Monday, 20 November 2017

Brutalism eight: Sydney Masonic Centre

This is the eighth post in a series on brutalist architecture in Sydney. The interior shots of the Sydney Masonic Centre were taken during the Sydney Open viewing day that took place earlier this month. Other images were taken, as per usual, from records in the city archives.

In a note from the city engineer to the town clerk dated 10 April 1972, it was noted that the grand secretary, United Grand Lodge of New South Wales of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, had informed the department that a development application (DA) for 62-88 Goulburn Street and 279-285 Castlereagh Street would be lodged in about four months’ time. A minute from the city engineer dated 5 October 1971 had noted that negotiations respecting the proposed development would not be completed for some time.


The site is shown in a drawing made at the time, above. In the next drawing (below) Carruthers Place, a small laneway at the back of the block, is shown. In correspondence between lawyers John Dick & Co and the city council, it emerges that the laneway had been owned by the masons for “well over 40 years” and a gate had long been in place in the lane at the northern boundary of the building site to stop people from getting in.


The site also fell across the easement for the City Circle Line (as you can see in the drawing below, which shows one of the basement floors cut diagonally across the corner by the easement).


In the DA documentation the section dedicated to describing the current uses of the site is badly damaged and frequently illegible, but it is clear that the nine structures that were on the site at the time were mainly three-storey brick buildings, with the exception of the seven-storey original Grand Lodge. The other buildings were used as shops at ground level with workshops and “sub-standard residential rooms” on the upper floors. The entire site had an area of 29,690 square feet (2758.29 square metres). The pictures below show the original Grand Lodge on the corner of Castlereagh and Goulburn streets.




In the original plans including the council’s consent, the architect was named as T.W. Hodgson & Sons of Hosking House, 84 ½ Pitt Street. The original drawings (which you can see below) show a more conventional structure than was finally achieved for the site. This design has a pyramid-form appearing on the façade as an element of ornamentation whereas in the eventual design the pyramid-form is visible in the structure of the building itself, where it separates the office tower at the top from the podium, where the masonic rooms are located.

A letter to the city council dated 28 September 1973 from architects Joseland, Gilling and Associates Pty Ltd notes that “the prime intention of this building is to provide a monumental temple building for the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales”. This part of the letter referred to a shopping arcade that was also being discussed in relation to the structure. “We are not attempting to provide a shopping complex having maximum customer potential but to provide service facilities for the building and immediate surroundings.” The names Joseland, Gillings and Associates and T.W. Hodgson & Sons appear on the final drawings as “architects in association”.




The two photos below were prepared by the city council to show the effect the building would have on the streetscape.



In the surrounding area was the Railway Institute, as well as commercial buildings, a hotel, and shops. Originally, it was planned to have a vehicle ramp leading to the underground parking garage, situated parallel to Goulburn Street, but this plan was changed before construction took place. The council had wanted access to the parking garage to be controlled by traffic lights but the architects pointed out that since most of the traffic would be at night, with cars entering from 6.30pm to 7.30pm and leaving at the conclusion of meetings from 10pm to midnight, there would be “practically no cross traffic”.

Parking for large new buildings was always a concern for the city council, and in the case of this building the DA documentation includes the designs for a hydraulic machine, the “Archer Double Car Parker” made by a company in Gladesville. The DA file contains documents with different numbers of cars specified at different times for two of the basement levels. There seems to have been plans for about 140 spaces and the masons eventually paid a hefty contribution for off-street parking to the council.


Joseland and Gilling representatives were the ones who were present for a meeting with the influential Height of Buildings Advisory Committee – a state government body that gave assent, or refused consent, to new structures in addition to the city council. In their memo to the town clerk, the State Planning Authority of New South Wales included a pedestrian link under Goulburn Street in their list of wants. They also described “substantial trees” for landscaping on Castlereagh and Goulburn streets.

There is a letter from McConnel Smith & Johnson Pty Ltd, architects and the city’s planning consultants, that address the committee’s list of demands. The letter mentions the planned redevelopment of the Brickfield Hill precinct. The city’s 1971 Strategic Plan had recommended the area’s regeneration “as a predominantly office area”, the architect notes in the letter. As for the underground pedestrian link, the letter says that no plan had been prepared to study such a proposal, and there was no such study in the offing.
No such study is programmed in this year’s brief for the Action Plan and no pedestrian study can proceed without some evaluation of the future structure and land uses now appropriate for the area. Such wider studies would be beyond the present terms of the general brief for the Action Plan.
The city council had also presented the idea of connecting the underground shopping area in the new building with the railway at Museum Station, and Joseland and Gilling told the city planner in a letter that the masons were amenable to the idea of an underground connection. As for the pedestrian link across Goulburn Street, the letter goes on to say:
To incorporate a bridge across the streets would be extremely difficult within the design of the building and would possibly tend to destroy the monumental character of this building which is one of the strict requirements of our client, Untied Grand Lodge.
The cost of the project was estimated at $10 million. By 5 November 1973 all excavation work had been carried out, but no building work commenced. A letter from Rankine & Hill, consulting engineers, dated 3 September 1975, notes that construction of the 30,175.93 square-metre building was underway.

A letter in the DA file from Australian Realty Management Pty Ltd dated 9 February 1979 to the city planner describes plans for a hotel in the new building.

The following images show the design of each floor, starting with the office tower floors. The next drawing is for the third floor, the top floor of the podium, then there are drawings for the second floor, the first floor, the ground floor and the lower-ground floor.







There are five meeting rooms in the podium. The photo below shows the building's second-biggest meeting room. The big chair shown in the photo is for the worshipful master, the small chair for the junior warden. Masons meet in the building every month and there are about 10,000 members in NSW and ACT combined. Contrary to popular ideas about the masons, they don’t accept atheists. They also don’t discuss politics or religion inside. They elect a worshipful master every year, and a grand master every three years. The masons contribute $2 million per day to charity worldwide. Ten of Australia’s prime ministers were masons.


The photo below shows the open space in the podium where the meeting rooms are. The staircase was cordoned off when I was in the building and one of the attendants told me that the stairs had been closed to prevent use due to structural problems.


The photo below shows the café on the ground-floor level that was enclosed by glass in 2005 in a development that cost the masons another $2.24 million. This photo shows the structural detail of the exterior that would have been located on the outside of the building when it was first completed.


The drawing below, from the City of Sydney's records, shows a cross-section of the podium. You can see the twinned staircases in the void and the main meeting room, on the left, with its cantilevered wall fronting Goulburn Street.


