It took almost three years from conception to completion, but last night saw the official re-opening of 31 Bligh Street as the headquarters of the Lowy Institute, the highly respected think-tank. HAA was first approached to undertake a feasibility study for creating appropriate work and reception spaces at the building that was once the New South Wales Club.
The Lowy Institute has occupied 31 Bligh Street since 2005, but the building was not meeting the requirements for a modern, world class research centre. HAA investigated the possibilities to improve lighting, air-conditioning, improved acoustic privacy and dignified access. The work was a combination of creating new colour schemes and facilities, while retaining the original fabric and working with some of the colour schemes introduced in the 1978 restoration undertaken by the National Trust.
After 18 months of construction, those possibilities have become a reality. The outcome is a bright, light space which meets the needs of the Lowy Institute staff. Importantly, the refurbishment has also improved the accessibility and facilities for the many people who attend the regular public lectures held by the Lowy Institute.
31 Bligh Street is on the NSW State Heritage List. As part of the approval process, the Lowy Institute was required to provide information to the public about the building. They have produced a beautiful booklet which describes and integrates the history of both the building and the Institute. We reproduce some of the pages and photographs from the booklet here.