SOUTH BRISBANE MUNICIPAL
The new municipal offices for South Brisbane are now fast approaching completion, and it is the intention of the council's officers to enter into possession in the course of a day of two. The new building stands at the angle of Vulture and Graham streets, adjoining the residence of Mr. W. Stephens, M.L.A. Its tower for some months past has been quite a conspicuous object in the landscape, being visible from many parts of the city and suburbs. The history of the building extends a long way back. Before the council had finally agreed upon a site, as early as the beginning of 1890, competitive designs were called from architects for a building to cost £5000, in response to which some twenty designs were submitted, and the one sent in by Messrs. John Hall and Son, architects, of Queen-street, was accepted as the most suitable. It was not, however, until the end of that year that the site had been prepared by being cut down to within 12ft. of the level of the sur- rounding streets, and builders' tenders were called for the erection of the building, and on the last day of that year Mr. Morry, M.L.A., the mayor at that time, signed a contract with Mr. A. James, builder, of Coorparoo, the lowest tenderer, to carry out the work for the sum of £6999. The reason of that sum exceeding the amount originally given out to architects as the limit of expenditure was because it was subse- quently decided to add a basement story to the building, and to substitute stonework for cement plasterwork for the outside finish- ings. Building operations were commenced in January last year and briskly carried on for six months, until, the contractor getting into financial difficulties, the council were left no option but to take the contract out of his hands; but in order not to deal too harshly with him, it was decided that the council should carry on the work for three months under the charge of the architects, giving him an oppor- tunity to resume the contract at any period of that term. This leniency, however, on the council's part had not the desired effect, and after having the building put into a suitable state for handing over to new contractors, fresh tenders were invited for finishing the different departments of work, and the amount of these having been found to only very slightly exceed the sum of the original contract, it was decided to proceed with the work, the stone, brick, car- penters' and joinery work being intrusted to Messrs. John Stewart and Co., plaster work to Mr. John Campbell, plumber and gasfitting work to Mr. James Kay, painter and glazier work to Messrs. J. Lang and Co., the original contractor's contract with Messrs. Exton and Gough for lead-light work being left inviolate. Under these new contractors the work was again actively pushed forward. It has been customary to refer to this building as a town hall, but it is not a town hall, and was never meant to be such, but merely offices for the accommodation of the municipal officials and the aldermen ; the expense of providing a town hall being quite unnecessary, looking to the several large unoccupied public halls in the borough and profiting by the lesson afforded by some sub- urban cities in the Southern colonies.
The building is planned in a very simple manner, and the arrangement of the different rooms seems as nearly as possible perfect, and should assist greatly to lighten the work of
the officers. The site is elevated 12ft. above Vulture-street, and the building stands back from the line of each street 22ft. Access is had to the elevated building through a very fine brick and stone arched entrance gate at the angle of the streets, from which broad concrete steps lead up to the building entrance, which consists of an open portico, having on its wall a slate tablet enclosed by an ornamental framing in Oamaru stone, which tells visitors the date of the erection of the building, the names of the aldermen, council officials, etc. From this portico a pair of wrought-iron gates, the workmanship of which is exceedingly good, and reflect credit on the makers, Messrs. Crase and Co., Fortitude Valley, lead you into a small square vestibule, furnished with two sets of ornamentally-glazed swing doors, those in front leading into the public office, which is made to look a very interesting room by having a couple of fine cast-iron columns supporting one of the walls above, and coming in front of the windows, which are a series of six, extending the full side of the room, glazed with lead- lights, and kept high up in the walls. Separated from this room by an arched open- ing, filled with a semi-open wood and glass screen, are private quarters for the accountant, including a strongroom fitted with one of Milner's doors. The swinging doors to the left of the entrance vestibule open into the corridor of the building, which is wide and well lighted and laid with an orna- mental tile floor, the walls being coloured a delicate shade of cream with terra-cotta dado, effectively showing up the white plaster ornamentation. From one side of this corridor access is had to the town clerk's, mayor's, and engineer's rooms, all being of similar size and finish, and each lighted by large triplet windows on the Graham-street front, and having corner fireplaces fitted with massive stone mantel- pieces made on the building. The end of the corridor is occupied by the entrance to the engineer's public department, which comprises a brightly-lighted spacious drawing office, besides rooms for contractors and clerks, all divided from each other by half-height wood and glass partitions, and accessible from the engineer's room by private doors. In this department is another larger strongroom for the safe keeping of plans, &c. The corridor on the right-hand side has a short branch passage for communication between the town clerk's and accountant's rooms and public office, and further on, directly opposite the mayor's parlour door, lies the staircase, and a passage leading to a complete and handsomely-fitted lavatory, and to the outside at the back of the