Inside the former Union Bank building on Lydiard Street, great swathes have been cut through walls, with curling sheets of plasterboard and conduit tracks snaking across a room.
A huge timber counter has been sectioned and curled back as though an anatomy student has vivisected it.
A section of Cane-Ite ceiling has fallen in, revealing a plaster rose higher up. In one corridor a filing cabinet lies split in half as if slashed by a samurai's sword. In another carpet tiles have lifted from the floor and formed into a long, slender lozenge.
In a small chamber, a long cut through a cabinet reveals an ancient stove, long hidden.
It sounds like the decay of a long empty building, or the acts of a team of vandals, but it's not. It's the work of Melbourne artist Robbie Rowlands, who has spent the last 20 years deconstructing and reorganising the skins and interiors of buildings around the world, exposing their workings and their weaknesses.
Sometimes it's not very interesting and other times… well here, in this bank, it's goldRobbie Rowlands
The Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB) has engaged Rowlands to create a sculptural site intervention as the inaugural exhibition of the National Centre for Photography (NCFP), Ballarat's regional gallery dedicated exclusively to photography.
Mr Rowlands saws the bank building is undergoing a transformation, and that gives him a chance to sit in the transition of the building from offices to art space. He says many of the sites he works in are demolished, so it's invigorating to work in one being saved.
"There are aspects of this building that are being demolished and they are mainly the 60s and 70s veneers, the floating ceiling additions," he says.
"I'm working within the heritage constraints (and other constraints like asbestos); they're the materials I get to work with, and they're my limitations. I love limitations. I'm primarily removing aspects of that layer in creative graceful ways, and the benefit is you see beneath the layer to what was the past.
"Sometimes it's not very interesting and other times… well here, in this bank, it's gold."
Mr Rowlands's three-month residency will result in a sculptural site on display for two weeks only. Part 2 of the exhibition to be presented during the 2019 Ballarat International Foto Biennale will offer a new perspective on the historic building as it enters into a new incarnation new phase in Ballarat.
Festival and creative director Fiona Sweet said once Mr Rowlands's work no longer exists after the renovations, the photographic documentation he creates throughout the process will provide a lasting record.
Robbie Rowlands's exhibition opens February 23 and runs until March 10. Entry is free.