Archive, hotel architecture, designs by Sidney Warden, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1922-1959
Sidney Warden was the most prolific of the several architects who designed hotels for Tooth & Co. Some of the architects who worked for Tooth & Co - Sidney Ancher, Sam Lipson, Rudder & Grout - were better known, but none designed so many hotels or so many well-known hotels.
By his own count, Warden's work encompassed 392 hotels, new buildings or alterations to existing hotels, including such familiar structures as the Clare, the Lansdowne, the Broadway, the Henson Park, the Marrickville, the Star, the Native Rose, the Chatswood, the Mayfair, the Tennyson, the Oxford, the Light Brigade. A pub crawl of Warden's hotels would be a lengthy occasion.
During the 1930s Sydney's pub architecture came into its own, forming one of the most unusual creations of Australian architecture. In his Sydney Architecture survey, Graham Jahn emphasises its singularity: 'The Art Deco pub is an Australian phenomenon'. In fact, it was primarily a New South Wales phenomenon.
Warden was at the forefront of this phenomenon and his Clare, Light Brigade, Marrickville, Tennyson and Mayfair hotels were leading examples of the genre. His 1920s hotels also took advantage of contemporary fashion, often clothed in the extravagant decoration of the Beaux Arts style which, like Art Deco, followed a France - USA trajectory to broader popularity.
Apart from Australia, few countries borrowed the English licensing precedent, that bars must be accompanied by accommodation premises. Hence in most societies the architectural impact of bars was slight. However, Australian pubs diverged markedly in design from their English counterparts. During the first half of the twentieth century, English brewers chose to clothe their pubs in what architectural historian Mark Girouard described as 'Brewer's Tudor'.
In contrast, Tooth & Co employed contemporary architecture to promote the image of its numerous hotels, the company's public face. In 1933 Tooth & Co general manager Tom Watson wrote, 'Hotels are our best medium for advertising and prestige'. During the following decade, Tooth & Co continued to renovate or demolish and rebuild most of the hotels in New South Wales. Tooth & Co architects were encouraged to be stylistically enterprising, so that new hotels would be 'good advertisements' for the company, and would stand out in any city or suburban street. Hence the unusual between-wars marriage of contemporary style and blue-collar bars.
A significant background was the New South Wales Licensing Court's campaign to close and replace most existing hotel buildings, notorious for their unregulated and promiscuous (in all senses) mingling of entertainments and patrons. The Licensing Court's temperance-driven campaign also separated drinking from entertainment, food and women, a social disaster of far-reaching consequences. Tooth & Co could afford to replace its Victorian-era hotels with larger venues, and profited from the drinking focus of the new hotels. This unseemly alliance between wowsers and brewers created the distinctive twentieth century hotel of Sydney and New South Wales.
The Sidney Warden archive is an outstanding record of New South Wales pub architecture, created by its leading practitioner.
Charles Pickett, Curator, 2007
Sidney Warden (1890-1959) was the son of James George Warden, a leading Sydney hotel broker. After completing school, Warden was articled to the Sydney architect George Durrell. He then worked in London for some years, returning in 1922 to establish his own practice.
Warden's first commission was a building for the Chinese National Society in Campbell Street, Haymarket. However his father's close connections with the hotel trade propelled the newly qualified architect to this field. Apart from hotels, Warden designed only a small number of commercial buildings and residences. However, these included the interior of City Tattersall's Club, including the settling room. Several photographs of this space and one of its glass-topped tables were featured in the Powerhouse Museum exhibition Gambling in Australia.
Warden's career as a hotel architect was fortuitously timed. The 1920s were the high point of influence for the temperance movement, and new licensing laws encouraged the construction of a new generation of hotels. Tooth & Co, New South Wales' largest brewing and hotel company, financed the construction and reconstruction of hundreds of hotels during the 1920s and 1930s. Warden was the most prolific of the several architects contracted by Tooth's to design this major building campaign.
Warden's work was widely and favourably noticed in the architectural and building industry press of the 1930s - the archive includes several examples - but like several other prominent architects of this period (not only hotel specialists) his work was ignored or derided by Robin Boyd, JM Freeland and other post-1945 champions of the comparatively ascetic International Style. Only in recent years has the work of 1930s practitioners including Aaron Bolot, Dudley Ward, Morton Herman and Douglas Forsyth Evans been reappraised for its successful marriage of international modernisms with local materials, practices and needs. Warden's work and influence deserves respect in a similar context.