At first glance, the Brutalist Sirius apartment building (1975-80), surrounded by the intensive development of Sydney’s CBD, gives little indication of the layers of change that lay beneath it, nor the battles fought to protect it. The Housing Commission building, perched above Sydney Cove in The Rocks, was borne directly out of the Green Bans in the 1970s to rehouse displaced local tenants. The community is currently at battle again for heritage listing to protect it from certain demolition by developers. The continual reinvention of the Sirius site over the past 250 years provides an intimate illustration of the changing face of Sydney. While evidence reveals the original owners, the Cadigal people, used the site to prepare meals from the nearby harbour, after 1788 the prime location underwent rapid change, to convict tent site, whaling business headquarters, sandstone terrace housing, and government shipping offices after it was resumed, somewhat questionably, by the state after the outbreak of Bubonic plague in 1900. The site of Sirius presents historical and current issues of ownership, inherited possession, long abandoned rights for workers to live near their workplace, the display of wealth and the reality of poverty amidst rapid social and economic development. This paper explores the current heritage battle being fought by the broad community of Sirius, and its echo with the battles that have preceded it. It documents the process of community involvement both now and then, and suggests reasons why this site evokes such passion amongst concerned stakeholders.
The author 2018
Proceedings of the 14th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference 2018