top of page
  • mackenziepronk

A List of Buildings I would lie in front of a bulldozer to save

Neil and Heidi were asked by the Sydney Morning Herald to name 5 buildings most people wouldn’t know that they would man the barricades to save.

Neils List

Liner House in Bridge Street - Architects Bunning & Madden – RAIA Sulman Medal winner 1961 - An early 60’s CBD building, the offices for shipping company when Sydney’s CBD was still an entirely intact Victorian city, its modest scale and elegant proportion allowed it to sneak into the Victorian surrounds in a quiet way (quite unlike Australia Square by Harry Seidler) check the spiral stair and the groovy integrated artworks. This building suggests a development path Sydney didn’t take, at the time Sydney was the most intact Victorian city in the world to insert high quality 6-8 storey buildings into the right parts would have left us with a much different looking city today – I often ponder this lost Sydney

Another great Sydney building in a similar vein to Liner House is Qantas House in Chiefly Square by Rudder Littlemore & Rudder Architects; another Late 50’s gem that snuck into Victorian Sydney an elegant curved glass walled office building with beautiful proportions, somehow classical and giving over to a bigger idea about creating a civic place in the heart of the city.

Buhrich House II - by Architect Hugh Buhrich in Castlecrag 1968 ….. I have never been inside this house but poked about outside years ago trying to steal its mojo, the houses’ published ideas have inspired a few generations of architects already - it holds a mythical status amongst architects.

60’s & 70’s Project Houses by Petit & Sevitt (until a volume home builder & architect team can do better.)

For high quality architect designed project homes have a look around the suburb of Carlingford - the site of the 1962 Carlingford Homes Fair - The Kingsdeane Estate by Lend Lease. The whole suburb was designed by the best and up-and-coming architects of the day - the house plans were available and builders ready to roll out classics like ‘The Beachcomber’ , ‘The Sunline’, ‘The Lowline’ - I have always loved the Beachcomber you can still stumble across them from Bendalong to St Ives and back to Carlingford .

If your approaching half a century or so you almost remember inner Sydney’s working harbour …….there are parts I have always loved - the now silent remnants of the working harbour, The Coal Loader at Balls Head, Cockatoo Island, Woolich Dock, Glebe Island and its hulking silos - most of these have been saved, re-purposed and preserved (thankfully). I had a thing for drawing and painting these for a while as I was sure all this would disappear…. I always loved White Bay Power Station its hulking 1984 vibe - it was still burning coal into the 70’s ! . This rusting monolithic beast has spoken to me for years not sure what will happen to it various ideas are floated every now and then soime good some bad - we just don’t want to see it replaced by crappy apartments.

There are some great Public Toilets recently well worth saving…..look at Sam Crawfords North Bondi Amenities, Rick Le Plastriers Mosman block, Centennial Park Amenities by Lahz Nimmo Architects, Lacoste & Stevenson’s round public loos in Homebush Bay and of course you’d lie in front of a dozer to save Sydneys only Pissour in the Rocks from the late 1800’s.

My final building(s) to be saved from the bulldozer are the brick bond stores of Pyrmont, Ultimo and The Rocks these were perhaps saved because they were a bit out of the way of Sydneys wholesale mid - late 20th century redevelopment. These buildings are so well built that they will remain endlessly adaptable ……. was it Pancakes at the Rocks that first inhabited one of those buildings it seemed so exotic as a young kid, an early adaptive re-use of a super sturdy high quality utilitarian building that I think has been given several new lives since Pancakes moved on. Check out Federation Warehouse in Ultimo what a cracker.

Heidi's List

Reservoir Gardens in Paddington by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and JMD - a collapsed 19th century reservoir was converted into a park by Sydney City Council a few years back - its a magical space and it still holds potential for events and some other possible future. Its almost entirely below ground level so its a bit of a hidden gem, a sunken garden offering a respite and delight. Its extraordinary, detailed and sensual. Happy to form a human chain around this one should it ever be threatened.

So much on Neil’s list are already pretty much saved - I could add to that list the whole of King Street, Oxford Street, Glebe Point Road, Enmore Road those intact living, thriving commercial streetscapes from the late 19th century, somehow they made it into the 21st century and we love them, they re-invent themselves over and over. This is a lesson for architects to think loose fit ………so many of these buildings have been re-purposed at least once. Look at King Street Newtown a mostly intact strip of Edwardian and Victorian commercial premises with residences over. It survived because it was run down and unfashionable when it may otherwise have been demolished - its now preserved through council controls so hopefully no laying down in front of dozers is required.

Its long and kinky and retains a rabble element, its not even all that pleasant when there is a lot of traffic, however the scale of the buildings to the street, the line of awnings and the varied nature of each premises never fails to engage we will always love Newtown.

What about Sydneys pubs there is some great architecture in our old pubs From the Georgian Nelson Hotel in the rocks to the many great Deco pubs and more lately bars like Palmer & Co under the old George Patterson House how about The Pallisade Hotel in the Rocks for the list, or for its cultural history as much as its architectural merits The Hopetoun Hotel. Pubs are a living building type surviving from our deep history of social gathering centred on meeting on the corner (typically) for a drink, or to trade and do business. The Hopetoun is among a string of abandoned and boarded up pubs around Sydney, with a rowdy past, a first rate sweaty live music venue shut down for its loud and disorderly conduct. We used to live around the corned so it was our local, but its been boarded up since 2009. There is no confirmed future use however one hears from time to time that it may be returning as a pub (and not apartments) but unfortunately not as a live music venue…...

The Capita Centre - 9 Castlereagh St - Harry Siedler & Associates

Deeper than it is wide and landlocked on 3 sides to 30+m, the owners desired this central location. The idea is unique - a moving vertical cut through the floors to admit daylight to the ground floor and offices above. It was an earlier example of integrating landscape in to city building: planting is perched on ledges within the atrium. It also has a muscular exoskeleton that zig zags to the top where you can look through the atrium to the sky. It demonstrates a ‘stick to your guns’ approach - The strength of an initial idea to remain intact from design through to the final built structure. Its anomalous, a punk element in the city.

The Glebe Railway Viaduct C1916 - Wentworth Park

Again, no civil disobedience required to preserve this as it is State Heritage Listed. Driving the sweep of the off ramp before Anzac bridge by car, the 21 Arch structure is a landmark slicing across Wentworth Park or if you travel by light rail and experience the elevation of the structure as it travels across the park, the engineering and grace of the arched structures cannot fail to impress. Originally designed to transport Freight and support industry, it now transports people on the light rail.

88 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page