styles. John Andrews is recognised as one of Australia’s leading architects of the modern movement. He was awarded the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1980. This office complex was his first and largest project in Australia. It is one of the two most important buildings designed by him in Australia, the other being the King George Tower (now NRMA House) in Sydney.
Typology: Whilst meeting the original brief (program) for the design and construction of government offices arranged in small groups to allow for flexible reorganisation and re-grouping of work teams, the building was also conceived of as the initial phase and an integral part of a megastructure to encompass the entire town centre of Belconnen (an satellite urban area of the national capital, Canberra). The Cameron Offices was the only part of the town centre megastructure which was constructed and the town centre was located not immediately adjacent to the offices as originally intended.
Design Brief: The Belconnen Town Centre was designed as one of the three principal independent town centres of Canberra. The Town Centre was planned to achieve “Shopping and commercial facilities will be closely integrated with community facilities such as library, exhibition galleries, …” A permanent residential population of 10,000 was planned from the town centre.
The Cameron offices were conceived as an element of an urban proposal. Pedestrian movement became the primary generator of the physical and social framework of the scheme. The NCDC’s initial proposal for the site included 5 fifteen storey tower buildings, which were intended to create the urban environment. The accepted solution provided by John Andrews was 9 wings of 4 storeys. Which stepped with the contours of the site. The complex was proposed to link across roadways via pedestrian walkways to adjacent residential and retail complexes.
Prior to completion of Cameron Offices the shopping mall which was to have been erected immediately to the north was relocated a site further to the west. This affected the fundamental design premise of pedestrian links on which the offices had been designed. Cameron Offices was the first building constructed in the Belconnen Town Centre.