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Designed by Tao Gofers in 1975 and completed in 1980, the Sirius apartments located in Sydney’s historic Rocks precinct has, since its opening, attracted significant public criticism, including the National Trust of Australia who bluntly described it as ‘that lump in the Rocks’ (Glascott 1979: 6). Designed to counterpoint the iconic presence of the Sydney Opera House across Circular Quay, the Sirius apartments were conceived towards the end of a period when the Brutalist idiom dominated architectural thinking and practice internationally.
The Sirius apartments were proposed by the NSW government as an alternative to the relocation of public housing tenants in the Rocks, subsequently resulting in the temporary lifting of construction bans. Perennially nominated as one of Sydney’s great architectural eyesores (Purcell 1986: 27), Sirius reflects heroic ambitions, both socially and architecturally. Through its direct and honest aesthetics, Sirius presents a powerful civic image that communicates the potential role played by the built environment in the lives of a society’s inhabitants, a role focused on the culture of the everyday, an iconic image of an egalitarian ideal expressed in architecture.
The paper contextualises and presents a reassessment of the conception and development of the Sirius apartments as an urban icon and is informed by personal communication with the building’s architect, Tao (Theodorus) Gofers. The paper situates the building in the context of the 1970s redevelopment plans for the Rocks, the project’s critical reception as an urban eyesore and its contemporary re-evaluation as an iconic Brutalist artefact.