building. To this passage, under the main stairs, the stairs come up from the base- ment, which covers a large area, being entered from the back yard at the level of Graham street. This basement will be used for the storage of the corporation's workmen's tools, samples of materials, &c, and also for the accommodation of the men at paytime, for which purpose a convenient pay-office has been provided. The main staircase is a particularly interesting piece of work, the steps and hand- rail being of white marble with strings, newels and balusters of cedar, and is lighted half-way up by a very large painted glass window, the work of Messrs. Exton and Gough, which in- cludes in its design the seal of the Corporation of South Brisbane. The staircase, ceiling, and walls are very elaborately treated in white plaster work, which is made to look very charming by its contrast with the delicate cream colour of the general wall surface. Corridors lead right and left from the top of the main stair, whilst right in front are the entrances to the council chamber, three in number, one being for the public onlookers and another for the aldermen. The larger one between is intended to be used on extraordinary occasions, such as public meetings or banquets. This council-room may be considered the feature of the building, being 46ft. long by 29ft. wide, with. walls and ceilings richly finished in ornamental plaster work, the scheme of which is a series of pilasters in flat relief, supporting the usual entablature which embodies over the capítol of each pilaster large trusses introduced to give support to the heavy ribs of the ceiling panels, the plastering of which, as indeed the whole of that particular work throughout the building is a credit to Mr. John Campbell, the contractor. Three large transomed windows, each of six lights, give ample daylight to this chamber, and gaslight will be obtained from a series of very fine double brackets of wrought copper and brass around the walls, as well as by a sunlight in the centre of the celling. The space devoted to the public is divided from the aldermanic portion by a heavy polished brass rail supported on wrought iron standards, which, however, are made movable so as to leave the whole floor space free when occasion requires. The corridor to the right hand of the stair landing leads to the
rooms set aside for the valuators and the in- spector of nuisances' departments, are bright and well finished apartments, whilst the left hand corridor supplies the committee room, out of which and also from the passage doors enter into a comfortable little private retiring-room for the aldermen. The com- mittee-room is a fine apartment, having three
frenchlights on one side and one at the end, the former opening to an arcaded balcony on the Vulture-street front, and the latter leading through the tower to another small balcony situated over the entrance portico at the end of the council chamber, from which it also opens through swing doors, thus giving perfectly private communication be- tween that and the committee-room. The tower is easily ascended by a series of wood ladders, and from the open stage above the clock openings a very fine view of the surround- ing country may be obtained. In the roof there is an ample attic for the storage of old papers, and outside in the yard stable, buggy, and fodder accommodation are provided, as well as the usual conveniences ; and indeed everything which go to make the whole pre- mises suitable and adequate for the require- ments seems to have been carefully considered. The outside design of the building is certainly somewhat new to this part of the world, but it cannot he said to have suffered on that account, as undoubtedly it must be considered one of the most ornate and elegant buildings in the city. Externally the walls of the building and boundary walls are of red Coorparoo and Waterstown brick, left their natural colour, no artificial colouring matter of any kind having been employed, and the finishings are of Helidon stone, supplied by Mr. J. A. Pearson and red tera-ootta manufactured by Messrs. James Campbell and Sons. The stone is a beautiful bluish gray colour and has now been used for the first time, a new quarry having been specially opened for this building at the in- stigation of the architects. The terra-cotta has been used sparingly but most effectively in the form of panels of foliated work in strong relief, and by its intensity of colour has a marvellous effect of enriching the whole appearance of the building. The disposition of the ornamenta- tion to the tower is apt to strike one as unique, being concentrated at the top over the clock dials, the under portion being of plain buttressed brickwork, but it is very obvious after a little study that the architects have mainly depended upon this very concentration, as contrasted with the plain surface below for getting the best effect possible out of the necessarily limited stone embellishment. The clock dials, four in number and over 6ft. in diameter, are 70ft. above the street level, and when the apparatus is fixed up will prove a great boon to the public, as Brisbane is now particularly deficient in its possession of public clocks.
Mr. Soutter, of the Acclimatisation Gardens, has been consulted as to the best manner of treating the grounds about the building, and his recommendations to train ornamental creeping plants over the rocky slopes at back and front and to plant leafy shrubs at intervals round the building are now being carried out, and in course of time when these grow up it is anticipated that the building will have a finer
effect than it has now.
The architects have endeavoured, as far as possible, to take advantage of the limited opportunity afforded to emulate the course adopted by the chief architectural minds of the day by attempting to produce a work that in its composition will be characteristic of the opinions entertained on the subject of archi- tectural art at the present period, rather than by adopting in their purity one or other of the historical phases of the art.