The Armory Wharf Café originally housed within the historic Building 13 which formed part of the Newington Armory facility, has now reopened in the award winning building by LahzNimmo following the destruction of the original building by fire in January 2008. With both inside and outside dining areas, taking in the river views and those of the historic Newington Armory.
In 1882, approximately 88 hectares in the north eastern corner of the Newington Estate (in the vicinity of the Naval wharf on Parramatta River) was resumed by the Government for the development of an armaments magazine. The establishment of the Armaments Depot required major modifications to the natural environment, including the reclamation of mudflats and wetlands and the small island just off the shoreline. Stone sea walls were constructed along almost the entire foreshore of the Parramatta River fronting the site and the mudflats were filled in to gain more land for farms, docks and a wharf. By this time, the greater part of the Newington Estate was owned by John Wetherill and the Benevolent Asylum for Women (under Crown operation) was operating where Silverwater Correctional Centre now exists.
In 1921 management of the Depot was transferred from the Royal Marine Garrison to the Royal Australian Navy. The complex was expanded eastwards into grazing land and wetlands previously part of the adjacent State Abattoir precinct (in the vicinity of the current Narawang Freshwater Wetlands) almost doubling its area.
Between 1928 and 1934, the Depot again extended eastwards into the mangrove and wetland areas where the industrial area is now located. The largest expansion of the Depot occurred between 1941 and 1944 when the site expanded to the south of Holker Street to approximately Carnarvon Street. This southward expansion provided space for the construction of additional magazines for the US Navy and the Royal Navy as support facilities for the US and British Pacific Fleets.
Between 1942 and 1946, some buildings at the State Brickworks were used for armament storage. The Burma Road (which still exists in the Newington Armory) provided access between the RANAD and Brickworks facilities, crossing Haslams Creek to the east of the Haslams Creek Bridge exists today.
By 1950, demolition of the war time stocks commenced and several buildings were removed. Land use conflicts between the Naval Depot and the surrounding commercial and residential areas occurred in the 1960s, when tear gas and other noxious fumes escaped and affected nearby office workers. In 1961, the Prime Minister Robert Menzies instructed that all Class 1.1 explosives were to be removed from the site and relocated for storage at the Kingswood depot.
Building 13 was part of the Original Establishment Precinct which is the extent of the original Armamnet Depot established in 1897, but not the full extent of the early military reserve. The area contains a number of Federation period armaments buildings which were the first to be constructed for military puposes. A number of Inter War and later amenity buildings and supporting structures as well as the wharf, gatehouse, and part of the light rail system are also locoated within this precinct .
Building 13 was constructed between 1937 and 1944 as an inspection and testing store for explosives. Building 15 which is nearby and is similar in design and construction was also used for this purpose. The building was destroyed by fire in January 2008.
A Building 13 Heritage Interpretation Panel is available for viewing within the café.
The Armory Wharf provides a unique site for a cafe, with striking 270 degree views across the Parramatta River to mangroves and the post industrial working wharf landscape. The design Lahz Nimmo Architects draws extensively on the existing materials and industrial and military themes of the site. The result is a new responsive layer of urban elements over the original working wharf site using a broad palette of materials such as, corten steel cladding and roofing, army camouflage netting, recycled timber, and mill finish aluminium.
The new boardwalk café structure takes full advantage of its urban waterfront site by focussing the dining outlook toward the river and the procession of activities along it. The café space has different degrees of openness and enclosure. Similar to the mangroves, which progressively get less dense towards the waters edge, the new cafe structure and roof appear to dissolve from solid, progressively becoming more filigree until it disappears altogether towards the waters edge.
Urban Design Award for Armory Wharf Precinct from the AIA NSW Chapter 2009, lahznimmo architects with Hargreaves Associates and Lacoste + Stevenson Architects