The restoration of Sydney’s No. 1 Sewerage Pumping Station has led to the creation of a flexible space on the upper level, which may also be used for meetings or as an eatery. The 115-year-old sewage pumping station was Sydney’s first in a network of 19 stations, and still continues to pump the city’s waste.

Restored by Hector Abrahams Architects (HAA), the station could soon also be a space for meetings or eating. Architect Hector Abrahams describes the pumping station as an excellent example of the late arts and crafts style characterised by asymmetry and every element being designed as a work of art using beautiful red brick work, Sydney sandstone, and abstract motifs. HAA’s scope of work for the restoration covered the building’s exterior as well as the switch room on the upper level.

The sewage pumps at the fully functional sewage pumping station will continue to operate without impacting the use of the flexible space. The pumps are located about 25 metres below ground and a sophisticated exhaust system ensures there’s no smell.

Though the flexible space will first be used as a city hub for Sydney Water, there are plans to use it for meetings and as a restaurant. According to Abrahams, the historical significance of the place and its beautifully preserved decorative features are likely to turn it into a popular space in the future.

Transforming a purely utilitarian space into one of elegance, HAA relied on a lot of historical research to choose colours, materials and style for the extensive reconstruction and conservation works. The architecture firm used historic 1899 Department of Public Works drawings and photos to reconstruct the original hipped roof, pendant light fittings, multi-paned highlights with coloured cathedral glass, and the black-and-white chequerboard tiling in the entry porch area.

HAA’s work also included stonework repairs, new timber doors and internal doors as well as the construction of a new services hub and a new switchboard as an interpretation of the original structure depicted in the Department of Public Works references.