Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ugly Buildings, Part 2 - Sydney


Last week I posted some pics and comments about ugly buildings around the world and included Hotel Hotel in Canberra 👎 and Blues Point Tower in Sydney 👎 👎.

Here are more ugly buildings in Sydney and surrounds 👎👎👎.

Sirius Building, The Rocks:

If ever a building typified the lyrics of Malvina Reynolds’ song “Little Boxes” about cookie cutter housing it would have to be the Sirius Building. Every time I drive over the Harbour Bridge, there is one immediate thought when I see it: How could that have ever been approved???

Back in the 1970’s, the government of the day via the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority proposed to demolish the historic buildings of colonial Sydney in The Rocks (for the benefit of overseas readers, the original settlement area of Sydney Cove) and build concrete apartments, commercial towers and offices. The proposals were blocked by Jack Mundey and his union The Builders’ Labourers’ Federation, (BLF) which imposed Green bans on any development. No work could be carried out in the face of such union bans and as a result a significant part of Sydney’s history and heritage was saved. 

The Sirius Building was constructed in 1979 to rehouse public tenants who had been displaced by the proposed SCRA proposals. It is the only high rise development in The Rocks and comprises 79 apartments. The original plan was to finish the building in a white colour to match the nearby Sydney Opera House but budget constraints resulted in a finish of grey.

Sirius is currently listed on both the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and Australian Institute of Architects (NSW) heritage registers due to its architectural and social significance, being a prominent example of what is known as Brutalist architecture.

In August 2016, the NSW rejected the NSW Heritage Council recommendation to list Sirius on the State Register. It wants the building demolished and the site sold. Those proposals have been opposed by members of the public, architects, heritage consultants, the national Trust, tenants’ organisations, unions and various politicians including Lord mayor of Sydney Clover Moore under the banner of Save Our Sirius – “SOS”. The Millers Point Community Association has initiated a challenge in the Land & Environment Court to the proposed demolition and sale, and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) (which took over from the BLF) has placed a Green ban on the site.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and long time activist Jack Mundey outside the controversial Sirius building.

Greenway Flats, Kirribilli:

Kirribilli is a North Shore, coastal suburb of Sydney located three kilometres north of the Sydney central business district and one of its more affluent areas. It is also the location of Kirribilli House, one of the two official residences of the Prime Minister of Australia, and a block of Housing Commission flats that must surely have been the inspiration for the Australian phrase “as ugly as a hatful of arseholes.”

Greenway Housing Commission Flats, McDougall Street/Ennis Road, Kirribilli

When opened in 1954 (construction having taken 6 years due to shortage of supplies post war), ‘Greenway’ was the largest flat complex in Australia. It comprises four buildings, housing 309 one and two bedroom flats. The style is called “modern Functionalist” which rejects unnecessary decoration and equates form to function. Despite harbour views, windowas are small, assisting in reducing costs.

he two taller 11 storey-buildings, A and C blocks, have steel frames. The smaller B and D blocks are concrete framed. The thick brick walls helped to bear the load. Before 1957, building heights in Sydney were restricted to 150 feet. ‘Greenway’ was 130 feet high.

Materials and labour were in such short supply after World War Two that construction took six years. The few exterior design features and modest window size, despite the view across the harbour, helped to reduce cost. Flats were leased as each block was finished.

According to the website At Home in North Sydney: An Architectural History of a Locality at:
Upon completion, the project was favourably compared to nearby Victorian-era terraces, then regarded as ‘slums’. The first tenants were delighted. When Mrs V.W.H Briggs moved into her flat in 1953 she declared ‘If I won the lottery seven times over I wouldn’t leave here. This will do me!’ (Sunday Herald, 1 March, 1953) Part of the appeal was the provision of modern appliances. Electric stoves were installed in favour of gas units, stainless steel sinks were standard and the old-style kitchen dresser gave way to built-in cupboards. ‘Greenway’ consumed so much electricity that the County Council had to install a special substation beneath the building to provide power to the many washers, dryers and lifts, as well as 2308 lights, 1666 power outlets and 309 electric stoves.
When Greenway opened, the area was not as ethnically diverse as today, with the result that the public tenancy housing mix today is much more varied than in 1954. Gentrification of the area has seen a decline of the working class population, prompting former resident Penny McKeon to comment in response to criticism by more affluent owners ‘There’s no reason why being of modest economic means should mean you’re not entitled to live in a place that just happens to have harbour views’.

Nonetheless the building is one of Sydney’s ugliest, the irony being that it is named after Francis Greenway, a convict turned Government architect who is responsible for many of the great colonial building in Sydney, which remain to the present.


UTS Building, Sydney:

It is not true that the letters stand for Ugly Tower Sydney, it is actually the University of Technology, Sydney building.

Another constructed in the Brutalist architectural style, it is located near Central Station and at one of the gateway entrances to the Sydney CBD. What an impression that must make for visitors.

Originally designed in 1964 as a row of seven 12 storey buildings, budgetary cuts kept reducing the number of buildings until a proposal for 2 remained, with only one finally being constructed, in 1975. IT has also been suggested that the design sought to prevent students congregating so as not to lead to protests (authorities being alarmed by the 1968 student protests in France). Journalist and author Mike Carlton has described it as "a menacing concrete monolith in an architectural genre that the old East German Stasi brought to perfection.”

Recently UTS constructed some more buildings adjacent to the above building:

UTS, Building 11

Building 11 at night

UTS, Dr Chau Chak Wing Building


(Dis)honourable mentions:

Burwood Central, Burwood

Wentworth Gardens, Parramatta

Goulburn Street Car Park, Sydney

School of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Sydney. The building, also known as G08, has been listed on the National Trust's heritage register for its "monumental streetscape significance", architectural and historical significance and is considered one of Sydney's iconic examples of brutalist architecture with its stark exterior, concrete columns and slab frames.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Why has my comment been removed?

  2. Sirius is not ugly. It is actually a fine piece of architecture and I love it!

  3. Sirius . . .the eye of the beholder.

  4. Please repeat your comment and I will respond.

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