Refinery Square

Date Built: 1906

Centre of CSR operations. Administration office built 1906.

View Photo gallery

Refinery Square


CSR Main Office CSR main office and gatehouse (l to r) Refinery Square and distillery from Tablet House

In 1984, as industries quit Pyrmont, the State government resolved to redevelop the area, and in 1987 decided that the peninsula needed its own plan. In the same year CSR asked Lend Lease to study the feasibility of redeveloping the industrial site.
Many studies ensued: the Pyrmont-Ultimo Heritage Study (1990), a Social Impact Assessment (1991), and a Regional Environmental Plan (1992). In 1993 the Pyrmont-Ultimo Urban Development Plan was approved, and so was a Master Plan for Pyrmont Bay.
As historical sources the most useful studies were archaeological surveys, summed up in the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority’s Jacksons Landing Interpretation Strategy, and Jane Bennett’s extraordinary series of paintings. Later, John Broadbent complemented these studies with his comprehensive history of the ecology of the peninsula.
Pyrmont residents were deeply divided: some were forced to leave the area, others welcomed development, but in 1979 opponents formed UPROAR (Ultimo Pyrmont Residents Opposed to Arbitrary Redevelopment) and endured years of being consulted (or, in their view, coerced). In August 1992 a few activists proclaimed the Republic of Pyrmont. In this brilliant but forlorn gesture the republicans issued visas, and publicised their critique of top-down planning, and in particular to Jacksons Landing, the casino and the helipad.
Meanwhile in 1997 Lend Lease bought the CSR site, and by April 1999 Jacksons Landing was under construction. Refinery Square would be the heart of the complex, the site of shared community services and the location of many historical allusions and references.
CSR’s Administration Offices were replaced by a community hall, swimming pool and gymnasium. Sandstone from the old carpenters’ workshop were cannibalised to cover the base of the pool, and the gatehouse was refurbished as offices for security staff.
Throughout Refinery Square, recycled sandstone were pick-finished to represent the manual labour of the early quarrymen. CSR operations were evoked in quotations etched into metal and adorning glass and steel on blades.
The trickiest aspect was to replace a large fig tree that had shaded the open area since the offices were built in 1906. A CSR fig tree was installed at the western end of the park. The replacement fig was transported from the corner of Bank and Bowman Streets and replanted on the existing site, preserving the configuration of the square.
North of the square, aligned with the western wall of the Tablet House, a new stairway was cut into the escarpment, displaying the raw sandstone.