You may not know his name, but if you’ve ever crossed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, there’s a good chance you know the work of architect Tao Gofers.
Gofers is responsible for the iconic Brutalist public housing building known as the Sirius building. The NSW Heritage Council has unanimously recommended that the Sirius building in the Rocks should be listed on the State Heritage Register due to its cultural and architectural significance.
This would mean the building would be protected from demolition or significant modification. The Minister responsible for Heritage, Mark Speakman, has controversially declined to list the building on the basis that the listing would reduce the financial value of the site and the Liberal Government is currently proposing that the site be sold and re-developed.
The Rocks has of course been the location of significant debate about our built heritage before, most notably in the 1970s, when Government plans to demolish poorly maintained public housing was met with fierce community resistance. The Builder’s Labourers Federation placed a Green Ban on the area, refusing to undertake demolition and construction work in the area in solidarity with the residents. In this environment, Gofers conceived of a public housing scheme which was acceptable to all parties, and the Sirius building was born.
On Saturday, 17 September over 1500 architects and member of the public gathered to protest the proposed sale of the Sirius building. The crowd were addressed by a range of speakers, including recently re-elected Clover Moore, Jack Mundie who lead the original green bans. Architects have a reputation for many things, but demonstrating in the streets isn’t typically one of them – it’s a sign that something pretty significant is happening.
If you’d like to support the fight to keep Sirius, we suggest donating to the Save Our Sirius campaign which is raising funds to challenge the heritage ruling in court. We’d love to see some more creative protest responses, perhaps a call for alternative design schemes which incorporate the existing building.