Thursday, 16 November 2017

Designing better workplaces

Last night’s talk was organised by the University of Technology, Sydney’s Information and Knowledge Group as part of the seminar series called Information Innovation @ UTS. The subject was activity-based working and the technologies transforming workplaces. There were three speakers. Angela Ferguson is an interior designer with 20 years’ experience who works at Futurespace. Stuart Munro is a workplace change specialist, his clients include Investa and Transport for NSW. James Dellow is a human-centred designer.

Ferguson said she became an interior designer because she loved being outdoors. Her mum thought TV was bad for you and Angela spent most of her childhood outside riding bikes. She had seen offices, so when she became old enough and when people asked her what she wanted to do she realised that she didn’t want to end up in an office. She started to have an inkling about the built environment and how it makes you feel. She believes that people are a product of their environment. She went to RMIT, and since graduating she has been with Futurespace since 2009.

She said, “Workplaces need to be humane.” Futurespace designed the Google offices in Australia between 2007 and 2009. She said their workplaces “are geared toward hiring the best”. They wanted to make spaces where people want to be. They made the first sustainable Google office in the world. They also designed the Microsoft office, “For people to come together to collaborate.” It has three times the number of collaborative settings than any other project they have done. They also did the Jones Lang Lasalle office, which became the Property Council of Australia’s ‘workplace of the year’. Flexibility was built into the design because you could not predict how the workforce would grow over the period time of the office space lease.

Futurespace also did the REA Group (realestate.com) office, “Aligning the principles of agile software development with the workspace.” Here, the physical environment had to allow the team to be open and flexible. With the wotif.com office the key driver was aligning the brand with the physical environment, including behaviours and culture. The founders were passionate about travel, so the building was a heritage structure and embodied the ideas of travel and discovery. Futurespace also did the Magellan offices. For the MYOB offices in Melbourne, they brought the development engineers into the same precinct as the rest of the company. Previously, the engineers were outside Melbourne in a shopping centre. They moved the tech people to a warehouse in Richmond, allowing them to be part of a broader tech community.

For the KPMG Innovation Hub in Barangaroo they decided to move away from standard corporate office buildings. Thus, she said, it is an island amid the towers of Barangaroo where people can innovate in a safe space. For the Richard Crooks construction business, a family business, the owners wanted the workspace to feel like home. Futurespace also did the PEXA offices. PEXA software does the conveyancing part of property transactions. Managers wanted a space to support the business as it grows.


“Australia leads world in workplace design worldwide,” said Ferguson. The next frontier, she went on, is spaces where clients will interact with the company. So, physical space is more important than ever. Over the past 18 months her firm has worked with PWC in Sydney and Melbourne to redesign their spaces. Now, clients can collaborate with PWC as if they were back at their own offices. Design, Ferguson said, is more than just the appearance. It is how the thing works. She believes her firm can improve people’s lives.

Stuart Munro, who works at Montlaur, said the focus should be on the people component. Work has changed so much over the years and workplaces have too, he said. For London’s strategic plan for the period from 1900 to 1925, to give an example of how fast things can change, the first item for city managers to address was what to do with horse manure but by 1920 there were no more horses used for transport. Organisations have and will continue to be disrupted, he said, and brought up a slide showing the average length of life for companies over time, as measured by the time spent on the S&P 500 share index in the US.


He said organisations need to work differently to solve tomorrow’s problems. By 2020 66 percent of Australian companies will have adopted an agile work style, and activity-based working, which gives employees a choice to work where they see fit. Sharing space is important within this paradigm. There are also more interactions. You can choose to sit next to different people on different days. You introduce a human scale to the work environment via neighbourhoods, so that you do not have people dispersed over enormous campuses.

There are three things to focus on, Munro said, pulling up a slide: the virtual component, the physical component, and the people component.


But he said that different organisations are more evolved than others. It was about recalibrating the workplace.


He pointed to a leading brand agency that his firm is working with that wants to stay relevant. The company wants to bring people together like threads to form a strong rope.


He said that the employer wanted to use the “bump factor” to bring people together in the workplace, so that they would meet each other during the day in unexpected encounters. Also, mobility would allow you to access different knowledge, he said. The other aspiration for the workplace was that it would be multi-dimensional, where people do not stay at one desk, and where more choice enhances the way they work. He cautioned that commercial office-space leases are normally for 10 years, but workplaces may change a lot in that time.

James Dellow is focused on designing better digital workplaces. He said that you need to deliver something that doesn’t just tick off the functional requirements list, but that rather is inspiring. He said that going to work on the train is still desirable because it is better for networking, and enables employees to find a community. We hold technology firms up as the pinnacle of practitioners when it comes to workspaces, but it is not necessarily the case in reality.

He said that you have to tailor digital workplaces to the company, and technology can change how you work but that virtualisation is a scary concept.


He said that there is still a huge value in physical workplaces, but all people can’t be in the same place all the time. The thing is how to make workplaces perform better. Wordpress shut its head office because no-one was going there. He also pointed to a collaboration between Microsoft and furniture maker Steelecase, which he called, “Nice but not a gamechanger.” The question is how to use technology to nudge and augment and encourage workplaces to be better. You have to engineer serendipity, he said, and help fight social isolation. It is important to create inspiration with technology not just focus on meeting rooms, by putting people at the centre and making the workplace experience-driven. We need to make unconventional choices but that does not necessarily mean workplaces become more expensive. You have to think of offices as platforms for work.

Angela said during the question-and-answer period that there are probably 20 true activity-based workplaces in Australia. Munro said it is cheaper for big banks to have activity-based workspaces because it means less floor space for the same number of employees. Angela emphasised: “First, survey.” All workplaces surveyed were vacated 40 to 60 percent of the time. Dellow said that previously IT came in to fit stuff at the end of the design process but now it is being thought of as more crucial to the process. Angela said that activity-based workspace environments are less about ownership of space, and more about what you have to do. You have a locker, a home base, and a neighbourhood, and you work within those parameters. She said that at Jones Lang Lasalle, 70 percent of people thought that they were more productive after they started working in an activity-based workspace, when surveyed. They are collecting more data than before. Dellow said that corporate culture has changed, and you don’t need to be at your desk between 9 and 5 anymore. Munro pointed to the Leesman index. He also said that redesign projects are not just fixed projects anymore, but they evolve after months or years. He added that you can’t wait 10 years before you make changes. Angela noted that workplaces have protocols so things left in spaces will be collected and kept aside to be collected later.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Who voted 'No'?

By comparing the same-sex marriage postal survey results with Commonwealth electoral districts and the results returned for them for the 2016 Census, we can get an idea of why a number of places - especially in western Sydney - voted 'No'. You can click on the table below to see an enlarged version. I've included all federal electorates that returned a 'No' vote of above 50 percent.

