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Hinchcliff House, at Sydney’s Circular Quay, has a long and rich history. It started with Andrew Hinchcliff, a wool merchant who in the 1850s established an empire trading with places such as London.
Nestled behind Customs House, the three-level sandstone and brick wool store, bounded by Loftus Lane, is now a multi-venue restaurant, cafe and function destination guided by proprietor Scott Brown and leased from AMP Capital.
Recipient of an urban design award from the Australian Institute of Architects (NSW Chapter), this area includes input from a number of architects and designers that worked on buildings that shared this precinct – SJB, Silvester Fuller, Studio Bright and Lippmann working with landscape architects Aspect.
Hinchcliff House, at Sydney’s Circular Quay by Carter Williamson Architects + Mitchell & Eade. Credit:Rory Gardiner 
For Hinchcliff House, Carter Williamson Architects worked with interior design practice Mitchell & Eades and closely with Urbis Heritage and the City of Sydney, to reinvigorate this highly sensitive heritage precinct.
Formerly used for everything from an English-language school to a men’s refuge and a chapel, the golden sheep that once crowned the building was discovered in the basement of the building.
While this statue couldn’t be saved (as it was badly cracked), a new replica in gold paint was reinstated.
Fortunately, the remnants of the pulleys used to lift the wool bales to each floor remain, as do the sandstone and brick walls along with the many chunky timber trusses that staddle the interior.
Grana has a 40-metre-long plaster-clad bar that ‘snakes’ between two original buildings.Credit:Jiwon Kim.
“Every new insertion is clearly visible in black steel, whether it’s the new steel balustrades or the steel portal leading to the new bar in the basement,” says architect Shaun Carter, director of Carter Williamson Architects.
A similar approach was taken by Mitchell & Eades with new insertions, whether a bar or banquette seating, allowing the building’s original fabric to ‘breathe’.
Loftus Lane, which was previously a fairly seedy laneway bordering Hinchcliff House, is now a well-designed European-style laneway, with brass-edged built-in timber seating and raised sandstone garden beds and is used by people in the CBD to catch up with friends and colleagues.
As well as creating new access points, whether timber and glass doors or steel portals, as in the case of the basement bar, Carter Williamson Architects also preplanned the interior spaces, including the removal of a concrete stairway from the 1950s that had been inappropriately located.
And with this removal came new timber columns that appear to have been here since day one.
Some original arched walls were opened up to respect the building’s heritage and to create functional venues on each level.
The basement bar, called Apollonia, the name of a gangster’s girlfriend in the film The Godfather, has a New York feel with the Grana (Italian for grain) cafe at ground level, having a casual ambience.
On the first floor of Hinchcliff House is Lana, a fine dining restaurant that’s a little moodier and framed in sheer curtains.
The top level, approximately 250 square metres in area, is given over to a function space.
Here, one can appreciate the fine building’s original fabric which includes exposed brick walls, massive timber trusses, arched windows and timber floors.
“Every item of furniture and lighting has all been handmade by Australian craftspeople,” says interior designer Hayley Mitchell, co-director of Mitchell & Eades, pointing out the pink quartzite panel behind the bar at Lana, a shelving and lighting unit that adds a contemporary layer to the space.
And in Grana, there’s a 40-metre-long plaster-clad bar that ‘snakes’ between two original buildings and has a distinctly handmade feel, like dough being rolled out.
“We weren’t allowed to touch any of the original fabric,” says Mitchell.
“The brief was to create a sense of the craft and the handmade.
It was important to tell the story of the building, being one of the first commercial precincts in Australia’s history,” adds Carter.
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