Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company (MLC) Building

Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company (MLC) Building

The MLC building was Adelaide’s first postwar skyscraper. It is a benchmark building embodying advances in construction techniques (such as curtain walling) that have since changed the face of the CBD. The building has become a landmark in Victoria Square.

The parent company of the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Society Limited (MLC), Citizens’ Life Assurance Company Limited, was incorporated in Sydney in 1886. The company soon “placed upon a permanent basis the system of industrial assurance in Australia” (Gray A.C., Union is strength – a centennial history of the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Limited, 1886-1986). A branch opened in South Australia in 1898.

In 1907 the company amalgamated with Australia’s second-oldest mutual life assurance society, the Mutual Life Association of Australia, and became the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Limited. In 1910 the MLC took over the Australian Widows’ Fund, which had started in Melbourne in 1871. That company built its first offices in Adelaide at 131 King William Street in 1901. This building still survives and is known today as Electra House. MLC then occupied various premises, including Electra House again (1930-41), and the Savings Bank building in King William Street.

Simultaneously, the head office in Sydney bought land in 1949 for new offices in Brisbane, Perth, Hobart, Adelaide, Townsville, and Hamilton in New Zealand. The Adelaide site was formerly occupied by the Windsor Castle Hotel and Morialta Chambers.

The Adelaide company offices were built in the 1950. The building was similar in style to those being built in other states. The pamphlet distributed by MLC in Adelaide in 1957 to commemorate the new offices stated that the “edifice has introduced a new era in architectural and engineering design for large city buildings”.

The design was the outcome of overseas research on steel-frame structures aimed at decreasing the weight and quantity of materials previously used and speeding up construction,while retaining stability and strength. Savings in material and time meant considerable saving in costs.

Architects Bates, Smart and McCutcheon of Melbourne, assisted in Adelaide by Lawson, Cheesman, Doley and Partners, applied the principles of this research to the MLC building, adapting them for Australian materials and conditions. Building contractors Fricker Brothers started work in October 1955 and finished the building in 1957.

MLC lauded their achievement, claiming that “the beauty of our structure of pale green, purple and silver holds and delights the eye from all quarters, and in sunlight or under grey skies it is undoubtedly the outstanding building of Adelaide”.

Notes

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Significance

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The building is architecturally significant as it brought revolutionary construction methods to Adelaide, involving the refinement of steel-framed buildings and a “curtain wall”, which is a feature of the building


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Images of Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company (MLC) Building

  • Mutual Life and Citizens' Assurance Company Building
 
Architects
Bates, Smart and McCutcheon, Lawson, Cheesman, Doley and Partners
Builders
Fricker Brothers
Building materials
Glass, Iron
Architectural styles
4 Post-War Period (c. 1940–1960), 4.3 Modern
Construction
1955 - 1957
Architecture and design features
steel frame, curtain walling
Engineering features
 
Precinct
Victoria Square- Tarndanyangga
Council Ward
Central
Alternative Addresses
Geo-coordinates
Town Acre
238
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Commercial, Office
AS2482 classification
11510 - Business House - Offices
Public Access
Business/trading hours
 
NTSA ID
State Heritage ID
13596
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
1303
RNE ID
1303
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5007/302 S7176 U7 CT 5007/304 S7176 U9 CT 5007/303 S7176 U8 CT 5007/310 S7176 UCP CT 5007/309 S7176 U14 CT 5007/308 S7176 U13 CT 5007/307 S7176 U12 CT 5007/306 S7176 U11 CT 5007/305 S7176 U10 CT 5007/301 S7176 U6 CT 5007/297 S7176 U2 CT 5007/298 S7176 U3 CT 5007/300 S7176 U5 CT 5007/299 S7176 U4 CT 6037/217 S7176 U1
NTSA file exists
No
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
Nil
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
 
Historic Themes
3.1 Economic Cycles
3.1.9 Post World War Two Development
3.3 Financing Adelaide
3.3.5 Company Headquarters
4.3 Development of the Building Industry, Architecture and Construction
4.3.3 Building Materials
4.3.4 Inventions and Innovations
 
Australian Curriculum references
Year 6: Australia as a Nation
ACHHK116
 

References

  • Gray A.C., 'Union is strength - a centennial history of the Mutual Life and Citizens' Assurance Company Limited, 1886-1986’ (second draft), 1986 MLC (Adelaide), (pamph.), 1957; MLC News, Vol. 1, June-December 1957; The Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Limited, The story of the MLC, 1936; Solier, C.W., 'A hundred years of Australian life assurance' in The Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, 1938.

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