We can see that the places that voted 'No' were often urban or periurban areas with large populations of people who gave "Islam" or "Hindu" as their religion in the 2016 Census. There are exceptions to this, of course, including the electorate of Banks (which includes suburbs like Padstow, Revesby and Oatley), Bennelong, which has a large population of recent Asian migrants, and Mitchell, which includes the Hills District in northwestern Sydney, which is where the Hillsong Church is based.

The pattern is the same in Melbourne for the two electorates that functioned in this way there, but there seems to be less ghettoisation in the southern capital than there is in Sydney. Or perhaps the social dynamic is completely different. Maybe belonging to a football club makes all the difference..

Apart from these largely urban areas, the places which voted 'No' were all rural electorates in Queensland, including the town of Toowoomba. The huge rural seats of Kennedy (Bob Katter country) and Maranoa (which incorporates large swathes of southern and western Queensland) voted 'No'.

In the other states and territories, the large concentrations of people with strong religious views doesn't seem to have changed the vote. Or, perhaps in those cities these agglomerations don't exist.


The second table, below, shows a number of urban and periurban federal seats in Melbourne that voted 'Yes' and their religious make-up, again using ABS figures from the 2016 Census. This table shows that even where the Islamic component of the population was large, the electorate still voted 'Yes'. It should be noted however that the percentage of the populations in these electorates that is Islamic does not exactly compare to the proportions you find in Sydney.


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Remembering the October Revolution

Tonight’s guest of the Search Foundation was Bea Campbell who talked about the importance of the 1917 October Revolution in today’s world. Other speakers were Melanie Fernandez, the deputy CEO of the NSW Council of Social Service, David McKnight, associate professor, Journalism and Media Research Centre, UNSW, Winton Higgins, who teaches at the University of Technology, Sydney, and Meredith Burgmann, an author and ex-politician.

Campbell’s parents were British Bolsheviks who became Bolsheviks after WWII. Her British father met her mother in occupied Holland. She moved from Rotterdam to a village without electricity near the Scottish border. They became Bolsheviks at the end of the 40s and beginning of the 50s. Campbell said that Bolshevism was the terrain on which all of her family’s arguments were argued, especially after 1968. Her parents had an unshakable loyalty to the Soviet project. They hoped the Communist project could be redeemed from Stalinism.

She said, “You have to be astounded if you look at the history of 1917.” The people were taking power only for second time in human history, she went on. In the beginning with WWI raging there was an insistence on bread. There were endless cues of women. Then there was an insistence on peace and the communalisation of land. Then a nasty fellow took over, she said. She asked what it means for a society to become saturated in blood. The villages were feminised because of the war. She asked what it meant to be a Russian after the three wars, in the 1920s. They had to make a new class: the working class. Out of that emerge political formulations that have become problematic. Khrushchev was for her family the face of "cuddly Communism". She pointed to the way in which politics was militarised by the experience of war after war after war.

Higgins and McKnight talked about the problems currently being encountered by neoliberalism in the West. Higgins pointed to the Washington Consensus but remarked that economic liberalism arose in the 1840s. He pointed to the rise of the neoliberal hegemony in the 1970s. The left, he said, has been kept in a state of hiatus. Neoliberalism impoverishes communities and individuals. It generates soaring inequalities. McKnight said he is working on a new book on neoliberalism and inequality.



Above: Bea Campbell at the lectern with, seated, Winton Higgins and David McKnight.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Callistemon, Cassiopeia, casuarina

This blogpost serves as a mnemonic - as way to remember - because I've had a specific memory lapse several times over the past couple of years. More than once I haven't been able to remember "casuarina" - the Australian native tree with needle-like leaves that you often find growing next to rivers. I remember reading about casuarinas in a book about Sydney by author Peter Carey: he was driving from the airport to his destination and alongside the road the casuarinas were growing, and that served to impress upon him that he was home. Carey has lived a lot of his recent life in New York. There were casuarinas growing along the estuary in Maroochydore when I lived there not long ago.

Some years ago I started to forget the word and so had to look it up online several times. The same thing didn't happen however with "callistemon" (which is the other word for "bottlebrush" - pictured), a word I have faithfully managed to remember. I was once reminded of how to spell it properly by my former journalism teacher, Jenna Price, and the word has remained fast in my memory ever since.

The same goes for Cassiopeia (a constellation) that appears in chapter eleven of Jane Austen's 'Mansfield Park' in a scene where the young Fanny Price waxes lyrical about the natural world. It is a rare scene because for once Fanny lets herself go and talks for an extended period of time about something that is important to her; readers will remember that Fanny was the poor relation taken in by the wealthy Bertram family out of charity. But, then again, just now it was the word "constellation" that I had difficulty remembering, and had to look up. Mum and dad both had dementia, as did mum's brother and dad's sister. So maybe I'm next.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The palace was an active player in Whitlam’s 1975 dismissal

Professor Jenny Hocking’s book is in its third edition but there are other documents that she wants to look at that are not open to view, and there is a pro bono Federal Court of Australia case being mounted by Tom Brennan and Corrs Chambers Westgarth in Sydney to test the Archives Act so that the so-called “palace letters” can be released. A Chuffed campaign has been launched to raise funds for the case.

The case hinges on documents that were communications between the governor-general, John Kerr, at the time of the Whitlam Dismissal of November 1975, and the palace, represented by the Queen, her private secretary, Sir Martin Charteris, and Prince Charles. Based on her researches so far, Hocking has strong suspicions that there was palace advice given to Kerr to remove Whitlam.

Gough Whitlam was intending to meet with Kerr at 11am yesterday, 42 years ago. But we know already that Kerr had been in secret discussions with then-Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser. The level of collusion between the two men was far greater than suspected at the time. Kerr had in fact been in discussion with Fraser on the morning of the 11th despite Fraser’s later denials.

Sir Anthony Mason, a High Court judge and later Chef Justice, played a significant role in Kerr’s thinking, in a way that Hocking describes thus: “He fortified him.” Mason drafted a letter of dismissal for Kerr but later said he did not encourage Kerr. Hocking talked with Mason for her researches and challenged him to come clean for the record, but he said, “I owe history nothing.” Hocking thinks he owes history a great deal.

Mason was the one guiding Kerr for months, but Fraser’s role was also not an honourable one. The House of Representatives had passed a no-confidence motion against Fraser by 10 votes and Kerr ignored it. It is true that Whitlam had a Senate that refused to pass supply bills, but Hocking points out that if the Senate refused supply Whitlam could have called a half-Senate election, and indeed could have done so since July 1975. The Senate would have included new senators from the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory – giving them senators was a Whitlam innovation. Whitlam was about to call a half-Senate election – which the Liberals were terrified of because it would have scuttled their plans – but Kerr dismissed him without notice.

