Hoffnung & Co. building
The Hoffnung & Co. building (now Red Cross House) is one of the finest and earliest examples of a functionalist style building designed specifically for warehouse and retail activities. Built in 1939, it was the new flagship premises for the large wholesale and retailing firm S. Hoffnung & Co., originally founded in 1853 by Polish immigrant Sigmond Hoffnung (1830-1904).
The building was the largest and most important high-rise commission for architect Samuel Lipson (1901-199) who is now regarded as one of the most innovative practitioners in Sydney during the 1930s. Influenced by European modernism, the building’s façade is characterised by long, unbroken lines of steel-framed windows, made possible by an internal grid of heavy mushroom shaped columns just inside the line of the exterior. The entrance is emphasised by a black granite border which extends to the base of the building, making a strong visual presence in the streetscape.
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The building’s location in Clarence Street reflects the pre-eminence of this part of the city for both retail and warehousing. From the 1880s, the area around Clarence, Kent and York Streets in Sydney was known as the ‘warehousing’ district for businesses associated with import, export and manufacturing activities. The Hoffnung & Co. building was probably one of the last major warehouses to be built in this area before World War II, and so reflects the end of an important period of development in this part of the city.
Since 1974, the building has been occupied by the Red Cross Society, one of Australia’s best known medical and welfare institutions. The building is classified by the NSW Heritage Council.