Fremantle Ports Building

When i was in Fremantle recently i went for walk towards the docks and spotted a remarkable building.

The Fremantle Ports' Administration Building was built in the early 1960's in the so called 'International style', which is what provincial Australia then called Modernist.

Built to service the bustling port on Victoria Quay Western Australia it was designed by local Architects Hobbs, Winning and Leighton. It was a significance technological milestone. It’s build form, it’s scale, materials and technology signified a radical modern change in the port's image and operation. The style is notable for its emphasis on lightweight, mass-produced industrial materials, repetitive modular forms, and the use of flat surfaces, typically alternating with areas of glass.

The most distinctive feature of the building exterior is the use of ceramic tiling and its geometric first level folded roof pattern that skirts the base of the tower. Made of pre-stressed concrete units in two spans each of 20 metres this roof is the first known one of its type in Australia. The half hexagon roof line, lattice work and the mosaic tiles are reminiscent of north african styles. The exterior tiling also reduced maintenance requirements in a salt-laden atmosphere.

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

The floor in the foyer is a parquet of local timbers jarrah and wandoo inset with brass. The foyer also features a mosaic mural by WA painter and sculptor Howard Taylor. 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.

I plan to return to this building and see if i can get permission to photograph the inside as well.