The fight to Save Our Sirius
September 5th 2017
The Sirius Building at the Rocks has become an iconic example of late Brutalist architectural style and a home to a diverse community of Sydney residents for almost four decades.
In a recent Canvas: Art & Ideas interview, architect Tao Gofers and Chairman of Save Our Sirius Shaun Carter discuss the remarkable building and the campaign that’s ‘fighting for heritage listing,’ considering the government’s plans for Sirius’ demolition and use of the subsequent money for alternative housing.
The 1979 original proposal that Gofers presented to Housing Commission was designed in ten days, responsive to Jack Brooker’s request of a building that would be suitable for families and aged community living.
The controversial design drew varied responses. Architect Norman Day said “it was perfect for a scene out of clockwork orange,” Gofers recalls; adding, “I actually thought that was great until other people told me it was an insult.”
When asked on what influenced his design in the very short design period, Gofers explained how in his architectural study, they were taught to solve problems independently, without going to peers’ designs.
“As I buy very few architecture magazines and read more novels than I do magazines, I can honestly believe nothing other than my own strange mind.”
Once a building is on the Stated Government Heritage Register, it cannot be demolished; and thus the fight to save the building that has become an unlikely icon of Sydney’s history, people and story, is incredibly important to many.
The main objective of the Save Our Sirius campaign, Carter says is “to stop the government from removing a social, cultural and environmental artefact of Sydney”.
The NSW Heritage Council recommended Sirius for heritage listing in December of 2015, however this recommendation was rejected in July of 2016 by then Heritage Minister, Mark Speakman — leaving the building in a precarious position.
It was then ruled in late July this year, by Acting judge of the Land and Environmental Court, Simon Molesworth, that the former heritage minister was erroneous when deciding not to list the building on the State Heritage Register.
The court decision does not secure the future of Sirius, yet allows it more time standing. Heritage Minister Gabrielle Upton must now remake a decision regarding the heritage listing of the building.
“A lot of people understand the building as they go across the bridge and they see this wonderful building…but for some people…they don’t get it,” says Carter.
The residents of Sirius building of all of Housing Commission, meaning “they are really some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” and by demolishing Sirius, “they’re taking away the very community that sustains them.”
“We don’t want a bigger city, we want a better city, density can be done well…If we don’t talk about equity for all, then we don’t get it right.”
One the building that occupied three of his professional years, Gofers speaks of the prospect of its potential loss, “Sirius building is not a simple building, well, geometrically; but it is not a simple building, as it demonstrates that your union green bans can be successful, it demonstrates that community action can be successful…”
The architect whom has long been involved in both private and public housing adds:
“It also demonstrates that inclusiveness — you have to have people living in Sydney that are baristas, nurses, teachers; because remember if you don’t include those, you’re gonna have a city of old rich sick people that can’t have their coffee.”