The Powerhouse Museum boardroom furniture is one of the first design commissions produced by Iain Halliday. With the 1988 Powerhouse decorative arts galleries, the boardroom table was a statement of the Powerhouse's investment and commitment to contemporary design. As a result the original Powerhouse fitout set new standards in interior and exhibition design for Australian museums. The Powerhouse interiors featured designs by two design practices who during the 1990s would became standard-setters in interior design and architecture - Burley Katon Haliday and the Melbourne practice Denton Corker Marshall.
Since 1988, as part of Burley Katon Halliday, Iain Halliday has achieved a rare degree of success and public recognition, becoming one of the few Australian designers or architects to become a 'brand' in themselves. This success was initially founded in the design consciousness of the 1980s: 'By the late 80s certain people and people were head over heels in love with new design. For the first time it became a matter of public interest, a visibly vivid and defining moment when money, glamour, a certain Postmodernism, and a great deal of youthful talent, bounce and passion led to things happening. Excitement swirled in and out of BKH, who were designing celebratory public spaces and whose profile was becoming more and more out there'. [Antonia Williams, 'BKH and Sydney', in Heidi Dokulil (ed.) Burley Katon Halliday, Melbourne, Thames and Hudson, 2007).
BKH's success is also attributable to the burgeoning lifestyle economy of inner and Eastern Sydney. This area and its increasingly affluent demographic have supported a considerable investment in the retail, restaurant, cultural and domestic sectors. BKH has provided the house style for the transformation of Sydney's leisure economy, and its inner city lifestyle.
Design during the 1980s reflected this affluence, allied to a new appreciation of historic design and style encouraged by the 1970s' Green Bans and other urban conservation campaigns. The resulting combination of conspicuous wealth and stylistic references were major elements of 80s postmodernism.
The Powerhouse boardroom is significant as an early and important example of Iain Halliday's work for BKH, rendered more distinctive by the passage of time. Iain Halliday: 'In the 1980s there were Postmodern influences, there were high-tech influences, and that was all reflected in the work I was doing as I was just out of design school'. Like the Powerhouse, the boardroom furniture is a leading artefact of 80s design in Sydney.
Charles Pickett, curator Design and Society.