Transforming two heritage buildings into a new cultural precinct to the heart of Sydney’s CBD

8 August 2023​

A new cultural partnership between Australian-owned construction and development group, Built, and the City of Sydney, is set to inject new life into Sydney’s economy this October through the reimagination of the two historic Sydney buildings into a new cultural precinct.

Set across the ground and subterranean levels of the former Sub Station No. 164 and historic Shelley’s Warehouse buildings at 183-185 Clarence Street, the Machine Hall Precinct will offer a world first creative and cultural hub in the heart of Sydney’s CBD.

With a transformation that leverages the iconic architectural features and preserves the rich heritage fabric – including 14-metre-high ceilings, grand ornate windows, and original machinery – this hidden gem is set to house a series of multi-use spaces including a large event space, licenced café and concept store, heritage co-share work and event space, a private multimedia room, as well as a speakeasy private members club, that aims to create a home away from home for creatives and corporates alike.

Setting a new benchmark for how underutilised heritage buildings are reactivated for the future, with a unique program of events spanning Art, Design, Fashion, Film, Gastronomy, Music and Performance – the Machine Hall Precinct will celebrate the best of Sydney’s creative talent and cultural calendar, offering public and private, intimate and large-scale events.

Led by awarding-winning construction company Built, together with the finely tuned expertise of specialist heritage architects fjcstudio (formerly fjmtstudio) and eponymous interior design agency YSG Studio, the space has been sympathetically reimagined as a dynamic destination, merging culture and commerce.

“Situated adjacent to the Sub Station No. 164 commercial office, the transformation of the Machine Hall – a space left dormant for 30 years – into a unique cultural and event precinct was key to unlocking the overall development site” said Jono Cottee, Development Director, Built.

“We recognised the importance of designing the building around the future use of the space. Despite the added complexity, the structure of the seven-level sculptural glass extension was designed to cantilever over the space to ensure the Machine Hall was column free to allow for maximum flexibility of the new venue,” he said.

In a bid to boost Sydney’s cultural offering, this unique partnership is set to provide more opportunities for the creative community to give input on how the prime CBD location can be used for special projects, exhibitions, or community projects, to deliver original experiences throughout the year.

“As part of the redevelopment of this site, the City of Sydney secured the Machine Hall Precinct for affordable cultural activities,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore AO said.

“The substation vision is to be a unique cultural space in the warehouse district to be used for art exhibitions and a broad range of performances and events together with compatible commercial event space.

“Artists and creative producers will be supported to activate the space at a low upfront cost, contributing much-needed affordable infrastructure to the city centre,” the Lord Mayor added.

Additionally, a strong core program of local cultural events – including the opportunity to be a participating venue for Sydney’s cultural and creative festivals like SXSW, Sydney Festival, Mardi Gras, and Vivid Sydney – will be supplemented with corporate hire of the space for commercial brand experiences, conferencing, product launches or future technology showcasing.
The Machine Hall Precinct is set to open from October 2023.

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