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AMP celebrates history as part of Sydney Open
01 November 2019

AMP’s headquarters at 33 Alfred Street has been a landmark on the Sydney skyline for more than 55 years.

The AMP ‘Sydney Cove’ building was designed by architect Graham Thorp of Peddle Thorp & Walker (now PTW Architects). It opened in 1962, and at 117 metres it was Australia’s tallest building, and the first to break the city’s 150-foot (46-metre) height limit imposed in 1912.

As part of Sydney Open, AMP will open its doors to the public on Sunday 3 November to celebrate its history and significant cultural heritage.

This year marks 170 years since AMP was founded as the Australian Mutual Provident Society. AMP has undergone significant change during this time and is continuing to evolve and reinvent itself to meet the wealth management needs of the future.

Nobody knows the company’s 170-year history as well as dedicated archivist, Carolyne Bruyn. She has worked at AMP since 1972, starting in the Economist’s division, and held several roles prior to joining the archives in the 1990s.

“Archives is the only way you can prove you’re 170 years old, so I tend to say that I’m in risk management,” jokes Carolyne.

“If you’ve got a history you’re proud of, and as AMP says it’s “a sure friend in uncertain times”, I think you have to be able to prove it, and look after it.”

Pictured: Archive photo from AMP's 1918 Annual General Meeting.

Visitors to the Sydney Open can see the AMP ground floor lobby, rooftop terrace and observation deck, and level 26 historical walk, which includes archival photos and documents. One such photo is of the 1918 AMP Annual General Meeting, which had to be held on the roof of the Pitt Street office as it was the height of the flu epidemic. Health regulations were introduced to prohibit indoor meetings during this time.

“They never panicked about things like that. That’s something that has always interested me, when something came along like the flu epidemic, they just did something about it and got on with it. As far as I can tell there were no reports of any policy holders or directors dying afterwards. It was just something they took in their stride,” says Carolyne.  

One of Carolyne’s fondest memories during her time in the Sydney Cove building was watching lunchtime plays in the underground auditorium in the 1970s. A theatre company hired the space and performed plays for exactly an hour so employees could watch during their lunch break.

“There would be a huge crowd of people rushing down to get a seat. I saw some really great plays there,” she recalls. 

The Sydney Cove building holds a special place in AMP’s history, not only as Australia’s first skyscraper, but also for its unique design.

“One story I’ve always liked, although I can’t be certain it’s true, is that the architects, Peddle Thorp & Walker, presented some designs to the AMP board and they weren’t very interested in any of them. In the end, the architects put this current design on a serviette and one of the directors said they liked that. And they ended up having to build the darn thing!”

AMP will be open to visitors from 9am to 4pm on Sunday 3 November at 33 Alfred Street, Circular Quay.

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Pictured, top of page: AMP archivist, Carolyne Bruyn.