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The cluster of suburbs where we live in Sydney’s Upper North Shore has been home to a number of creative people over the years, working in the fields of acting, architecture, fine art, moviemaking and music. Cate Shortland, Grace Cossington-Smith, Harry Seidler, Hugh Jackman, Mel Gibson, Prue Acton, Sidney Nolan, the members of Midnight Oil and Mi-Sex grew up here, went to school here, created here, had businesses here or at least lived here for a while.
Like most Sydney suburban areas, this one contains a range of Australian residential styles and, although it has become a very different place to what it was when those creatives were here, creativity and innovation continues in the form of the houses by which we are surrounded.
This project is an ongoing one, to be continually updated with new images and others from my archives, where I will explore some of the varieties of domestic residences in the area. More photographs are on their way so please come back soon.
My aim is not to make marketing photographs for real estate agencies nor architectural photographs for their designers or builders, but, rather, to lyrically express how these buildings look and feel at a given time and day, in context, with the hardware and software I have in hand at the time.
“Save our Sirius,” said the man sitting on the pavement not more than three metres away from Sirius, the social housing icon of Brutalist architecture in Sydney’s historic The Rocks. “Why do they want to save a pub?”
More than a thousand citizens of all ages, who clearly do know what Sirius is and stands for, took part in a rally on September 17 to protest the imminent eviction of the last remaining longterm residents of Sirius and the planned sale and destruction of their homes.
People from all walks of life took part, including present and past residents of Sirius, Dawes Point and Millers Point, architect Tao Gofers who designed Sirius in the 1970s, local and state politicians, as well as architecture enthusiast and radio personality Tim Ross.
Most importantly from an historical persecutive, legendary 1970s Green Bans unionist Jack Mundey participated, supported by members of the CFMEU and MUA, reminders of a time when the struggle to preserve Australia’s history and heritage took place in the streets of inner city Sydney as well as suburbs like Hunters Hill.
It is a rare, iconic example of the Brutalist movement in architecture, extant from the 1950s to the 1970s.
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.