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Administration Building

Fremantle Ports' Administration Building on Victoria Quay opened in 1964

Designed in the post-war international style by architects Hobbs, Winning and Leighton and built by A T Brine and Sons Ltd in 1963, the building was officially opened on 5 March 1964. The foyer is open to the public during business hours (8am-5pm, Mondays to Fridays, excluding public holidays). You can watch the rolling display of photos and take in Howard Taylor's mural, the tessellated wall tiles and the beautiful parquet floor made of Western Australian timbers.

History and design

The 11-storey building, still the tallest building in Fremantle, was built to accommodate the then Fremantle Harbour Trust's staff in one building instead of the pre-existing eight buildings around the wharf area. The building has aesthetic qualities that boldly countered the pre-existing character and scale of the wharf and its buildings, and as such, it has significance as a technological milestone.

Its built form, scale, materials and technology signified a radical 'modern' change in the port's image and operation. It was designed and built in a period of confidence in Western Australia and some emerging affluence arising from the mineral boom and immigration.

The building has many admirers among architects, engineers, builders and others, who appreciate its style, form, functionality, innovations for its time and responsiveness to its context and the environment.

The building has a basement housing services and parking, eight main floors (with an observation deck) and a three-level tower that includes the signal station. The signal station superseded the port's signal station on Cantonment Hill.

Foundations: The steel-framed office and service tower building is supported on 120 'Franki' piles driven to an average depth of about nine metres below ground level. The loading capacity of each pile varies between 61-72 tonnes.

Lighting: Special consideration was given to the orientation of the office tower to obtain controlled natural lighting from the north and south, while the west and east walls are blanked off. All windows are in anodised aluminium frames glazed with anti-glare glass and are completely reversible.

Tiling: A distinctive feature of the building is the use of tiling for both the exterior wall finish and interior wall decoration. The exterior tiling reduces maintenance requirements in a salt-laden atmosphere.

Ground floor roof: This roof is the first known one of its type in Australia. It is a folded roof pattern of pre-stressed concrete units in two spans each of 20 metres.

Foyer floor: The floor in the foyer is a parquet of local timbers jarrah and wandoo inset with brass.

Garden courtyards: There are two garden courtyards on the ground floor surrounded by offices.

Foyer artwork: The foyer features a mosaic mural by WA painter and sculptor Howard Taylor, one of Australia's most significant artists of the 20th century. This mural, describing patterns of water movement, was named after the Roman god of rivers and seaports, Portunus. The more commonly known Roman story is the boy who rode the dolphin to guide ships into harbour. Dolphins are often present in the Fremantle Inner Harbour and have been seen to escort ships in and out of port.

More information is in the Fremantle Ports Administration Building 50 Years booklet. (References include Victoria Quay and its architecture, City of Fremantle publication, 1991).

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