Warringah Civic Centre

The Warringah Civic Centre is a landmark civic building in Dee Why, a suburb of Sydney. It stands in the centre of Dee Why, along Pittwater Road. Designed in the Brutalist style by Colin Madigan and Christopher Kringas, it replaced the Warringah Shire Hall, a 1923 building also on Pittwater Road but in Brookvale opposite Brookvale Oval. The Civic Centre was the seat of Warringah Council from its opening on 1 September 1973 to 12 May 2016, when it became a seat (primary from September 2017) of the new Northern Beaches Council.

Warringah Civic Centre
Front facade and entrance
Former namesWarringah Shire Civic Centre
Alternative namesDee Why Civic Centre, Northern Beaches Civic Centre
General information
TypeGovernment town hall
Architectural styleBrutalist style
AddressPittwater Road
Town or cityDee Why, New South Wales
Construction started1971
Completed1 September 1973
ClientWarringah Shire Council
OwnerNorthern Beaches Council (current)
Design and construction
ArchitectColin Madigan
Christopher Kringas
Bruce Mackenzie (landscape)
Architecture firmEdwards, Madigan, Torzillo and Briggs
Main contractorDowsett Engineering (Aust) Pty. Ltd.


Early history and development

By the late 1960s, Warringah Shire Council had recognised the inefficiencies of their headquarters in the Shire Hall at Brookvale, and that it was far too small for the needs of the growing council. In December 1968, the Shire President Colin Huntingdon noted that "A new Shire Hall is so overdue it isn't funny. The staff are working in rabbit warrens which doesn't help efficiency."[1]

Brookvale remained the administrative centre for Warringah until 1971 when the council resolved to commence the construction of a new Civic Centre in Dee Why. When the council eventually moved to the new Civic Centre in 1973, the Warringah Shire Hall in Brookvale was threatened with demolition in the mid-1970s. Despite some calls for the historic hall to be saved and be used as a community centre, their efforts were to no avail and the hall was demolished in late 1978.[2]

Planning and completion

In the early 1960s the Council initiated planning for a new 'Civic Centre' located in Dee Why to serve as a new home for the council. After commissioning architect Colin Madigan, chief architect of Edwards Madigan Torzillo & Briggs, Madigan came up with designs for a 'new acropolis' on a three-acre site along Pittwater Road that rises steeply from a flat coastal plain. In the early, ambitious stages of the masterplan design, Madigan drew up a 100-year plan for the site, which included a civic centre, library, gymnasium, art gallery, public plaza and war memorial and a music auditorium. However, Madigan's vision proved too ambitious and council commissioned him with the initial project of the Dee Why Library.[3] The library, completed in 1966, was praised for its innovative modernist design and was awarded the 1966 Sir John Sulman Medal from the NSW Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

Madigan and colleague Christopher Kringas were later commissioned for their design of the Civic Centre in 1970, which, although designed in a starker Brutalist style to the library, was created to complement the library and, like the library, to sit within the natural bushland setting of the site. The sympathetic landscape setting of native bushland was overseen by landscape architect Bruce Mackenzie. Work began on the Civic Centre in 1971. The NSW Heritage register describes thus: "It was designed in conjunction with the development of the National Gallery and was completed in 1973. The centre adjoins Madigan's earlier library. Together they form the first two elements of a proposed cultural and administrative complex. Both Madigan and Kringas were involved in the design of this building and in many respects it served as a testing ground for the National Gallery [1982] and High Court [1980]."[4]

The Civic Centre was officially opened on 1 September 1973 by the Shire President, Councillor Dick Legg, and has been the seat of the council since then. Madigan was awarded the Gold Medal by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects for lifetime efforts in the field of architecture in 1981. In 2008 the Civic Centre precinct, including the library and surrounding bushland, was nominated for State Heritage listing. This was deferred, but has again been nominated in 2017, with the centre precinct being noted as "significant examples of the Brutalist Style demonstrating the move away from the constraints of the modular structural systems to a more flexible form of architecture" and as "of state heritage significance for its aesthetic significance and landmark qualities derived largely from the integration of the sculptural man-made elements with natural landscape elements."[5] The Civic Centre precinct has been listed on the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects' register of Nationally Significant 20th-Century Architecture.[6]

See also


  1. Carpenter, Paul (22 December 1968). "'Hot seat man' ready for action". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  2. Morcombe, John (15 October 2015). "Councils continuously purge urge to merge but government may force the issue". The Manly Daily. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  3. Lewi, Dr. Hannah (7 July 2011). "Life Cycle: Warringah Shire Civic Centre". Australian Design Review. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  4. "Warringah Council Civic Centre Dee Why" (PDF). Fiche Report. Docomomo Australia. 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  5. "Warringah Civic Centre Precinct (under consideration)". Heritage Items register. Office of Envrionment and Heritage. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  6. "Warringah Shire Council Civic Centre & Library precinct, Warringah. (formerly Dee Why Library)" (PDF). Nationally Significant 20th-Century Architecture. Australian Institute of Architecture. Retrieved 9 September 2017.

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