The Banking Chamber has a ceiling of tangerine metal acoustic tiles, incorporating flush fluorescent lighting. All counters and other internal fittings are of Queensland maple and silver ash with plastic-treated linoleum counter and desktops. The floor of the Banking Chamber is of surf green and black linoleum tiles.

Wingham Chronicle, September 3, 1957

On our first inspection of the building, it was not until we went outside, that we started to get the idea of how the banking chamber used to be. ‘Where are those windows?’ asked Aaron, pointing to the high louvers. The ceiling had been lowered with one of those hideous suspended supermarket ceiling systems to allow for ducted air conditioning and new electricity and data cabling to be installed.

The once generous open plan space had been cut up into two small interview rooms, a teller counter and behind this desk, space and general storage.

It was not a good fit out. Not only did it make the whole place seem small, but all natural light had been obliterated by the lowered ceiling. We really feel for the staff who had to work in this brutal hell of chipboard and laminate. Their experience working in this building was looking at a plasterboard wall illuminated by cool white fluro’s.

The crazy thing is that with all of these new internal rooms, Holiday Coast Credit Union only employed two staff in this branch! The building was originally designed to accommodate 6 staff, the manager and accountant. They inherited a space designed for their purpose and they spent a ton of money making it oppressive and divided it up into superfluous spaces.

When Aaron approached the ANZ Bank Archive in Melbourne about information on ‘The Bank’, they retrieved a written history which included the opening date. The next stop for was Taree library to look at the Wingham Chronicle microfiche. The description of the colours amazed him. He wanted to jump up and down for joy screaming ‘OH YEAH!’  But that behaviour is not for a library.

Colour has been used throughout as an integral part of the design, Externally, cinnamon, reseda brown and citrus yellow are featured, while internally some of the colours used include orchid green, tangerine, citrus yellow, pastel grey and tango.

Wingham Chronicle, September 3, 1957

With this insight the paint scrapings and investigation began. The tangerine ceiling colour was easy to find. The paint had tracked up between the metal tiles. The pure colour, unaffected by light, grime or damage. As we went around the building we were absolutely staggered by how many colours there were. Every surface had a colour shift. True colours were found in the back of cupboards, under skirting boards and under light fittings.

As soon as we looked into the cavity created by the false ceiling you could see the damage that had been done to the original. Many tiles were missing and many more were bent, dinged or had hex screws driven into them. The original insulation was rotten and collapsed onto the original ceiling tiles. It was strange looking into a ceiling cavity that was filled with light from the high louvers.

The plasterboard walls were demolished with great vengeance and delight. In most renovations, there is a period of going backwards, as the place is a total mess. Not so with this demolition. It was so out of place and ugly that every step looked and felt better.

The false ceiling was demolished and the foam tiles were reserved as they were to be reused as new insulation in the original tiles.

These tiles were then removed. They were in bad shape. Dings were beaten out and the large holes filled.

The light fittings also had to be saved. Not just because they were original, but they were also part of the track system that the tiles clicked into. As this was imperial measurements, new metric lights would not have worked. They were stripped of their old components, cleaned, resprayed and rewired with new energy efficient LED components.

Another major upgrade that was undertaken was moving the kitchen on the upper floor. (See staff facilities for full story). New plumbing had to be taken across the building to do this. We really wanted to avoid running pipes on the outside of the building as this is the anthiethis of modernism! The solution was to pack out the north-west wall of the bank chamber with timber studs. All new services could then be run along this wall. This included NBN fibre cables, air-conditioning, new electricity, even in-wall speakers! This was then finished with plasterboard.

The design for the new desks was inspired from the ES&A – Moe Branch. We did try to find out how our interior originally looked but were unsuccessful. The Wingham Chronicle generously published three articles on us, the building and restoration. The callout was given to anybody in the community who might have photos or memories. Aaron also went through three years of council development applications to try and find any plans or internal elevations. No information was found.

As the desks were to emulate 1950’s banking counters, they were all set away from any joining wall.  To bring services into them a channel was cut into the concrete floor. This allowed power and data cabling to come up into the new desks. The channel was covered with an aluminium C-section. This can be removed and additional or upgraded cabling can be installed, future proofing the access of these services.

Before the re-installation of the ceiling tiles, new R6 insulation bats were installed. The tiles were then snapped back into their tracks. As there were not enough tiles to cover the whole ceiling a new pattern was designed with gaps infilled with plasterboard. Timber battens had to be constructed over the original metal tile track system for the plaster board to be attached, which was not easy!

Every tile then had to have acrylic gap filler chalked in every join as they did not fit snug due to the previous damage.

The walls were patched or re-plastered. The false ceiling track had been attached by blasting nails into the cement rendered walls which blew out the render.

Now for the painting. Was this crazy colour scheme going to work?

Following the painting, the construction of the desks and timber paneling between the west window was done by Chris and Aaron. They are a solid timber frame with silver ash lining boards.

The inside of the desks are panelled in silver ash plywood and varnished black. This was achieved by mixing ebony timber stain with sanding sealer to a ratio of 1:1. This is lightly sanded and then finished with a satin polyurethane. The rest of the timber was finished with Danish oil. The desk tops were made from the chipboard doors from the previous fit out and laminated with silver ash plywood and also finished in Danish oil. The front edge has a solid silver ash edge dowelled into the chipboard. The solid silver ash tops are inlaid with orange glass.

The floor was described as being black and surf green Lino tiles. We decided to use carpet tiles to give easy access to the data cable channels in the floor. We did source surf green carpet tiles but they were 3 x the price of the grey tiles and our budget could not stretch this far. You have to pick your battles!

What an amazing space. The high ceiling and generous floor area. The light and cross ventilation. The building predates air-conditioning. As a result the passive design was well considered. The thermal mass of the masonry, the high louvers and upper floor to release the heat make for a really comfortable building in summer.

When we first read about the colours we thought that it might be kitch or over powering. The effect is very stylish and calming. We call these colours just right. Not too strong in hue, not too pastel, not too grey or drab, not too obvious.

Just right.

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