Kerr had had a conversation with Prince Charles in Papua New Guinea at the time of PNG’s Independence Day (16 September 1975). Kerr’s concern was that he might have to dismiss the government. He was also worried about his own position. Charles was shocked that Whitlam might dismiss Kerr. There is no question the palace knew Kerr was considering a dismissal. As was standard for governors-general at the time Kerr was in regular communication with the palace “sometimes as often as three times in a day”.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which was the British government department looking after Australian matters, was fully aware of the partisan implications if a half-Senate election was held (because Whitlam would have won control of the Senate).

But there was conflicting advice due to the “bifurcated queen”. On the one hand the Queen had to make decisions based on her role as the Queen of Australia, but she was also the Queen of the UK, and Australia’s states are sovereign entities under legislation that was passed in the UK House of Commons. The latter relationship was “quasi-colonial”, says Hocking. The Queen was in a conflicted position because the Liberal-controlled states would have had to issue writs for vacant Senate positions at the same time as the federal Labor government was calling the half-Senate election. The FCO said Kerr must not act in a way that would embarrass the Queen.

The British were monitoring the situation and making approaches to individuals involved. There was an active desire in the palace to not allow the half-Senate election to go ahead. But the Queen’s private secretary Sir Martin Charteris also often spoke as the Queen. Polls showed Whitlam was supported by the Australian populace due to the supply crisis. Whitlam said, “The system didn’t fail me the people in it did”.

FCO correspondence at the time talks about the “possible intervention of the UK government” in Australian domestic politics. There is also correspondence that talks about “our intervention in the Half-Senate election”.

The “palace papers” are embargoed until 2027 but even then, the Queen’s private secretary can withhold them.

Hocking thinks that there was an ideological rift between the palace and the Whitlam government. The Liberals had been in power – up to 1972 – uninterruptedly for 26 years under Menzies and Whitlam had introduced new norms, including getting rid of the royal honours.

Hocking, who works at Monash University, also wrote a biography of Australian author and political activist Frank Hardy. When she was writing her Whitlam biography, Whitlam never asked to see it, even when she found his grandfather had spent four years in Pentridge Prison from the age of 18. Kerr’s papers became open for public scrutiny in 2005 under the 30-year rule.

Leanne Smith opened yesterday’s proceedings. She is the director of the Whitlam Institute.



Above: The Whitlam Institute is located in the Female Orphan School at Western Sydney University's Parramatta campus. The gorgeous jacaranda tree outside it was in full bloom.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation dinner, Wayside Chapel, Potts Point

The dinner took place last night. As well as supporters for change from the broader community, there were a number of notables in the crowd, including Canadian Senator Larry Campbell, Adam Searle, the Leader of the Opposition in the NSW Legislative Council, Peter Baume who was a NSW Liberal senator, John Nicholson who used to be a judge and who now helps run Rainbow Lodge, a service for people recently released from prison, Richard Di Natale the head of the Australian Greens, former Western Australian Premier Geoff Gallup, and Dr Alex Wodak AM, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation. Brook Boney, a journalist from radio station Triple-J, was MC. At my table there were Judy and John who had come up for the event from Melbourne, where they live in North Richmond, the location for the just-announced medically-supervised injecting centre.

Boney said that the first drug bans in Australia happened in Victoria, NSW and South Australia in the 19th century against the smoking of opium, which was a habit of the Chinese workers in the goldfields. She added that, now, up to 60 percent of people in prison allocate the reason for their incarceration to a drug cause.

Peter Baume said that Margaret Thatcher opened the world’s first national needle syringe program, in Britain. In Sydney, the Wayside Chapel hosted the country’s first supervised injecting room starting in May 1999 as an act of civil disobedience. Ray Richmond was the pastor at the time. Ingrid van Beek (who is Geoff Gallop’s wife and who founded Australia's first state-sponsored medically-supervised injecting room, in Kings Cross) told the room that the Wayside Chapel facility became politicised in the runup to the 1999 state election. The 1999 NSW Drug Summit that was held at Parliament House over five days in May led to the opening of a medically-supervised injecting room in Sydney.

Van Beek said she hoped that evidence is what informs political decisions but admitted that recently in Victoria it had been deaths that had driven change. She recalled that in 1996 and 1997 Bob Carr visited the Kirketon Road Centre in Kings Cross where they had a syringe program for drug users but that he had said that would initially only set up a medically-supervised injecting room as a trial. The trial status was lifted eventually.

“Politicians will only act on these issues when the public is miles ahead of them,” Searle told the room.

When Boney introduced Campbell, she told the room that 64 percent of all Americans want recreational cannabis legalised.

Campbell first came to power in politics with the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE party) in the 2002 Vancouver municipal election. In 2003 a medically-supervised injecting room called Insite opened in Vancouver. He had worked with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and had seen what poor drug policies had done on the streets. He said that they had a higher rate of deaths in Vancouver than in New York City. He recalled for the room that there had been a group called the Vancouver Area Network of Dug Users in which poet Bud Osborn was involved. He had a talk one day with Osborn at a street corner. Osborn said, “We need a supervised injection centre,” he recalled. But the group had already operated a supervised injection centre for some time illegally. Campbell went there one night. He said that if someone overdosed they would put them out in back alley and phone the ambulance, then close the door and go back inside. Campbell recalled talking about the drug problem with Philip Owen, the mayor of Vancouver, one of whose major goals had been to open a medically-supervised injecting centre. They hosted 700 injections per day and had no deaths.

Now, at the federal level in Canada, the government has appointed Jane Philpot, a doctor, to be the health minister. Now, he went on, Canada is operating 22 injecting rooms. “They’re there as a health initiative,” he said. “I smoke and nobody’s hassling me, nobody’s threatening to put me in jail.” Next year Canada will be legalising marijuana. In the debates, he said, now the biggest issue for the politicians to discuss is how tall the marijuana plant is going to be. “The citizens are always ahead of the politicians,” he said. And he encouraged the people in the room to continue pushing. “You have to keep that pressure up.” A supervised injecting centre “is just a tool in the drawer”, he said. “We need treatment on demand. We need to educate children on what drugs are.” “It’s all about money. We have to put names and faces to the people we’re serving.”

Richard Di Natale got up to speak next. He said criminalisation of drug use was a great injustice that needs to be redressed. People might smoke a joint on the weekend, he said, or they might take a pill before they go out. He recalled that in 2009 Professor David Nutt, the head of the UK government's drug advisory body, compared the risks of horse-riding to taking ecstasy and lost his job. “We have policies in place that actively harm people.”

