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White Bay Power Station: An alternative vision for historic buildings

Tracey Pollard


On a recent trip to Sydney, I had the pleasure of paying a visit to the newly opened White Bay Power Station. In terms of history and design, White Bay has many similarities to our own Battersea Power Station – and holds a similar iconic status within the local community – but has taken a very different approach to commercial use.

Rather than a retail and F&B hub, extensive remediation and conservation works have repurposed the site as an arts, cultural and community space. Currently used as a gallery, I was fascinated to note that much of the original machinery remains in situ, offering a unique backdrop to the exhibition – the only Australian power station to retain equipment from pre 1950s. For me, that brought a different dynamic to the experience which could never have been found in a purpose-built space.

As a public building, the need for a return on investment will be measured in more than just financial terms; allowing for a long-term view, which is not always possible in the commercial world.  However, large mixed-use developers or Estate may benefit from the approach adopted at White Bay – using culture to drive footfall and adopting a ‘less is more’ approach to redevelopment. By allowing the building’s history to be celebrated in a sympathetic and cost-effective way, a unique atmosphere has been curated that will live long in the memory for its visitors.

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