Engineering a lift into a UNESCO World Heritage-listed building

The UNESCO World Heritage- Listed Hyde Park Barracks underwent a major $18 million revamp. TTW heritage team was engaged to engineer the installation of a new glazed lift structure, providing equal access to all three levels of the museum, previously accessible by stairs only.

Given the constraints of the World Heritage-listed building, Sydney Living Museums and JPW Architects required the lift shaft to be as minimal and as transparent as possible, causing the least visual impact on the building. Carrying out a high level of structural detailing, TTW Heritage experts engineered an innovative freestanding lift shaft with no structural connection to existing floors or walls. The lift shaft has a Vierendeel open frame structure and uses the weight of the glass and machinery installed to it as mass damping to help control defections and vibration.

The need to install a 13.5m high steel lift shaft presented some challenges such as height and weight: 6.3 tonnes of structural steel. The structure had to be installed through a door opening that measured just 1.1m wide by 2.4m high and was erected inside the building using a block and tackle. Then followed the installation of the 3.4 tonnes of frameless glass panels, using the shaft and block and tackle to lift the glass, with the largest panel measuring 2.6m by 2.3m and weighing 720kg. Installation tolerances were very fine. Close collaboration with the Contractor and the Architect was crucial.

Measures were put in place to protect the 200-year old World Heritage-Listed building. No welding was allowed on-site and a trial assembly was carried out at the workshop, to ensure that everything would fit together correctly before the steelwork was brought to site.

The Museum has opened to the public on the tenth anniversary of Hyde Park Barracks' World Heritage listing, providing equal access to every visitor.

Client: Sydney Living Museums

Architect: Johnson Pilton Walker

Builder: Gartner Rose

Value: $18M

Completion: 2019

Images: James Horan for Sydney Living Museums

Sector: Government & Public, Art & Culture

Services: Heritage, Structural, Facade


  • 2020 - National Trust Heritage Awards - Adaptive Re-use Award Highly Commended


"TTW has made this experience for me and Gartner Rose the absolute easiest it could have. The design and finishes of this lift and structure are of the highest standard, which will be prominent to even the everyday person who knows nothing of engineering, architecture or construction. To achieve something that spectacular is quite amazing". Daniel Rothery, Project Manager Gartner Rose.