“The Greens are in support of removing criminal penalties for drug use,” he went on. “Sniffer dogs force young people to take drugs in ways that are dangerous,” he said. “We need prescription heroin trials.” He said that criminalisation diverts resources away from helping people but that the conversation in Australia is changing quickly.

Baume said, “My beliefs on drugs never hurt me within my party that I knew of.” He added, “We favour regulation of the illegal drug market and that’s a better option than what we’ve got at present.”



Above: Canadian Senator Larry Campbell addresses the room at the Wayside Chapel.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Launch of Housing Supply Association

The NSW planning and environment minister, Anthony Roberts, launched the Housing Supply Association on 26 July 2017 in Pyrmont. This is part of what he told the room. Note how he creates a matrix of narratives that interweaves the most pressing reality of housing - that it is prohibitively expensive for many people - with other issues, such as regulation and demographics. It's a bit of a dance: two steps forward, one step back. 

Roberts was on the TV in the past few days saying that inclusionary zoning targets of five or 10 percent per development would not work because it would push up the price of units not included in any scheme. So he's not completely come on-board to back the release of more affordable housing. The message is mixed. But the following address at least shows that he's aware of the issue. The HSA is a trade body for developers.

When it comes to holistically addressing the issue of housing supply and affordability, I firmly believe that the [Housing Supply Association] will have a great deal to offer. We now have, for the first time ever, a purpose-led organisation representing industry leaders that are working hand-in-hand with those seeking greater affordable housing in government to contribute to a best-practice public policy as well as improved planning outcomes. Most importantly, the HSA, in conjunction with its members, will now have the ability to have direct intervention on the supply and cost of housing issues, breaking down the barriers for those who want to purchase their own home but can’t afford it in the current marketplace.

And these are crucial issues impacting our state, and particularly Sydney. And I appreciate the opportunity to let you know that the NSW government and what we’re doing in that space. As you all know, our state and its capital are in high demand as a place to call home. We have good amenity, wonderful liveability, and a strong economy. So, it’s therefore not surprising that our population is growing and demand for housing is strong. In fact, you could argue that we are indeed a victim of our own success. We are now an international city. And we have all those issues that an international city faces around housing affordability. And let me make it quite clear, that while Melbourne continues to compete with Wellington and Auckland and Dubbo and Adelaide, Sydney will continue to compete with Paris, New York, Singapore and London.

We’re now expecting to see an increase of some 2.1 million people over the next 20 years. The population of Sydney is projected to grow to more than 6.4 million people in that time, which is an increase of almost 1.8 million people from last year. More than half of this growth, of course, is going to occur in Western Sydney. This means we need some 900,000 more homes across NSW, 725,000 of those in Sydney alone. To add to the demand created by population growth, new residential construction between 2006 and 2011 unfortunately remained at incredibly low levels. The result of that sustained low level of construction, when Bob Carr said Sydney was full, is that there is now pent-up demand for an additional 100,000 homes in Sydney.

The government knows that we can’t afford to resign ourselves to business-as-usual, and that’s why we’re been doing everything to ramp up supply across NSW and particularly in Sydney. In response to current demand and the massive demand expected in the future, the government is delivering records numbers of new homes Across the state. And we’re doing this by reforming the planning system, and I again want to pay tribute to [Carolyn] McNally [Secretary, NSW Planning and Environment] here today. And we’re introducing new programs.

And throughout it all we’re continuing to keep our state economy strong. And indeed 90 percent of this nation’s growth is coming from NSW. And that doesn’t just happen by good luck. That happens when you have a premier and a government that is working hard to ensure that we get the books right, we recycle our assets, and we ensure that we continue to drive good public policy. If this state – I must say, all politics aside – but the fact is, if we had Labor running this state, as they have been doing in Queensland and Victoria, this entire nation would be in recession. So, you have a government that is open to ensuring that we have good opportunities for change, we have great opportunities for developing new business and jobs. And particularly the development of new homes.

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But supply, can I say, is not just about meeting demand, however important that may be. It’s also crucial to easing housing prices. We all know that NSW, and especially Sydney, is in the midst of a housing price boom. Now, while that’s great and we celebrate that for current homeowners, these prices have made it difficult at times for first-home buyers to actually enter the marketplace. And that’s why this government is absolutely committed to making housing affordable so everyone can aspire to enter the marketplace.

The challenge of housing affordability is one that requires both state and federal government responses together with working closely with local government to deliver upon that. But we’re pushing forward, particularly from a state and local level, to help address the challenge by increasing that housing supply. Higher house prices, of course, have been driven by rising land values. And this has been very much the case, particularly in Sydney. So, in response, can I say, as minister, this government is releasing and rezoning more land, and will continue to do so, to create those new communities.

We’re also rebuilding existing suburbs to take advantage of our unprecedented investment in transport infrastructure. And we’re creating 15 new priority precincts across Sydney in areas that are close to transport and close to services. These precincts have been earmarked for growth and for revitalisation. And they’ll provide thousands of more homes, creating vibrant communities supported by that key infrastructure. They will allow for more modern, diverse housing and they’ll boost supply by accelerating the rezoning process. So, this will mean that people of all ages will have a variety of housing to choose from in their chosen communities.

In the next five years, can I say the Department of Planning and Environment forecasts over 184,000 new homes will be completed across Sydney. Now, that’s a 60 percent increase, or some 69,000 new homes completed, compared to the previous five years. So, this is a massive surge in new housing and a welcome one for those looking to make Sydney their permanent home.

As you would know, supply and affordability are totally entwined, and that’s why the NSW government’s new housing affordability packages focus so strongly on supply. Announced on 1 June this year, this comprehensive package seeks to improve housing affordability through a range of measures. As part of the package, the Department of Planning and Environment will establish a specialist team to work with councils to accelerate rezoning applications to assist those in this room to ensure that we deliver more homes for more people. We will also establish an Office of Housing coordinator to resolve any impediments to supply.

We want to hear from industry. We want to hear from people in this room as to what is holding you up doing what you do best, and that is putting rooves over people’s heads. Councils will be able to consider smaller minimum lot sizes when they’re updating their local environment plans. As land value has a significant impact on housing prices, of course small lots will reduce the cost of dwellings. Our medium-density housing code has been developed and that’s going to allow well-designed dual-occupancies, townhouses, manor homes and terraces to be accepted as compliant development. This is directly aimed at bringing more homes at affordable prices into the marketplace, as well as diversifying the types of homes that are available. The greenfield housing code will simplify development standards for one- and two-storey dwellings in greenfield areas. And over $2 billion will be allocated for state infrastructure to accelerate housing in those priority areas. A new premier’s priority on housing affordability will be established with a goal of 61,000 new dwelling completions state-wide on average each year until 2021. And I’ll be leading a housing affordability taskforce to drive the strategy to meet that implementation.

