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A Sirius Matter


The press love a double entendre and we fall for them constantly. I never thought I would support a call for heritage status or that I would be in support of union action but here I am supporting both. The Sirius building was designed in 1975 by Tao Gofers for the NSW Housing Commission. It may come as some surprise but most of The Rocks in Sydney is NSW department housing. Over the past few decades there have been many attempts to sell off these properties, in very simple terms the land is just that good; the state government can’t get past the smell of cash.

The Sirius building is considered an exemplar Brutalist building. It could be considered as one of the best located public housing structures in the world with million dollar views of Sydney Harbour. Some may say how lucky, but the residents of these apartments have been anything but lucky in their lives. The fact they have lucked in to reside here rather than in La Perouse, Redfern or the western suburbs is just one small piece of joy that shouldn’t be denied.

The Heritage Council recently made an application for the building to be given heritage status, the NSW Heritage Minister Mark Speakman rejected this and called for it’s demolition. All despite his own department’s strong support of a listing. He is quoted as saying:

“I am not listing it because, whatever its heritage value, even at its highest that value is greatly outweighed by what would be a huge loss of extra funds from the sale of the site”.

It begs the question, who is in his pocket? This decision is extraordinarily wrong, heritage status should be reserved for buildings of this calibre as opposed to the laughable cases that we deal with day to day in our architecture practices. The Save our Sirius Foundation have sought funds to counter this decision. The trade union have also called for a ‘Green Ban’ meaning no unionised workers are to demolish the building, a very interesting turn of events. Looking further forward, I hope the building gains heritage status for it’s sublime brutalist style and its proximity to Sydney Harbour, it is brilliant high density living that shoots miles above all of the Central Equity dross that we see here in Melbourne. It houses families that are in dire need and it should be maintained, preserved and retained as public housing. I have pledged my support and I hope the campaign is successful. Check out Save Our Sirius here.

NB: I’ll write something about Ripponlea soon, a similar situation with the state government selling off land that they shouldn’t have. At the other end of the scale but still relevant.