The Tao Gofers-designed Sirius apartment building at The Rocks in Sydney will be sold without a heritage listing and is likely to be knocked down.
The New South Wales Government announced on Sunday that it would deny Gofer’s brutalist social housing project a heritage listing because of the financial implications and would begin drafting a stage one development application for the 3647sqm site.
The government suggested that listing the building would mean the building would sell for far less money and greatly outweigh the opportunity to get another $70 million or so to reinvest in social housing.
“You could get a lot more public housing by not listing it, by replacing it with something that is at an appropriate height and scale and look for The Rocks and getting an extra 240 or so among the neediest in our community into public housing," said Environment and Heritage Minister Mark Speakman.
The decision flies in the face of recommendations from the state’s heritage council given to the government in February which suggested the building contributed to the state's heritage and should be heritage listed.
It has also angered Shaun Carter, the NSW president of the Australian Institute of Architects and chairman of the Save Our Sirius Foundation who told the ABC that the decision to preserve the building should be more than just a beauty contest.
"It has social significance, it has cultural significance, it has environmental significance," Carter said.
"Sirius not only has this architectural exemplary value but it also has social and cultural value — the history and the stories of the people of Sydney and how Sydney grew and changed."
While Carter wouldn’t deny that selling Sirius without a heritage listing meant more money for the government to reinvest in social housing, he did question why that extra $70 million had to come from the sale of Sirius. Why not somewhere else?
"This Government has a terrible record of affordable housing but it keeps on ... selling public buildings so it can get more revenue so it can make decisions against the budget.”
"It can appropriate the funds elsewhere to build social housing."
Property NSW will commence work to obtain a Stage 1 development approval prior to divesting the site, says the government.
The development will be subject to planning controls and Property NSW will work with the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Department of Planning in preparing the development application in order to complement the significant heritage in The Rocks.
CBRE's Justin Brown, told the AFR that when the site is redeveloped, developers can expect around $1.5 million to $2 million per achievable residential apartment. The site could accommodate between 180 and 220 apartments but Speakman said he would strongly argue for any future building's floor space to be restricted to its current position.
SIRIUS BUILDING REPLACEMENT MUST REPRESENT TODAY NOT COPY THE PAST
Property lobby group, the Urban Taskforce has welcomed the government’s rejection of the heritage listing but is concerned that the replacement building will not be modern enough after Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Dominic Perrottet said that the replacement should be made of brick and stone.
“The current Sirius Building was very innovatory in its day and while it is in the brutalist architectural style that many people are not comfortable with, it did attempt to be of its time rather than a pastiche of the past,” says Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson.
“It is important that a replacement building is about the spirit of today while understanding its context.”
Johnson highlighted TKD Architects’ 5 Martin Place or the ‘Money Box’ development in Martin Place as a good example of the blending of new and old, and hinted that a similar approach should be adopted at The Rocks.
“While The Rocks is a very special precinct it is important that new architecture and structures represent the aspirations of today while respecting the sensitive context,” he says.
“The site of the Sirius Building is adjacent to the Sydney Harbour Bridge approach and this heritage structure must also be respected.”