Can I make it quite clear that as a minister, I personally – as well as a government – interested and committed to removing the red tape to ensure quality dwellings get built faster across Sydney and NSW.

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We’re making sure that increased housing supply supports the easing of housing prices. The [Greater Sydney Commission]’s district plans will be finalised and will be released early next year. Those plans will contain affordable rental housing targets and I know these are targets many stakeholders have some views upon. What I want to make clear is that the targets the GSC ends up adopting are a minimum. They will clearly be targets for affordable rental housing for very-low and low income households separate of course to the government’s social housing programs. These are targets that can’t be traded off or substituted for moderate income housing solutions. These need to occur above and beyond those GSC targets.

To facilitate this occurring, my department will soon be releasing for consultation an explanation for intended effect for an updated affordable housing [state environmental planning policy (SEPP)]. The SEPP will consolidate three existing SEPPs and outline a proposed approach to facilitate supply of affordable housing for local workers. It will include measure to improve the operation of bonus provisions for affordable housing for local and key workers.



Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Rowe Street, Sydney CBD

When I visited the Reserve Bank of Australia on Sunday as part of the Sydney Open event (the city opens up buildings to the public each year) the building's curator, John Murphy, mentioned Rowe Street where the MLC Centre is now located, which he said used to be a Bohemian centre for the metropolis.

So I asked the city archives if they had any information on the street and they sent me a small map showing how the street used to look before the new construction (the Harry Seidler building) in the 1970s. People will be aware that the Theatre Royal is now located in the MLC Centre, as is the Commercial Traveller's Association (which used to have its own building on the corner of Castlereagh Street and Martin Place).

I think that Rowe Street might make material for a new series of blogposts once I have finished with the current series on brutalist buildings in Sydney.



Monday, 6 November 2017

Views from the top of the AMP Building

Yesterday I wrote about the Reserve Bank of Australia building, which was completed in 1965 to house the new organisation. But I also visited the AMP Building at Circular Quay in the afternoon and went up to the observation deck at the top of the building. The 1962 building is on the state heritage list (it was Sydney's first skyscraper), and has to be conserved, but the even larger 1976 building behind it, at 50 Bridge Street, will be demolished to make way for a new structure.

I went to see the newly-completed 200 George Street on Friday as part of a gig I was doing for the Urban Land Institute and heard an AMP employee talk about the new building that will be built at 50 Bridge Street. He was talking about Circular Quay being abandoned on weekends, and about "activation" of the area through development. There was a lot of talk about the movement of people through the podium of the new structure, and retail space to be completed, but I think it's a shame to lose something that has stood for such a long time and that is still perfectly functional. Although not quite long enough, it seems.


Above: Looking northeast from the top of the AMP Building, you can see all the way to the Heads and Watsons Bay.


Above: Looking north from the building you can see North Sydney and Chatswood further out.



Above two photos: The building was constructed in the international style.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A tour of the Reserve Bank of Australia

“Planned for progress,” boasts the PR video made for the launch of the Reserve Bank of Australia building, at 65 Martin Place. The building was designed by the government architect through the NSW Department of Public Works.

To develop their ideas for the building, the architects visited New York where they saw the Seagram Building, designed by Mies van der Rohe, and which incorporated ideas out of the Bauhaus in Weimar Germany. The Bauhaus was founded by visionary Walter Gropius with the aim of creating culture from the same otherwise destructive technologies that had led to WWI. The school prized undecorated simplicity. The Bauhaus teachers moved to the US and taught, spreading their aesthetic after the Nazis, who didn’t like their style, shut them down at home.

The construction of the RBA building was presaged by the passing of an Act of Parliament in 1959, but Nugget Coombs, who was the RBA’s first governor and had been the governor of its predecessor, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, started buying modern art for its collection earlier. The RBA collection has a Grace Cossington Smith interior purchased in 1955, even before the painter had achieved the fame that was to accrue to her in later years.

Coombs believed that culture was a potent means of communicating certain ideas to the public. He started the RBA’s national collection of paintings, which has around 700 pieces in it, and many are found on floor 11 of the building, which is where the conference room that is used for the RBA’s monthly meeting is located. Today, floor 11 was open to the public and I ventured up through the marble-lined hallways to see it. John Murphy, the RBA’s curator, took us through the rooms.

There is a Brett Whiteley painting of a lyrebird, a Sidney Nolan painting of a man on a camel, and two Clifton Pughs, including one showing a lizard eating a butterfly.

The new building had 375,000 feet of gross floor area. Construction involved the installation of 110,000 sq ft of Australian marble and granite. For the outside – again, borrowing an idea from the Seagram Building, which had a Juan Miro sculpture outside it installed on a plaza – a competition was hosted for a piece of freestanding sculpture. It was won by sculptor Margel Hinder, an American immigrant. Hinder was frequently asked what her design represented and she always replied that it was purely abstract.

Lyndon Dadswell was the runner-up. Bim Hilder (son of the artist JJ Hilder) designed the abstract forms in the vestibule. Gordon Andrews designed the bank’s logo, and it also was designed to be purely abstract. Fred Ward designed the furniture used in the bank, on commission.

The building was finished in 1965. It has a transparent curtain wall on the façade facing Martin Place. Coombs wanted a contemporary building in the international style and the RBA was designed to be free of any reference to previous styles. Coombs wanted the bank to be open to what was happening in the community. It was seen at the time as part of Modernism. Coombs thought the bank’s appearance reflected its role. When he retired, the RBA’s staff gave him a Leonard French painting. Collecting of art by the bank unfortunately stopped in 1975.

The bank’s public messages around ideas of Modernism entered into the clash within the artistic community between figurative and abstract styles, which centred on the Antipodeans.

The original central bank – the Commonwealth Bank of Issue, Deposit, Exchange and Reserve – was established by the Australian Labor Party In 1912. In 1910, The Australian Notes Act had passed through Parliament, enabling the issue of the country’s first banknotes. Before that, notes issued by private banks were legal tender. Australia in those early days adhered to the gold standard, which meant that all banks had to hold enough gold in their vaults so that people could redeem the value on the face of the banknotes they gave out, for gold if they wanted.

The Commonwealth Bank was opened in 1916, and it was a major event. The bosses on the facade of the building have the coats of arms of the Australian states. The war was on, and by 1915 England had called on Australia for funding for the war effort, which was its first job as the central bank. 250 million pounds were raised, 50 million more than were asked for.

