How Aussie builders could save this Brutalist gem

Sydney's construction unions ban their members from knocking down architecturally important Sirius building
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The Sirius apartment building in Sydney. Photograph by Craig Hayman, courtesy of craighayman.com
The Sirius apartment building in Sydney. Photograph by Craig Hayman, courtesy of craighayman.com

For housing developers, the Sirius apartment block looks like a missed opportunity. Its site, near the centre of the city, overlooks the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and could easily accommodate a new 250-apartment luxury residential complex. Instead, it is home to a concrete social housing block, designed by local architect Tao Gofers in 1978-79 to house 79 families.

Sirius was approved for demolition in 2015, yet the wrecking ball has been held back so far by a coalition of residents, community activists and architecture fans, who argue the block is a rare example of Australian Brutalist architecture and should be preserved.

 

The Sirius apartment building in Sydney. Photograph by Craig Hayman, courtesy of craighayman.com
The Sirius apartment building in Sydney. Photograph by Craig Hayman, courtesy of craighayman.com
 

Now, the local construction workers have backed the Save Our Sirius campaign, with The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Australia’s largest construction workers’ union, banning its members from taking part in the site’s redevelopment.

The CFMEU’s aren’t solely aesthetic. While a spokesman admitted their organisation saw the architectural merit of Sirius’s modular form, they also point out that “it is one of the last areas of public housing in the district. The removal of residents from Millers Point to make way for the city’s elite shows us what will happen if Sirius falls.”

 

The Sirius apartment building in Sydney. Photograph by Craig Hayman, courtesy of craighayman.com

Indeed, the campaign proves how the architectural merits of bold, bulky, bloody-minded 20th century housing often coincide with Brutalism's original aims of social inclusion. For more beautiful Brutalist buildings get This Brutal World; for more on great concrete get Concrete; and if you're going to Sydney and appreciate important architecture don't forget your Wallpaper* guide.


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