Paspaley Pearls Corporate Offices

  • 2015

  • Architectural
    Interior Design

Designed By:

  • Jonathan Richards
  • Georgia Hickey

Commissioned By:

Paspaley Pearls

Designed In:


This project involved transforming 110 year old bank vaults submerged beneath the heart of the Sydney CBD, left to decay as barely used storage space, into theatrical, luxurious, comfortable and functional contemporary offices. The project began already riddled with functional and practical site difficulties so the design process involved rigorous coordination with all parties involved. The result is a space that celebrates the rarely seen bones of an historic and unique bank vault construction, whilst simultaneously reflecting the luxury pearling company’s brand and the intricacies involved with their craft.

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  • The client function for this project was the creation of executive offices and pearl grading and pearl inspection rooms. We drew parallels between descending underground into these spaces with the act of diving deep into the sea to retrieve pearls. This concept drove our materiality and detailing; deep rich tones that heightened the feeling of being submerged in these extraordinary historic spaces.

  • The project is an excellent example of adaptive reuse of subterranean bank vaults. These spaces had otherwise been used as store rooms and they are now a celebration of the banking chambers. With considerable scepticism from the client and Council authorities we achieved three principle objectives; to enhance the experience of the raw bones of the building, to achieve a level of contemporary elegance that suits the client brand and to create a specialised pearling workspace underground with little daylight that staff enjoy.

  • Sustainability was paramount in this project by retaining the building fabric. Considerable effort was spent in making the client programme and the designer's concepts work around what was already there. These were bank vaults, with many layers of brick and steel to combat theft - the result is a sustainable thermal mass that keeps a cool temperature and requires minimal air conditioning.

  • An innovative aspect is the sympathetic resolution between the original building and our design. We created a contemporary design that doesn't take either of the two typically polar approaches to heritage buildings; either stark contrast or indistinguishable fusing. We restored the spaces and designed new interiors with a balanced alignment to its predecessor. We have created a theatrical workspace within these underground spaces.

    This project was the creation of new work areas and specialised pearl inspection rooms within historic banking chambers beneath the client's flagship retail store on Martin Place Sydney. The site is a state-listed heritage item which involved complex authority approval processes. There was considerable coordination between designer/heritage consultant/Council/client and other stake holders. The space is subterranean with no windows, only borrowed natural light from footpath glass blocks. The existing conditions of the spaces were badly damaged and considerable restoration was undertaken.