Site History

Incinerator in April 2011The 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 in the 1930s Incinerator Rear View
Incinerator circa 1934
(Photo courtesy of Local Studies Unit, Willoughby City Library)
Incinerator 2011

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.