This longstanding relationship started in 1937, when Bates Smart McCutcheon (BSM) won a design competition for the new Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Building (MLC) headquarters in Sydney, a competition that attracted more than 70 entries.
The classical design, with its corner tower and prominent inclusion of MLC’s sculptural emblem, was meticulously designed to support the MLC’s needs and ambitions. At the time it was heralded as “the most beautiful and impressive structure in Australasia”.
The relationship prospered in the 1950s, with MLC building BSM designed buildings in Brisbane (1955), Wollongong (1956), Shepparton (1959), Ballarat (1954), Geelong (1953), Adelaide (1957), Perth (1957), Newcastle (1957) North Sydney (1957), and Canberra (1959).
The key for many of these buildings was their innovation in construction, that is, the introduction of lightweight structure that was then unprecedented in Australian buildings.
Each building was planned on a modular grid to maximise the use of prefabricated elements. Given the pre-assembled nature of the design, interior fitout and external cladding could occur at lower levels while the steel frame was simultaneously being erected on upper walls.
Of these, the most notable design was the MLC Building in North Sydney, which retains its importance as a significant intact local example of the 1950s International Style in post-war architecture. The curtain wall, a thin aluminium framed glass skin, represents the highest level of innovation in construction technology of the time, which was coupled with the emerging modern rationalised open-plan office environment.
Bates Smart has recently been involved in a general refurbishment of the building to upgrade its corporate attractiveness and flexibility for the contemporary market. The extent of the refurbishment included all aspects of the curtain wall: exterior cleaning, waterproofing, internal finish and venetians, all base building elements of the typical floors and the Miller Street retail concourse upgrade.