Edmund Barton Building

Edmund Barton Building

Facade of the Edmund Barton Building, showing facade beams and stainless steel caps covering concrete prestressing anchorages.
General information
Status Complete
Type Commercial office accommodation
Location Canberra, Australia
Coordinates 35°18′18″S 149°08′10″E / 35.305°S 149.136°E / -35.305; 149.136Coordinates: 35°18′18″S 149°08′10″E / 35.305°S 149.136°E / -35.305; 149.136
Construction started 1970
Completed 1974
Owner Real IS AG (since 2008)
Technical details
Floor area 50,000 square metres (540,000 sq ft)
Design and construction
Architect Harry Seidler and Associates

The Edmund Barton Building (known originally as the Trade Group Offices) is a large Canberra office building positioned prominently on the Parliamentary Triangle in the suburb of Barton, Australian Capital Territory. It was designed by the major Australian architect Harry Seidler. It is named after Sir Edmund Barton, first Prime Minister of Australia and one of the founding judges of the High Court of Australia.

Design, construction and ownership

The building was designed and built for the Commonwealth government over the period 1970 to 1974. The building is of a precast, prestressed concrete construction. Its elements are radically simple: the entire structure was created using repeating patterns of just three different components: 26 metre-long facade beams, 16 metre-long floor beams or 'planks', and 1.5 metre column elements. It contains a total of 50 000 square metres of office space in seven wings, enclosing two courtyards.[1] The building has undergone various subsequent modifications, notably including the retrofitting of cladding beneath the exposed first floor floor planks which, while improving thermal performance, has been criticised for obscuring the original design of the building.

In 1999, as part of a privatisation of Commonwealth assets, the building was sold to the Industry Superannuation Property Trust Pty Ltd,[2] which almost immediately on-sold the site to Advance Property Fund (a subsidiary of Stockland, one of Australia's largest property groups) for A$70 million.[3][4] In December 2008 was sold to Real IS AG for A$186 million.[5]

The building was the subject of a major refurbishment in 2007–2009 estimated to cost $115 million, including increased security measures around the building perimeter (owing to the client needs of the new tenant, the Australian Federal Police), and reinvigoration of the courtyard areas.[6][7] Planning for the refurbishment was undertaken by HBO+EMTB.[8] The refurbishment caused some concern about the preservation of heritage values of the building,[9][10] and about loss of public access to central open spaces and art works.[11]


The building was originally designed as office space for Australian federal trade agencies.[1] In the 1990s the building was occupied by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (previously known as the Department of Primary Industries and Energy). A range of other agencies have occupied parts of the building, including the Australian Public Service Commission (from before 2000 to 2007)[12] and the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2004–2007).[13]

The Australian Federal Police undertook to occupy the building from mid-2009, following a major refurbishment.[14]

Heritage value and art

The Edmund Barton Building is regarded as one of Harry Seidler's most important Australian buildings.[11][15] The building was placed on the Commonwealth National Heritage List in June 2005,[16] as 'an outstanding example of the Late Twentieth-Century International Style of architecture in Australia and is the largest such example in the National Capital'.[17]

The building has also achieved recognition through the 25 Year Award for its architectural merit, from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA), ACT Chapter,[17] as well as being on the RAIA's Register of Significant Twentieth Century Architecture (as the Trade Offices).[18]

The Edmund Barton Building site is the location of several significant pieces of sculpture. These include:

two important works of public art by Norman Carlberg, the internationally acclaimed American sculptor who worked in the modular constructivist style and studied under Josef Albers at Yale in the late 1950s. Black Widow is the free standing black painted steel form standing 4.8m high in the west courtyard. Concrete Form is the 7.3m high precast concrete sculpture in the east courtyard. These two important works were installed in 1975.[11]

In addition to these works, a memorial sculpture of Sir Edmund Barton stands at the south-west corner of the building, facing Kings Avenue.

See also


  1. 1 2 Harry Seidler & Associates, Trade Group Offices, retrieved January 2009. Archived 13 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. The Hon. John Fahey, 'Preferred tenderers for Commonwealth Buildings', Media Release, 13 January 1999.
  3. Stockland, Office properties in the ACT, retrieved January 2009. Archived 19 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Thomson Financial Mergers & Acquisitions, Advance Property Fund acquires Edmund Barton Building from ISPT Pty Ltd (summary), May 1999, retrieved January 2009.
  5. Thomson Financial Mergers & Acquisitions, Realis AG acquires Edmund Barton Building from Advance Property Fund (summary), December 2008, retrieved January 2009.
  6. Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, Fit-out for the Australian Federal Police of the Edmund Barton Building, Barton, Australian Capital Territory, Committee Hansard, 19 September 2008, retrieved January 2009 Archived 28 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, Report 9 of 2008, retrieved January 2009 Archived 18 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. HBO+EMTB, Edmund Barton Building, Canberra, retrieved January 2009. Archived 1 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Mark Davis, 'Keelty Towers, starring Harry Seidler's widow', Sydney Morning Herald, 20 September 2008, retrieved January 2009.
  10. Marika Dobbin, 'Millions being spent on terrorist protection', Canberra Times, 9 October 2007, p.5.
  11. 1 2 3 Canberra House, 'Modifications proposed to Harry Seidler’s Edmund Barton building', 21 September 2008, retrieved January 2009.
  12. See Public Service Merit Protection Commission, Annual Report 2000-2001; Australian Public Service Commission, Annual Report 2005-2006, retrieved January 2009 Archived 24 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Committee, Budget Additional Estimates 2006–07, Answers to Questions on Notice, Question 10, retrieved January 2009. Archived 20 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. Stockland, Commercial property information, Edmund Barton Building, retrieved January 2009. Archived 21 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. See comments by current director of Seidler's architectural practice in Marika Dobbin, 'AFP investigates Barton move', Canberra Times, 5 October 2007, p.1, accessed January 2009.
  16. Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell, 'Heritage sites added to list of natural treasures', Media Release C153/05, 6 June 2005, retrieved January 2009.
  17. 1 2 "Edmund Barton Offices, Kings Av, Barton, ACT, Australia (Place ID 105476)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  18. RAIA, Register of Significant Twentieth Century Architecture, Sites in the Australian Capital Territory, retrieved January 2009.
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