The first notes were 10 shillings (showing a depiction of water), 1 pound (mining), 5 pounds (fishing), 10 pounds (wheat), 20 pounds (timber), 100 pounds (waterfalls on the Yarra River and at Leura), and 50 and 1000 pounds (wool).

There was another notes issue in 1923/24 then another in 1933, when manufacturing appeared for the first time, on the 10 shilling note.

Gordon Andrews also did the design for the new currency that was issued in 1966, when the country went metric. There is, for example, an abstract representation of flight on the original $20 note.



Above: A crowd assembles outside the Commonwealth Bank of Australia on the bank's opening in 1916.



Above two images: Scenes from a PR video produced to mark the opening of the RBA building in 1965.


Above: A watercolour showing the RBA board room.


The RBA's foyer wall design designed by Bim Hilder. It articulates the bank's logo, which was designed by Gordon Andrews.


Above: The runner-up in the RBA's sculpture competition, by Lyndon Dadswell.


Above: The freestanding sculpture outside the RBA, designed by Margel Hinder.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

A registered Republican who thinks trade unions are good

This talk by American investigative journalist David Cay Johnston was compered by Australian investigative journalist Michael West, who is an associate professor at the University of Sydney. The talk was part of the Sydney Ideas series. Before the talk started West introduced the Dark Money project that is being conducted by the Sydney Democracy Network, which is examining corporatocracy. West said that he and Cay Johnston had a common interest in multinational tax avoidance. But he also pointed out that revenues for journalism were falling by five or 10 percent a year.

This was Cay Johnston’s first time in Australia. He said the average income of the bottom half of Americans is $300 per week. He also said that the average income of the bottom half of the population is $40,000 per year. Why are 90 percent of Americans’ incomes flat? he asked. There has been 0.5 cents growth in wages per year since 1961. In 1961, he said, 400 people made $1 million per year. That figure has skyrocketed. Donald Trump is the symptom not the disease.

He said that he had found a major social trend affecting the world and he saw it in the rise of Narendra Modi in India and Christian fundamentalists in the US. People, he said, are unable to adapt to the explosion of knowledge in the modern age. Things are moving faster than they ever have before. This is leading to an attack on democracy. Putin, he noted, says that democracy is a joke, and is working to undermine the democracies of Europe and the US. He added that 24 percent of millennials in the US do not believe in democracy. There is, he went on, less participation in civic activity than there used to be. But there is also an attack from another sector.

Corporations are soulless, eternal and amoral. The Romans created corporations to hold communal property and manage it. But we need rules to govern them. Being a person, you need to share in supporting the needs and burdens of being a society. Corporations have figured out how to shirk their responsibility. They make a profit out of the income tax system. He also talked about the time value of money. You buy stock that don’t pay dividends, and bonds that don’t pay tax. Apple has a quarter of trillion dollars in interest free loans from the government, he said. Wealth is more concentrated now than it was 30 40 years ago. If you have a surplus, it snowballs.

We tax capital at a lower rate than labour, Cay Johnston went on. Andrew Mellon published a book about taxes in 1924 titled ‘Taxation: The People's Business’. Mellon wrote that capital should be taxed higher than labour. If you have capital it keeps earning. Cay Johnston said that taxes are not just the basis for civilisation, he went further and affirmed that taxes are civilisation, echoing historical conservative Edmund Burke who said the revenue of the state is the state. Cay Johnston recounted the story about mud in the Delaware River that led to the writing of the US Constitution.

Today, he said, US democracy is in deep trouble. Commercial sports, he said, consume the lives of ordinary people and they don’t want anything to do with politics. They say, “You can’t beat city hall.” He also aimed a finger at advertising. Advertising, he said, is designed to get us to think about things other than civics. Journalism, he went on, is the only business where you get paid to tell the truth. The problem, he said, is the rise of a set of values that favour capitalism. People thoughtlessly make a connection between wealth and character which, he said, is absurd. And we are constantly being barraged with this message, as advertising gets you to think about what the advertisers want you to think about. He said that money is distorting our human values.

Cay Johnston said that the founding fathers were concerned that extreme inequality would bring down the country. Without taxes you will see your liberties washed away. Rules are one step in the process, he went on, but you also need a culture of enforcement. Culture and norms matter. Pope Francis says there is no economic justice without trade unions. In responding to one question, he also pointed to “binary economics” and the ideas of Louis Kelso. He furthermore touched on a basic universal income when answering another question.


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Brutalism seven: St Andrew's House

This is the seventh in a series of blogposts about brutalist buildings in Sydney.

In 1972, the Church of England’s Sydney Diocese asked architects Noel Bell Ridley Smith based in North Sydney to design a new school and office building on land behind St Andrew’s Cathedral in the heart of the city.

Its Glebe Administration Board and structural engineers Miller, Milson and Ferris, consulting engineers Addicoat Hogarth Wilson, and property consultants Jones, Lang, Wootton worked with the architects to design the building and secure development approval from the council’s City Planning and Building Department, the State Planning Authority of New South Wales, and the Public Transport Commission of New South Wales.

Preparation for construction included subdividing the site into two lots.


The image above shows a small map drawn by the State Planning Authority of New South Wales rendering in ink the city block bounded by George Street in the east, Druitt Street in the north, Kent Street in the west, and Bathurst Street in the south, on which both the Town Hall and St Andrews Cathedral sit. It should also be noted here that Town Hall House – the city’s new headquarters, designed to bring together employees previously scattered around the city in different buildings – was completed in 1975, at the time the church structure was completed. So, the entire block was undergoing a massive civic renewal. The drawing was compiled from information in the City of Sydney Planning Scheme in June 1972, at the start of this project, and was approved by the state’s chief cartographer.


Above: The site from the air prior to demolition. This picture, looking southwest, shows the small precentor’s house on the corner of Bathurst and Kent Street. “Now that little house was the precentor’s home,” Florence Smith, the architect’s widow, told me when I visited her in October. “The cathedral had what’s called a precentor and he and his family lived in there, and actually the girls from that went to school with me in SCEGGS Darlinghurst.”


Above: The same site from the air looking east.


Above: The Chapter House on George Street, which was demolished to make way for Sydney Square.


Above: The new building on the corner of Kent and Bathurst Streets that had been built a few years before being demolished to make way for St Andrews House. Smith told me that this building “only lasted a few years” before being pulled down.

A building application form went to the council in May 1973 for the 3075-square-metre site. The form specifies a floor area of 41,252 square metres on 10 storeys, including three car parking levels, as well as a landscaped square. The structure would also provide access via an underground arcade, housing 6215 square metres of rentable area, leading to Town Hall Station.

The construction was estimated to cost $8,535,000.


