BHP House
ph: Wolfgang Sievers (source: NLA)

Site Overview

site name:
BHP House
Yuncken Freeman Architects
date of commission:

date of completion:
140 Williams St, Melbourne, Victoria
classification / typology:
Commercial (COM)
protection status:
Victorian Heritage Register (H1699)
– National Trust of Australia Heritage Register Victoria (B6518)
Award of merit 1973, Bronze Medal 1975


BHP House is an architectural icon in Melbourne, one of the finest tall buildings in Australia and a world-class exemplar of the Mies van der Rohe inspired paradigm of the glass and steel skyscraper. It is a free-standing, 41 storey-high square plan office tower with a seven-storey car park annex at back of house. Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) prepared the brief and commissioned the design to Melbourne-based architects Yuncken Freeman with the request to erect a future-proof building that could promote steel as a building material and natural gas as a source of energy. The result was a tower that tested at large-scale several innovative building systems, including the ‘Bondek’ composite steel-concrete decking, the self-sufficient ‘Total Energy’ concept of power generation based on natural gas, and the application of the engineering principle of the outrigger and belt truss that reduces sway and optimises use of structural material. The latter was an international first-of-a-kind for a steel building. Showing a seamless integration of architectural expression and structural efficiency, BHP House is an Australian-made breakthrough that sits with originality and distinction in the international family of post-Miesian, austere and geometrically-restrained skyscrapers of the late 1960s and 1970s.

Text adapted from an entry by Giorgio Marfella in Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape and Design 1925-1975, Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad (2019, Thames and Hudson).