Date Built: 2004
Architect: Tony Caro Architects
5 storeys, 20 apartments. Overlooks Refinery Square. Site of CSR central laboratory.
From the beginning of the Pyrmont complex low sugar prices prompted CSR to deploy science and technology in order to compete with lower-cost producers. Raw sugar (98% sucrose) must be refined (to 99.9%) to create white sugar and the many other forms in which sugar is sold. Water, ash, organic matter and other sugars are removed to purify the product and prevent deterioration. These impurities are small but elusive: they require hot-water washing, adding and removing lime, carbon dioxide and bone charcoal, filtering, boiling in a near-vacuum, warm air drying and sieving.
CSR did not pay sugar farmers by the weight of their cane, most of which was fibre (bagass). Instead, payment was based on sucrose content. Precise measurement was essential for farmers – and for CSR, as the cost of extraction depended on the percentage of pure sucrose.
Especially once distilling began (from 1901) and tablet-making (from 1910) CSR probably employed more laboratory research staff than any other Australian company.
Measuring sucrose content was the function of the specialist Technical Research Laboratory B, designed in 1924, and built at the top of the escarpment, next to the Tablet House. (A separate Research Lab worked on all other CSR processes.) In 1963 when Laboratory B was extended, it was better known as the Central Lab.
CSR recruited research staff carefully, and spared no expense in training them at Sydney University, Sydney Tech (in Ultimo) and in-house. Many were women recruited directly from private schools, and many felt the pressure of CSR’s expectation that they find marriage partners among the (equally select) engineers and other professional men in the CSR complex. The company’s paternal style, and the systematic promotion of staff picnics and concerts, fostered a sense that this was a family concern as well as an industry.