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The Rocks, Australia

Sirius Building

Though considered an eyesore by some, this boxy Brutalist high-rise plays a significant role in Sydney's past. 

The Sirius apartment complex sits on some of the most valuable real estate in Sydney, in the Rocks area, just back from the water, overlooking the harbour with views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But it isn’t a sleek, modern building boasting windows from floor to ceiling housing wealthy tenants like you may expect.

Instead, the Sirius building is one of Australia’s most notable examples of Brutalist architecture. The style was quite popular during the ’60s and ‘70s, but since then, has gone down in history as one of the most disliked architectural phases around the globe (though it’s seeing a newfound appreciation of late). The violent name comes from something quite nonviolent—the French phrase béton-brut, meaning raw concrete.

The stark, concrete form was used in many social housing projects around the world, and the Sirius was one such complex. Built in 1979, it was designed by Tao Gofers, and was used to house displaced public tenants. Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Rocks area went under redevelopment, resulting in the loss of a lot of public housing. This eventually lead to protests against the working class being shifted out of this desirable and highly sought after area. In response, a lucky group got relocated to the 79 units of the newly built Sirius building and were able to maintain their much-coveted 2000 postal codes. 

The Sydney landmark has been mired in controversy in more recent years, and by 2015 it housed only a handful of residents. Many portions remain abandoned. Many consider the building to be an eyesore, and claim it is out of place, as the only high rise in the Rocks area. Despite numerous recommendations, it failed to achieve heritage status, though a recent court ruling has given it a second chance to clinch this listing. In 2015, plans were announced to for it to be replaced by luxury apartments, and this sparked a wave of outrage in the community. The Save Our Sirius movement highlighted the social and cultural significance of the building through their efforts.

The protests seem to have paid off, because as of July 2017, the plan to have the building knocked down was defeated in court. 

Know Before You Go

The best way to see this is during your walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

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