The Sirius building is an apartment complex in The Rocks district of Sydney, Australia. Designed between 1978 and 1979 by architect Tao Gofers, the building is a prominent example of Brutalist architecture in Australia. It has striking repetitive geometries in reaction to the Japanese metabolist architecture movement. The complex was built to rehouse public tenants who had been displaced after a controversial redevelopment of the historic Rocks suburb during the 1960s and 70s.
It is notable for being the only high rise development in The Rocks. Sirius houses 79 apartments with generally one, two, three or four bedrooms with single story apartments to two and three storey walk ups. The original plan was to finish the building in a white colour to match the nearby Sydney Opera House. However, due to budget constraints, the building was finished in the standard Brutalist grey.
Unit 74 of the Sirius building became somewhat of an unofficial Sydney landmark; its sign displaying ‘One Way! Jesus’ clearly visible to Harbour Bridge commuters. The sign was in place for around 10 years, although the owner of the sign, Owen McAloon, and his motivations to spread a Christian message remained generally unknown.
The building housed many of the original residents who fought for their right to remain in the area during the famous Green bans, whose purpose was not to retain heritage buildings but rather to retain the working class community in The Rocks. Ironically many of the buildings remain, but the majority of the residents were moved into the Sirius apartments in the so-called 'people's plan'. The terraces and town houses they used to call home are owned by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA), who receive rent from the tenants living in the building.
In July 2016 the NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage announced that the building would not be heritage listed "despite a unanimous recommendation by the Heritage Council." The government's intention is to replace the existing 79 social housing apartments with 250 luxury apartments.
Sirius is among the few quality examples of the Brutalism style in Australia, demonstrating the style's objective of ethical design based on social concerns as well as its focus on the truthful expression of materials, function and structure. The Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt has launched #SOSBrutalism, a growing database that currently contains over 700 Brutalist buildings. But, more importantly, #SOSBrutalism is a platform for a large campaign ‘to save our beloved concrete monsters’. The buildings in the database marked red are in particular jeopardy. There are few Australian entries in the project, but Sirius is at the top of the list of the world's endangered Brutalist buildings. SOSBrutalism will also lead into an exhibition to be jointly organized by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) and the Wüstenrot Stiftung and displayed at the DAM, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in April 2017.
“…what characterises the New Brutalism… is precisely its brutality, its je-m’en-foutisme, its bloody-mindedness.” —Reyner Banham, 1955
Heritage status, conservation, demolition
A decision to demolish the building was made in 2015 by the Baird Coalition government. The NSW Heritage Council recommended heritage listing for the building in 2016, but this was denied by the Heritage Minister, Mark Speakman.
The SOS (Save Our Sirius Foundation) was formed by people and organisations campaigning to save Sirius and its residents and is supported by the National Trust, the Australian Institute of Architects, the Millers Point Residents Action Group, Friends of Millers Point, Millers Point Public Housing Tenants Group, Unions NSW, CFMEU, and Jack Mundey, Green Ban campaigner who helped save The Rocks from redevelopment in the 1970s and was instrumental in the building of Sirius. The NSW president of the Australian Institute of Architects, Shaun Carter, is chairman of the Save Our Sirius Foundation, which produced middle-ground solutions for saving Sirius while achieving the government’s aims. Carter argued that any decision about the building should take account of its social, cultural and environmental significance. A set of S.O.S. lights flashed over The Rocks and Circular Quay from the top floor of Sirius when they were first installed to coincide with the exhibition S.O.S. Save our Sirius on 2 November 2014. Resident McAloon's sign was briefly replaced by lights flashing S.O.S. to the Harbour Bridge traffic, but this was soon 'confiscated' by Housing NSW and McAloon 'relocated' by Housing NSW. Other supporters of the building include Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and the Australian Labor Party. Anthony Albanese described the Sirius building as "not just a place people call home, but a symbol of inclusion."
Various public protests supported the inclusion of the building on the State heritage Register, including a petition, a crowd funded legal challenge, whose organisers aim to have the Minister's decision annulled; a rally; and a green ban announced by the Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU), under which no company associated with union will be involved with any proposed demolition of the building.
Views of the building
- Architecture of Sydney
- Millers Point, New South Wales
- List of brutalist structures
- NSW Heritage Database
- Pickett, Charles (8 May 2013). "Sirius on The Rocks". Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- "Sirius". Millers Point. Millers Point Newsletter.
- Brewster, Anthony (8 May 2014). "The man behind the most famous sign seen from Sydney's Harbour Bridge". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
- Dawson, Matt (11 October 2013). "Looking for the man behind the sign". Precinct News. UTS Graduate School of Journalism. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
- Kembrey, Melanie (18 September 2016). "'We're very lucky here': Inside Sydney's Sirius Building". The Sun-Herald. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
- Keoghan, Sarah (14 September 2016). "Unions block Sirius demolition as protests ramp up". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
- Farrelly, Elizabeth (6 August 2016). "The brutal truth: we're trashing Sydney's heritage". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
- "#SOSBrutalism". #SOSBRUTALISM. Retrieved 2016-08-07.
- Johnson, Nathan (2 August 2016). "Gone: Sydney's Sirius apartments face demolition after heritage push fails". Architecture & Design.
- Hoh, Amanda (1 August 2016). "Sirius building's denial of heritage listing, proposed demolition a 'cultural tragedy', artist says". ABC News. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
- McNally, Lucy; Code, Bill (19 February 2016). "Heritage listing push for Sydney's iconic Sirius building". ABC News. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
- "No heritage listing for Sirius Building". Office of Environment and Heritage. NSW Government. 31 July 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
- "The man behind the most famous sign seen from the Sydney Harbour Bridge". The Guardian. 8 May 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
- "Save Our Sirius". Save Our Sirius.org. 27 August 2016. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
- "Save Our Sirius". Save Our Sirius Foundation. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
- Fuary-Wagner, Ingrid (20 August 2016). "Hundreds of supporters gather in fresh bid to save Sydney's famous Brutalist building Sirius". The Sydney Morning Herald (Domain). Retrieved 22 August 2016.