The Sirius Building, The Rocks, Sydney

The Sirius building is an inner city social housing project in the heart of Sydney’s historic The Rocks district, under threat of destruction. 

It is a rare, iconic example of the Brutalist movement in architecture, extant from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Brutalist architecture, like Brut champagne, is form derived from function, unsweetened with needless ornamentation, constructed with concrete cast into moulds often lined with roughened timber.

The concrete retains the texture of the wood and running your fingers over it is not unlike touching the wood itself.

The trees that provided the timber live on in a ghostly fashion, in more impermeable grey structures made of sand, lime, pebbles, iron and carbon.

Concrete is as natural as any other building material, just as time-honoured and traditional, and as iconic as the Colosseum.

Yet Brutalism’s critics decry it for its colour and sometimes cold appearance, trotting out the old “eyesore” cliché as justification for destroying Brutalist buildings.

Have they ever lived, worked or studied in a Brutalist building?

Shivered or roasted in houses, schools, universities and offices constructed with the more usual materials and methods?

I have an intimate history with Brutalism and inner city working class life, as do the residents of the Sirius building.

I envy them their home and its location.

I admire the creativity and innovation that went into its design and construction.

It would be an utter tragedy if Sirius is destroyed, denying its residents their beloved home and Sydney one of its few truly iconic buildings.

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