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    City of Sydney urges “urgent protection” of historic brutalist building

    Kirsty Sier

    The City of Sydney council has launched a bid to protect one of the city’s historic brutalist buildings following an independent state heritage assessment.

    The Bidura Metropolitan Remand Centre in Glebe has been suggested for heritage listing following a perceived risk of demolition in the current development climate. Designed by the government architect in the 1970s and completed in 1983, the centre is part of a site that has been associated with juvenile justice and welfare since the early 20th-century. It has been identified as “a rare example of late 20th-century architecture” and “a local heritage item”.

    The site on which the remand centre sits is part of a former government precinct (now privately owned) within the Glebe Point Road heritage conservation area, which also contains the 1862-built, Edmund Blacket-designed, heritage-listed Bidura House. In calling for heritage protection for the remand centre, the council has also proposed an amendment in the development standards of the area.

    “Given the current risk of demolition, we are seeking urgent heritage protection of the building,” says Sydney’s lord mayor, Clover Moore.

    “The [council] does not have powers to list the site on the state heritage register, so we are calling on the Heritage Council to consider this.

    “We continue to urge the minister for heritage to immediately place an interim heritage order on the building while its heritage significance is investigated.

    “The NSW government might be happy to sell off buildings of historical and heritage value to make way for developers, but we are going to keep fighting for their protection and maintenance. Buildings of significant architectural merit such as the Bidura Metropolitan Remand Centre are a critical part of our city’s history and architectural heritage.

    Although the National Trust of Australia and the Australian Institute of Architects have both recognised the heritage significance of the Bidura Metropolitan Remand Centre, this does not in itself guarantee any form of legal protection. Following the independent heritage assessment that was completed in October this year – which found the building is significant for its historic associations, aesthetic, social, research and rarity value, and which also found that the centre is capable of adaptation to many new uses – it is now up to the state Heritage Council to ensure the centre adequate protection.

    If approved, City of Sydney’s planning proposal for the site would amend the height and floor space ratio standards for Bidura House and the former Bidura Metropolitan Remand Centre building to reflect the existing buildings. The council is also recommending that the building be placed under an interim heritage order while its significance is further investigated.

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