In March 2011 the Willoughby Incinerator re-opened to operate as an art space and in 2014 with a café at street level. The art space is run by Willoughby Council and will present a diverse range of exhibitions each year.
A key feature of the Incinerator site is a public artwork by renowned artist Richard Goodwin. Titled Exoskeleton Lift, the large-scale fabricated polished stainless steel reflects the exterior setting and transforms the structure of the external lift core within the landscape of the Incinerator. According to Goodwin, “This contemporary sculpture is an ode to Griffin.”
History of the Willoughby Incinerator
The Willoughby Incinerator is one of 12 designed by Walter Burley Griffin and Eric Milton Nicholls for REICo Pty Ltd. from 1930-38.
The Incinerator operated from 1934-67 and the sewerage plant continued until 1974. Its construction was part of an employment creation initiative undertaken by Council during the Great Depression.
In 1968 a public campaign saved the building from demolition and it was listed with the National Trust and Royal Australian Institute of Architects as a building of significance. From 1980-89 the building was The Incinerator Restaurant and then adapted to an office. In 1999 it was listed with the NSW State Heritage Register.
From 2001-2006 Willoughby City Council commissioned a series of reports to assess the physical state of the building, ascertain the cost of its restoration and look at the feasibility of a range of future uses.
In 2007 Council agreed to restore and adapt the building to create a café and community arts space. Council received assistance through a $500,000 grant from the Department of Environment and Heritage and $50,000 was received from the NSW Office of Heritage.
On 2 April 2011 the restored building was officially opened. There is an artist studio in the middle floor and an exhibition space on the lowest floor.
|Incinerator circa 1934
(Photo courtesy of Local Studies Unit, Willoughby City Library)
Walter Burley Griffin
Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin have a special association with the City of Willoughby. The Griffins came to Australia from the USA having won the international competition for the design of the new Federal Capital of Australia, Canberra in 1912. Griffin formed the Greater Sydney Development Association Ltd in 1920 and developed the land now called Castlecrag, Middle Cove and Castle Cove. They lived in Castlecrag from 1925.
The Design of the Willoughby Incinerator
The Griffins were amongst the first in Australia to promote a modernist approach to architecture and town planning. They believed that architecture and landscape should be harmonious and that buildings including industrial buildings can be attractive and should integrate into their surrounds.
No community wanted an incinerator in their neighbourhood. Griffin’s design gave the RIECo incinerator a unique competitive edge. The Willoughby design is a fine example of Griffin’s use of his signature motif, the triangular decorative design rendered here in concrete.