Fremantle Stuff > buildings >

See also: the port, harbourmasters, pilots, sheds.

Fremantle Ports building

Architects: Hobbs, Winning and Leighton.
Builder: A T Brine and Sons
Known as the Fremantle Port Authority (FPA) Building when opened in 1964.

David Hutchison, Fremantle Walks, 2006:
This was built in 1963 so that the staff of the Fremantle Port Authority, then housed in eight separate buildings, could be brought together in one. The building is steel framed and was designed to obtain controlled natural lighting from the north and south. The roof over the ground floor is the only one of its kind in Australia. It is a folded roof pattern in pre-stressed concrete units in two spans, each of 20.1 metres, which provides continuous roof lighting together with air-conditioning ducts. A special feature is the use of tiling for both exterior wall finishing and interior wall decoration. The floor of the ground floor concourse is parquetry in jarrah and wandoo. At the western end of the concourse is a white mosaic wall feature, by Howard Taylor, symbolising the mythical Roman sea god Portunus. The Port Authority signal station was moved from Cantonment Hill to the top of this building.


I took this photo from what is now the boardroom of the MSC Dalgety building on the corner of Cliff and Phillimore Streets. The Fremantle Ports building uses the street address 1 Cliff Street, tho it's not really in Cliff Street, which ends where I took this photo, at the corner of Phillimore Street. The Ports building is actually between the formerly anonymous entrance to Victoria Quay which is now known as Peter Hughes Drive (What was so special about this Hughes guy that he gets to have his first name also remembered, unlike 99.9% of other streets?) and Slip Street, which leads to two slipways, on one of which is the Ovens submarine.


The building was designed by Hobbs Winning & Leighton, the firm founded by J.J. Talbot Hobbs, which also designed the Dalgety building from which, as I say, I took this photo. The firm also designed the Passenger Terminal (1962) on Victoria Quay.


The Ports building from the South Wharf (looking from the north). The sign is missing an R. It says F_EMANTLE PORTS. The letter must be a metre or more square, and must have made a lot of noise when it fell off - if that's what happened. I dropped into the front office and asked the young guy on duty about it. He said he'd find out.


Now it says __EMANTLE PORTS. I dropped in and spoke the young guy again. He said "they must know about". I told him I'd be back when the first E fell out.


... But it was the second R. So this building is now (2Dec19) that of EMANTLE POTS.


Back to normal, April 2020.


The building on this site before 1962 was the Harbour Trust building, which itself was formerly at Arthur Head on the western end of what became the southern wharf, and served as C.Y. O'Connor's office.

Fremantle Ports is plural because it controls not only the port in the Swan River, but also various facitilities in Cockburn Sound. It has a board of directors appointed by and responsible to the Minister for Transport, and a Chief Executive Officer appointed by the Board who is responsible for day-to-day management. Currently it's (male) Chris Leatt-Hayter. The previous incumbent is now the Governor of Western Australia, (female) Kerry Sanderson. Updates 2021: the CEO is now Michael Parker, since May 2021. The WA Governor is currently Kim Beazley, the best Prime Minister we never had, and former Ambassador to the USA.

Jack Kent's 1991 assessment of the FPA building:
The FPA Administration Building was required to accommodate the Port Authority's existing staff in one building as opposed to the pre-existing eight buildings scattered around the wharf area. It was designed by architects, Hobbs, Winning and Leighton and built by A. T. Brine and Sons Ltd in 1963 at a cost of $650,000.00. Its size, however, exceeded the needs of the FPA staff and was seen at the time as a partly commercial venture. Its construction required the demolition of several buildings at the east end of Slip Street including the former Harbour Trust Offices and the State Shipping Office building. The new Administration Building was officially opened by the Premier of Western Australia, the Honourable David Brand, MLA.
Foundations: The steel-framed office and service tower building is carried on 120 'Franki' piles driven to an average depth of 30 feet below ground level. The loading capacity of each pile varies between 60 and 71 tons.
Lighting: Special consideration was given to the orientation of the office tower so that controlled natural lighting could be obtained from the North and South, while the East and West walls are blanked off. All windows on the Ground Floor and North side of the office tower are protected with fixed vertical and horizontal sun baffles which protect the windows from direct sunlight. All windows are in anodised aluminium frames glazed with anti-glare glass and are completely reversible, allowing all window cleaning to be carried out from within the building.
Ground Floor Roof: The roof over the Ground Floor is unique and is the only known one of its type in Australia. It is a folded roof pattern of pre-stressed concrete units in two spans each of 66 feet, which provides continuous roof lighting together with built-in air-conditioning ducts and artificial lighting. The glass used is 'Sun-X' tinted, which assists in controlling heat, fade and glare, and is shadowless.
Ceilings: Ceilings generally are in acoustic tiles or acoustic vermiculite plaster.
Tiling: A special feature of the building is the use of tiling for both exterior wall finish and interior wall decoration. The whole of the wall externally are tiled, which not only gives a permanent sparkling effect but will reduce maintenance to a minimum in an atmosphere laden with dust and other impurities to be found in the port area. The total cost of this tiling amounted to approximately 20, 000 pounds.
Concourse Floor: The floor to the concourse on the ground floor is parquet in local timber of Jarrah and Wandoo.
Air-conditioning System: The building is fully air-conditioned with the heat pump plant system using perimeter induction units and high velocity ductwork. The advantage of the heat pump type air-conditioning plant is that it does not require any cooling towers, boilers, flues and is economical to run.
The F. P. A. Administration Building has aesthetic qualities that boldly counter the pre-existing character and scale of the wharf and its buildings, and as such, has significance as a technological milestone. Its built form, scale and materials together with the new sciences in building services signifies a radical, 'modern' change in the ports image and operation. The building itself has particular architectural qualities representative of the international style of the time.
The historically close relationship between the City of Fremantle and its port is now visually represented by the manner in which this building dominates the Fremantle skyline. This visual 'monument' to the modernisation of the port was unfortunately at the expense of the integrity of the townscape both on Victoria Quay and the overall townscape of Fremantle.
Consequently, the significance of the traditional relationship between the City and the Port has been reduced. The significance of the building should therefore be seen in terms of an individual statement of modern architecture and not as a part of a harmonious evolution of Victoria Quay nor as a part of its historic and otherwise visually coherent precinct.

References and Links

Hutchison, David, with Jack Kent, Agnieshka Kiera, Russell Kingdom, Larraine Stevens, Tanya Suba, 1991, Victoria Quay and its Architecture its History and Assessment of Cultural Significance, City of Fremantle.

Fremantle Ports website

Fremantle Ports Administration Building 50 Years booklet is available to download as a pdf.

Garry Gillard | New: 17 September, 2017 | Now: 3 April, 2024