Brutalist Masterpiece Sirius Saved From Demolition

In a judgment passed down yesterday, the NSW Land and Environment Court overturned Minister Mark Speakman’s decision last July not to list the Sirius Building on the Heritage Register.

The NSW Government has been ordered to pay the applicant’s costs.

Ignoring the advice of preservation bodies, architects and significant public opinion, the Minister, now the NSW Attorney-General, decided against listing the building last year because the financial implications of heritage listing Sirius "greatly outweighed the opportunity to get another $70 million or so to reinvest in social housing".

This means the new Heritage Minister, Gabrielle Upton, will have to remake Speakman’s decision – in accordance with the law – either “to direct or not direct” the listing of Sirius on the Heritage Register.

The NSW Heritage Council unanimously recommended that the Sirius building be listed on the state's Heritage Register in early 2016.

Acting Justice Simon Molesworth concluded that the Minister’s decision of 30 July 2016, not to direct the listing of the Sirius Building on the State Heritage Register involved “legal errors” and was therefore invalid.

Tao Gofers, the former Housing Commission architect who designed the Sirius building in 1978 had previously vowed to fight the ruling until the cause was won: “With two years until the next state election, the strategy is to ‘just delay, delay, delay’ until the fight to return residents to the building is won or a Labor government is elected,” Gofers said.

Following the judgment Tuesday, community campaign group Save Our Sirius – led by Australian Institute of Architects president Shaun Carter – thanked its supporters, and promised to continue the battle: "We're inspired to keep fighting".

Speaking with Dezeen, campaigner and "architecture enthusiast" Tim Ross shared his thoughts on the judgment: The judge mentioned Sirius standing side by side with the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge in terms of iconic Sydney landmarks. This is a triumph for brutalism."

Millers Point Community Assoc. Incorporated v Property NSW [2017] NSWLEC 92

The judgment considered whether the decision was made in accordance with the Heritage Act 1977 (NSW) (the Act).

The Millers Point Community Association (the Applicant) challenged the Minister’s decision not to list the Sirius on the Heritage Register on two grounds:

  • That the Minister had made an error of law by misconstruing the meaning of the phrase “undue financial hardship” under s 32(1)(d) of the Act; and

  • That the Minister had made an error of law by failing to determine whether Sirius is of State heritage significance within the meaning of s 34(1) of the Act.

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