ACU’s Vice Chancellery renovations win top award

Published: Wednesday 18th November 2015

Renovation of ACU’s Vice Chancellery building in North Sydney has won the ‘Adaptive re-use of an historic building’ at the 2015 Master Builders Association (NSW) awards.

ACU worked closely with construction firm Cadwell, who took great care with the refurbishment.

The improvements were made with the aim of not only upgrading the appearance and functionality of the building, but to ensure we preserved and honoured its history.

Senior project manager David Browning said the project was a great example of how effective the process of adaptive re-use can be.

“Cadwell and the wider project team showed respect and consideration for the building’s heritage at each stage of the project, winning this award shows that the industry thought so too,” he said.

The project comprised the refurbishment of an area in a historic building which incorporated an upgrade of the ACU’s administrative area, boardroom and front entry.

The work included the restoration of 1940s Italian Carrera marble flooring that was discovered during the demolition phase of the works.

This additional work was incorporated into the overall timeframe, which required a temporary bridge be erected to maintain access during these works.

Because the VC building is heritage listed, great care was taken during the demolition stage to protect and reuse several heritage artifacts that were discovered.

In awarding the prize the judges said: “High-quality joinery was a critical element to the works with a relatively long lead-time. Templates were utilised in order to allow works to proceed ahead of some of the joinery units to ensure the tight timeframe was achieved.

“Cadwell assisted in the final selection of specialist ceiling and lighting types so that delivery times were adhered to.

“Overall, the project was well executed to a high-quality finish.”

The Vice Chancellery building was formerly known as Rockleigh Grange and had undergone a number of transformations in its lifetime.

So before ACU commenced renovations, a Heritage Impact Statement (HIS) was conducted to ensure we preserved and honoured its history.

Building works included refurbishment of the entry foyer and toilet, and the removal of walls to create more space in meeting rooms.

The HIS concluded that the works would have no impact on the significance of the site.

At the core of what is now the Vice Chancellery Building, lies part of a c.1840s stone dwelling built for the celebrated Australian colonial artist Conrad Martens (1801-1878).

Martens and his family occupied Rockleigh, until his death in 1878. The dwelling is described as being in the Gothic Style and Marten’s property included the entire area which now constitutes the Edward Street campus of ACU.

Another significant owner was solicitor and politician Sir John Hughes, who lived there in 1900. However after Hughes died, the property was sold to the Catholic Church to provide a residence to the newly appointed Papal Delegate (or Ambassador), the Italian Archbishop Cerretti in 1915.

When the building was purchased by the Catholic Church, Rockleigh Grange was described by The Sydney Morning Herald as ‘probably the most picturesque one (home) in the northern suburbs”.

The Catholic Press also praised the building.

“Rockleigh Grange stands on a proud, commanding an extensive view of Sydney and the harbour from beyond Bradley’s Head to the Lane Cove River.

“It is a commodious vial mansion situated in the midst of over two acres of beautiful garden….

“The gardens are laid out in excellent taste and are resplendent with almost every variety of cultured flower, the rose plots being especially beautiful.  There is a fine tennis lawn….Lawns, flower-beds, trees and walks combined to make the grounds the most beautiful in the neighbourhood.”