View of Sirius Building, 2014, photo: Noni Boyd
Architects: NSW Housing Commission (Project architect: Tao Gofers)
date of commission 1975
date of completion 1980
address 2-32 Cumberland Street, The Rocks, NSW
Submitted by Noni Boyd
Sirius Building Mini Fiche (Text):
1.2 variant or former name: Sirius Building or just Sirius
1.3 number & name of street: 2-32 Cumberland Street
1.4 town/suburb, city: The Rocks
1.5 state: New South Wales
1.6 post code: 2000
1.7 country: Australia
1.8 national grid reference
1.9 classification/typology: Housing
1.10 protection status & date: NSW Heritage Council – recommended State Heritage Register
refused by the Minister twice | AIA (NSW Chapter) – Register of Significant Architecture in NSW
National Trust of Australia (NSW) – Register
commission/completion 1975/1980 (official opening)
2.3 architectural designers NSW Housing Commission (Project architect: Tao Gofers)
2.4 others associated with building Design development & documentation architects: Alexander & Lloyd
2.5 significant alterations with dates None identified
current use One long standing resident remains (December 2017)
current condition The building is in good condition
3.1 general description The following description has been taken from the State Heritage Register
nomination prepared by the National Trust
geometric (cubic) elements stacked on top of each other to give a step-like
terrace effect rising from under five storeys for much of the northern
sections and part of the southern end, to eleven storeys in a high-rise block
towards the south. In fact 75 per cent of the building is five storeys or less. It
was originally intended to have a white finish to echo the Opera House but, due to budget constraints, the building remained in grey, off-the-form
concrete. At the time of construction, one of the main complaints was that
the building rose above the level of the Bridge’s roadway.
with two- or three-level walk-ups as well as lifts. Because of the design,
each lift foyer on each floor serves only a small number of apartments. The
apartments were designed to cater for the tenants that were to be
panels. The floors are concrete floor slabs.
conservation area of predominantly single storey 19th century houses and
early twentieth century warehouses and public houses. The building
replaced a bond store erected c. 1920.
The building is of Technical Significance:
The building is of technical significance as part of the series of high-rise
housing blocks erected by the NSW Housing commission from the 1940s
until the 1980s.
The building is of Social Significance:
The Sirius Apartments were funded, designed and built by the NSW State Government to house community members of the Rocks/Millers Point who were displaced by redevelopment. To ensure this occurred a union ‘Green Ban’ was placed on the site by Jack Mundey and the Builders’ Labourers Federation. The housing block has a direct, strong and special association with the Rocks/Millers Point Community of long-term residents and direct descendants of maritime workers that the public housing in the area was initially created for.
The building is of Aesthetic Significance:
Aesthetically significant the excellence of its Modernist design as a Brutalist building, the design of this well-executed and relatively intact example of late 20th century public housing, part of a series of buildings as urban development by the NSW Housing Commission during the 1970s.
Described in magazine Concrete (Issue 11) as ‘a bold and exceptional
experiment in low-income public housing’, the design was a conscious
attempt to reduce the monolithic nature of most high-rise residential
The building is of Iconic /Canonical Significance:
The building is a well-known Sydney landmark, as it is visible from the
Sydney Harbour Bridge and from many points in Sydney Cove. It is also well known for its association with the Union ‘Green Bans’, bans that saw the retention of historic areas of Sydney proposed for wholesale redevelopment.
The building was also well known for a sign announcing ‘One Way! Jesus’ was displayed in the window of Unit 74 facing the Bridge for more than 15 years.
More recently the building has achieved iconic status through the campaign mounted by Save our Sirius to save the building from demolition.
The building is of Historic Significance:
The construction of the Sirius demonstrated the power of the Union’s Green
bans in protecting the historic built environment in Sydney. This Green Ban
was a seminal event in Australia and led to the saving of most of the
Rocks/Millers Point from wholesale redevelopment. The Sirius Apartments
were part of the agreement with the Union to bring the Green Ban to an end
by providing public housing for those persons displaced by the development
that did proceed. The Green Ban was specifically lifted on this site to allow
for the construction of housing, it remained in force for the rest of The
The construction of Sirius also demonstrates the process of rehousing
people displaced by redevelopment, as subsequently resident displaced
from Woolloomooloo were housed in the block.
5.1 principal references
Redevelopment Area was agreed upon by the [Housing] Commission and
the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority. The project, which will provide
69 units on Bunker’s Hill close to the Expressway approaches to the
Harbour Bridge, will be proceeded with when funds permit.
The Housing Commission of NSW Annual Report 1975
Sun Herald 4 September 1977
Alexander & Lloyd P/L, Architects State Records of NSW Height of Buildings Plans and Drawings application
Erect new residential flats building (Housing Commission of NSW). Council
of the City of Sydney Building Application files BA 1452/77. Not yet
new housing scheme in Sydney’s Rocks district is typical of the
Commission’s ‘new look’. When completed it will provide 79 units with
some of the best harbour views in the city. Some of the larger units will
have either private courtyards, roof terraces or large balconies. It will be a
mixed development with accommodation for aged pensioners, as well as
families with children.
Coloured Perspective reproduced in the 1977 NSW Housing Commission
Housing Commission of NSW
Brutalism, A Heritage Issue edition
Architecture Bulletin (NSW) March-April 2012
Glenn Harper & Noni Boyd
Sirius Apartments, 1975 – 80, Russell Rodrigo, SAHANZ Fabrications 2015
Russell Rodrigo, Proceedings of the 13th Australian Urban Planning History
Current: Wikipedia Page
5.2 visual material attached
5.3 rapporteur/date: Dr Noni Boyd December 2017