In a huge win for its two remaining residents, lovers of Brutalist architecture, and anyone interested in slowing the Liberal government’s plans to make the entire Sydney foreshore into a high-rise metropolis, the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales today ruled in favour of temporarily saving the Sirius Building from demolition. 

The court requires NSW Heritage Minister Gabrielle Upton to remake the decision of her predecessor NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman to not heritage list the iconic LEGO building, built as social housing in the late 1970s, despite the recommendation of the NSW Heritage Council in 2016. 

The court ruled that the rejection of the Council’s recommendation because of “undue financial hardship” was invalid, and thus of no legal effect. Speakman said that while the building may have debatable aesthetic and historical significance, its listing would diminish its sale value by about $70 million. 

The Lib gov decided to demolish the landmark building in 2015, intending to replace it with 250 high-rise luxury apartments. Since then they’ve successfully booted out most tenants of the 79-apartment block – except for 90-year-old Myra Demetriou and Cherie Johnson, who has lived there for 36 years. 

The gov said they’d use the money made to create 240 new housing commission homes – presumably just nowhere near their new high-flyer casino in Barangaroo

But concerns were raised about the gov’s plans, with architects including Save Our Sirius Foundation‘s Shaun Carter saying that the redevelopment would affect views of the Sydney Opera House, and encroach on the Rocks‘ low-rise heritage, including wharves, sandstone buildings and Victorian terraces. 

The challenge to the Minister’s decision was brought before the Land and Environment Court by lawyers for the Environmental Defenders Office on behalf of the Millers Point Community Association. The action had support from Labor, the Greens and Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore

The community raised $50K to take the case to court through a crowdfunding effort, although the NSW gov are required by the ruling to pay the Community Association’s costs.  

In the wake of the decision, Demetriou said: “This is the beginning of things, I don’t think it’s the end of things.”

Carter is cautiously optimistic: “Sirius has been temporarily saved,” he said. “This judgment effectively stops the gutting of the Heritage Act which the Minister sought to do.” 

For Art Month in March, Carter and Sirius’ architect, Tao Gofers, ran tours, highlighting its architecture, function and importance to Sydney’s cultural, political and social history.

We had a stickybeak earlier this year: 

Source: ABC.

Photo: Flickr / Colton Whelpton.