Primus Hotel Sydney’s Art Deco Heritage

An exquisite example of Inter-War period of architecture, step back in time when you step inside the Primus Hotel Sydney

By Benjamen Judd 

Before reopening as Sydney’s newest premier luxury hotel, the Primus Hotel was the original home of the Sydney Water Board. 

One of the most expensive buildings of the time, the heritage listed Water Board was designed by local architect firm H.E. Budden and Mackey and was a stunning example of the Inter-War Art Deco aesthetics that flourished prior to World War II. 

Simple, clean shapes often with a “streamlined” look, geometric ornamentation and a strong sense of symmetry characterized the style of the Art Deco period, which was highly influenced by the modern technology of the time. It was also an expression of luxury, incorporating rare materials such as marble, jade, silver, ivory and lacquer in many of its art and designs. 

In an issue of the Art Deco Society of New York’s newsletter, writer and critic Brian J. R. Blench described the Art Deco aesthetic as one that precluded “luxury and leisure, for comfort and conviviality. It is an exciting style and should, like the archetypal drink of the period, the cocktail, be enjoyed while it is still laughing at you.” 

With its grand marble pillars, expansive space and geometric patterning – the Primus Hotel Sydney is a modern monument to the richness of this period. 

Heritage architecture specialists GBA Heritage and international design firm Woods Bagot were charged with the dual task of bringing back to life the grand scope of the original building while fitting the space out with all the modern requirements expected by today’s travellers. 

From the geometric detailing in the rugs and wallpaper, the soaring skylight in the grand foyer to the carefully curated fonts used throughout the hotel – no detail has been overlooked in process of transforming the Water Board into a world-class hotel.


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