Architects, artists and community activists have condemned the NSW state government's plan to demolish the iconic Sirius apartment building in the historic Rocks area of inner Sydney, with one artist, Del Kathryn Barton, calling the move a "cultural tragedy".
Chair of the NSW Heritage Council Stephen Davies said on August 2 he was "disappointed' by the decision of the government to reject a unanimous recommendation by the council to list the Sirius building on the state's heritage register. The government's decision means Sirius, a purpose-built public housing block, will certainly face demolition to make way for a private development.
The Sirius, designed by well-known architect Tao Gofers in the famous "Brutalist" style in 1979, has been home to low-income and elderly people for decades, but has been purposely run down and now houses only 12 residents, who are due to be relocated.
National Trust president Clive Lucas said: "This is the most recent in a series of decisions damaging Sydneysiders' 'sense of place' in pursuit of money."
The Heritage Council's recommendation for heritage listing Sirius was based on two criteria: the integrity of its representation of the Brutalist architectural style; and its history as a response to the NSW Builders Labourers Federation green bans movement of the 1970s, when it helped working-class residents remain in the area during a period of heavy construction.
NSW president of the Australian Institute of Architects and chair of the Save Our Sirius Foundation Shaun Carter said the Sirius building "has social significance, it has cultural significance, it has environmental significance.
"This government has a terrible record on affordable housing but it keeps on selling public buildings so it can get more revenue, so it can make decisions against the budget."
Barney Gardner, spokesperson for the Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks Public Housing Tenants Group, condemned the government's Sirius decision on July 31: "Just when you thought this state Liberal government couldn't stoop any lower than when they announced, without consultation of the public and social housing tenants in Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks on March 19, 2014, that all tenants would be forced out of their homes and made to live elsewhere....
"[Now], it's March 19, 2014, all over again. Hasn't this government learnt anything from the mishandled fiasco that occurred back then? These uncompassionate and dictatorial approaches can only lead to suicides, deaths and hospitalisations.”