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Former BHP House

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Text from Melbourne Architecture

Former BHP House

140 William Street

1967-72 Yuncken Freeman


Intended to promote the use of steel in building construction and to set new national standards for the height of a steel-framed building, the former BHP House was also claimed to be the first office building in Australia to use a ‘total energy concept’ –the generation of its own electricity using BHP natural gas. Yuncken Freeman sought advanced technological advice from structural engineer Fazlur Khan of Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), Chicago. Khan’s innovative idea of the high-rise tower was the principle of a giant stiff structural tube where the tower became a pure cantilever. Back in Melbourne, under the direction of Barry Patten, the design of the steel structural sheath was refined to a strikingly simple concept comprising four basic elements: a central steel-framed core; a stiff steel and glass façade; steel trusses to link the core to the façade; and a steel deck flooring system. With no interior columns, all structural loads were carried down by an outer skin of steel and a central services core rising the full height of the building. The façade was a 10mm thick skin of welded steel over 50mm of concrete insulation fire protecting and housing the main steel frame. This steel skin was erected before the placement of the concrete and in effect constituted permanent formwork. Yuncken Freeman experimented with tower’s proposed finishes with the construction of their own offices at 411-415 King Street, Melbourne (1970), a black Miesian building that recalled the Bacardi Building, Mexico City (1957-61).


My own photos.


Sculpture at ground level.

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