ICS Logo
ICS Sydney - International Conservation Services

grissell building


Project Team

Meriton Apartments

Benjy Levy

Godden Mackay Logan

Geoff Ashley, Project Manager with Rebecca Hawcroft and Tony Brassil and with Robert Irving who prepared the original measured drawings and with Danny Broe, Architect, who prepared the architectural plans for construction certificate documentation.

International Conservation Services

David West, Liz Holt, Rachael Crompton, Eleanor Sampaga with Wrought Artworks (Guido Gouverneur), IMP Coatings (Albert Nixon) and Traditional Stonemasonry (Jake Krawcyzk)

Hughes Trueman

Simon Wiltshier, Alison Naimo


2009 Energy Australia National Trust Heritage Awards - Highly Commended for Conservation of Building under $1 million - Corporate/Government

Heritage Significance

The Grissell building is highly significant as one of only two known surviving examples of the work of important ironfounders Henry and M D Grissell, Regents Canal, London. Manufactured in c1855, the structure is one of the most interesting examples of nineteenth century prefabrication systems and early industrial architecture to survive in Australia. The building has additional significance for its association with the early industrial phase of the development of this area that included early breweries and cordial manufacturers. Of historical interest is the adaptive reuse of the structure within a larger early twentieth century building.

Grissell - historic image


Conservation and Reconstruction

Aims and Motivation

The conservation, reconstruction and presentation of an internationally rare prefabricated cast and wrought iron structure constructed by the Grissell Company in London in c1855. The structure had been found inside another industrial structure when Godden Mackay commenced a heritage assessment of the former ACI glass manufacturing site in South Dowling Street for Meriton Apartments in the early 1990s. The components of the structure were removed from storage in 2006, and a strategy for the conservation and reconstruction of the structure was completed in 2007. Conservation works were undertaken in early 2008 and reconstruction completed at the end of 2008. Key elements of the project are the conservation of its large cast iron columns and delicate trusses and the interpretation of its likely original form and its prefabricated details. The conservation and presentation of the Grissell building tells an important story of the early industrial character of this area of Sydney.

Planning and Research

GML undertook an assessment of the former ACI site for Meriton Apartments in 1990. A Conservation Management Plan was prepared to guide the long term conservation of the Grissell building by Godden Mackay Logan in 1998. Because of its prefabricated nature consent was given to relocate the structure within the overall ACI site redevelopment. The careful dismantling and storage of the structure was preceded by the preparation of measured drawings and a photographic archival recording. As the Meriton development neared completion a Reconstruction Strategy was prepared by GML with input from International Conservation Services and Hughes Trueman to guide the specific form of the reconstruction. The reconstruction deliberately leaves some parts ‘unfinished’ to reveal the original fabric and new fabric is carefully distinguished from original fabric.

Grissell - arch sketches

Scope of Works

International Conservation Services worked with heritage consultants Geoff Ashley and Rebecca Hawcroft of Godden Mackay Logan and structural engineers Simon Wiltshier and Alison Naimo of Hughes Trueman to identify the conservation works required and to agree on appropriate methods for each element. Investigations included:

  • assessment of the condition of each column and truss
  • scheduling of damage to individual elements of each component
  • review of alternative conservation treatments
  • investigation of past finishes to the columns and trusses

After completion of these investigations, we carried out the following conservation works on the 27 cast iron columns and 9 cast and wrought iron trusses:

  • Blasted the cast-iron columns before painting with a zinc-rich epoxy primer and 2 pack polyurethane topcoat;
  • Repaired the three broken columns by pinning the pieces to a new galvanised steel CHS installed inside the columns;
  • Undertook various other repairs to the cast iron columns and truss support brackets on the columns, including casting new capital plates;
  • Deconstructed the trusses to straighten bent wrought iron angle and flat bar tension members
  • Cast new compression strut members to replace broken or missing pieces of the original cast iron compression struts;
  • Installed new purlin angle supports to carry a new roof; and
  • Blasted and painted the trusses to match the columns.

The introduction of new material was limited to:

  • new purlins over the original trusses;
  • new steel aisle trusses over three side bays;
  • a new crane rail to interpret the early 20th rail; and
  • translucent fibreglass roof sheeting and rainwater goods over approximately one third of the structure.

The new material has been introduced to provide for public use, to protect original fabric and to interpret the likely building form. Site signage and a cyclic maintenance plan is currently being prepared.

Hughes Trueman worked closely with the ICS and GML to maximize retention of existing fabric and also assessed the strength of the columns, trusses, brackets and connections and designed the strengthening, structural repairs, connections, bracing and footings necessary for re-erection. Hughes Trueman also provided advice on the new structural elements necessary to re-connect the components, support the cladding and brace the erected structure. The principle structural issues were:

  • reconnecting and re-erecting the fractured columns allowing them to remain in the finished structure with broken and missing elements displayed;
  • incorporating tolerances in connections to allow site adjustment to fit distorted and irregular elements together;
  • achieving fixity and anchorage at column bases to make the structure rigid; and 
  • connecting new elements to old without the use of welding and minimizing the drilling of original cast iron.

Grissell erected onsite

Consultation and Client Needs

The redevelopment of the former ACI site has been staged over a decade and this has included a number of development consents for which heritage impact statements were prepared. The strategic approach for the Grissell building has been to prepare a CMP and archival recordings prior to its careful deconstruction and a detailed reconstruction strategy prior to construction documentation. All stages have included consultation with the City of Sydney.

The project has a very broad audience that includes not only residents and visitors to the major residential complex but also a potentially large international audience interested in industrial structures dating from the Industrial Revolution.

A large public park has been created in the centre of the Meriton development that is partly managed by City of Sydney and partly by the Body Corporate of the Meriton development. The Grissell building is the key visual element and focus in this park area. The structure will allow for informal public use for gatherings and picnics etc. The new roofing structure was designed to facilitate these gatherings. Interpretation will be provided to communicate the significance of the Grissell building to park users.

Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter principles have been followed in assessments, conservation planning and works documentation. Appropriate professionals expertise was engaged in all phases of the project.

Grissell nave scale

Heritage Benefits and Issues

Some of the heritage benefits from this project include the conservation of one of the very few surviving structures of a key London steel fabrication company associated the Industrial Revolution that began in the UK. Also, the preservation of an important reminder of the industrial heritage of Sydney within a residential redevelopment.

The project highlights the industrial heritage of this part of Sydney. The project also makes rare direct connections to the early and mid Nineteenth Century industrial revolution that originated in the United Kingdom.

The project is a good example of physical conservation approaches, the preservation of original fabric and the careful addition of new fabric to aid interpretation; an example of this is the incorporation of the year (2008) on all new castings (compression struts and truss end brackets) required to repair the original roof trusses.