About 1,000 people today rallied to save the Sirius building in The Rocks – and I wasn’t one of them. My preference is that Sirius comes down – as soon as possible.
Why do I hold this view?
Well the first reason is because this is an ugly building, which is grossly out-of-character with its surrounding area and blocks views to the Opera House.
The National Trust knew this when it was first built.
In its April 1979 bulletin, the National Trust Bulletin reported that:
Motorists who cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge regularly have been somewhat mystified in recent months by the vast concrete structure that has risen up out of the East Rocks, interrupting the view of the Harbour and the Opera House.
From this direction, the structure dominates the skyline and dwarfs the two and three-storey 19th and early 20th century buildings that are so familiar to visitors to this historic part of Sydney.
The Trust has been concerned, since the project was first announced in The Press in 1977, at the probable visual impact of the building on The Rocks. These fears have now been confirmed.
Future generations will undoubtedly wonder why such a vast and out-of-character building was permitted in the area known internationally as the ‘cradle of European settlement in Australia’.”
Inexplicably, the National Trust has now changed its tune – it now somehow thinks that Sirius building is a fine example of “brutalist” architecture and that it even preserves views.
The Sirius Apartments were designed to protect the views of the Sydney Opera House from the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walkway,” the Trust now says on its website.
The taller central towers line up with the existing multi-storey Bushells Building in George Street which had already blocked this view.
But the majority of the building on either side was stepped down below the walkway to protect these exceptional views in the buffer zone for the Sydney Opera House World Heritage Listing.”
Go figure – 40 years ago the building blocked views from the harbour bridge, now it doesn’t. Talk about re-writing history.
I’m with the guys who knew what the view looked like 40 years ago and therefore knew what they had lost.
The only way to get our views back is to bring the big grey lump down and ensure it is replaced with a better-designed building.
The second reason I want to wipe Sirius from the map is because this building was constructed without adequate public participation.
The general Sydney community was not given sufficient opportunity to influence a building with considerable impact on an iconic part of the city.
The National Trust confirmed this in its 1979 bulletin, when it said:
Unfortunately, organisations like the National Trust with an interest in the historical and architectural quality of The Rocks were given no opportunity to comment on the project when it was in the planning stage.”
Even the Planning Minister of the day, Paul Landa, seemed surprised by the building.
He described it as “damned awful” (SMH 22 May, 1979) and like the rest of the city became concerned when he saw it rising like an effluent sludge monster above the harbour bridge approach.
Mr Landa rightly ordered the then Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority to ban any future buildings above the harbour bridge approach and to improve its public consultation mechanisms.
The final reason I want to get rid of Sirius is because this ridiculous campaign is diverting attention from real heritage battles across the city.
Let’s focus on the issues that matter – such as the mass destruction of heritage homes or precincts in the name of urban renewal or motorways – and let Sirius slide into history.
The campaign for Sirius is just silly and maligns and undermines real heritage campaigning across the city.