Above: The construction site from a vantage point looking south.


Above: Concrete beams being put in place on the construction site. 

“They were the first of the sort of concrete beams of that particular kind in Sydney,” Smith told me. “And they had to be put up very early in the morning. And my husband got a phone call from the cathedral, ‘We are having a service at the moment and they’re making a noise out there!’ 

“So my husband got in the car with my oldest son and there was no traffic on the Pacific Highway, and he went ‘zoom!’ The only car on the highway. And the police came and said, “You’re speeding. Why are you speeding?” “Well I’m going to St Andrew’s Cathedral.” “Oh, really?” And then my son pipes up and says, ‘Dad was not speeding!’”


Above: The construction site as the building takes shape.

The new building, to be built at 464/480 Kent Street, would accommodate St Andrews Cathedral School, including classrooms for 490 boys. This would have a recreation area on the roof, and a gymnasium with an equipment storeroom and change rooms. The school would include a choir room, practice rooms, a choir classroom, and an office for the choir master.

The building would also comprise St Andrews House, which would contain over 17,500 square metres of floor space to be let to commercial tenants, including the Sydney Diocese, for offices.

Air supply for the building would involve heating in winter and cooling in summer to maintain a minimum temperature in the space of 21 degrees C.

The architects worked with the council’s building office, which was at the time housed in the Queen Victoria Building, to design the forecourt so that it would blend seamlessly (without the need for steps, so that people with mobility issues could easily access the building) with the square next to Town Hall, and with George Street. The steps from Bathurst Street were designed to run the length of the forecourt, also to facilitate public access.

The building, built using exposed insitu concrete and precast concrete, was opened in 1975. Near George Street on the square there is a plaque which calls the square “Sydney Square”. The plaque says that the space was opened in September 1976. It has the name of the then-Lord Mayor, Leo Port, and that of the then-Archbishop of Sydney, M.L. Loane. But in one of the documents in the council archives, which I consulted for the purpose of writing this blogpost, reference is made to “Civic Square”.


In his review of the square, Professor John Haskell – who then taught at the University of New South Wales – compared it with Italy’s piazze, looking back in time to find places to compare it to. 
Within the comparatively short time span of European settlement in Australia, Sydney square meets these criteria. The idea of a square hereabouts was mooted by Francis Greenaway in the 1820s, and a century and a half later the square, although different from Greenaway’s concept, is a reality. 
It combines a wide diversity of functions – Town Hall, Cathedral, school, offices and shops and is a busy transport interchange. 
Finally, the juxtaposition of the Gothic revival of St Andrews Cathedral with the splendid Victorian eclecticism of the Town Hall, set against the distinguished modernism of the Diocesan Offices and School (architects [Noel] Bell Ridley Smith) and the Town Hall Tower (architect Ken Woolley) creates welcome visual stimulation.  
But of course, the success of Sydney Square lies not merely in responding to these, but in the particular way it has been designed. In this, Sydney Square exhibits great distinction. 
The space between the Cathedral and the Town Hall is handled very skilfully, with its secondary space giving access to Bathurst Street down a wide flight of steps.  
Entry to the underground railway station is well organised, by way of a sunken shopping arcade and tree-covered court. Indeed, the changes of level and use of monumental steps are some of the chief delights of the scheme, none more ably handled than the access from Kent Street between the Town hall office tower and the Diocesan Offices and School.
In his study of Sydney brutalism, architect Glenn Harper refers to an “ambitious” town plan published in 1971 by the city council, The Sydney Strategic Plan. Under the plan, “the CBD was now conceived as a series of pedestrian focused spaces,” Harper writes. 

“Within Sydney Square (1976) large exposed aggregate precast concrete paving units (3.7m x 2.4m) were set on the diagonal to spatially unify and define a new meeting place between Sydney Town Hall, St Andrews Cathedral, Town Hall House (1975) and St Andrews Cathedral School (1975).

“With floor space bonuses being offered under the Strategic Plan a collection of new plazas were introduced to frame new tall commercial office developments on amalgamated sites.”


Above: This photo of St Andrews House was taken immediately after construction was completed.

“The general population when I spoke to them just said, ‘It’s modern,'” Smith told me. “Because it was so different to what had appeared before. You know, you had your Art Deco in the 30s: you had your Edwardian, and your Federation, and your Arts and Crafts, and then you had your Art Deco, which – to me, I grew up in Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay, so I had Art Deco around me all that time - and I still tend to go towards Art Deco. And then post-war it was just ugly little brick houses and things because of lack of materials, and people coming back from the war and all that, and not [having] enough money. So things went up that weren’t marvellous, which have mostly been pulled down now.”

Smith told me she used to work for the City Council.

“Like, when I was working at the Town Hall and walking down George Street to get something at lunchtime … All your buildings, you know, like Nock and Kirby’s and all those places they were six-storey buildings up like that, you see. And they were all the same sort of style, late-30s or 20s or 40s or whatever. This came as such a contrast.

“You’ve got the three buildings and the electricity building and the Town Hall building and all that and then the little cottage at the end for the precenter, where he and his family lived – with a little wooden balcony at the front of it, tiny little place, which was 1800-something – so all that of course came down for one building. So, the scale. The scale was what hit you in the eye, because everything else was like here,” she said pointing to a building in one of the photographs in front of us on the table, “and then suddenly you see these beams going across and they hit you in the eye. And the sun on them and you go, ‘Ooh!’ They’re huge compared to the other [buildings]. 

"Buildings were basically a browny-colour. Red brick. So the whole of Sydney was red brick, and suddenly you get this cream type of thing.”

In 1992, the school opened a new campus – the Bishop Barry Senior College – for students in years 10 to 12 at 51 Druitt Street. In 2000, the school acquired levels 6,7 and 8 of St Andrews House from the church, and in 2012 it acquired level 5.

Ridley Smith, one of the partners in the firm that designed the building, died in 2013. In his obituary, it says that he worked on many churches in New South Wales as architect. David Claydon published a book about Florence and Ridley Smith in 2014 titled ‘Unafraid of Beauty’; Claydon has headed the Church Missionary Society of Australia and also Scripture Union in Australia, the South Pacific and East Asia.

Smith told me she regrets the way older buildings are easily demolished to make way for new structures.
And this is what I was saying before, that students in the future doing architecture will say, “Well, where’s an example?” Like, when my husband was going through Sydney Uni they had examples everywhere of different eras of architecture up til that point. So, the professor would just say, “Well, go to such-and-such a suburb, [and] you’ll see it.” Or, “Go to Haberfield and see what Richardson and Wrench did in Haberfield.” And of course, apparently a lot of those are coming down now because of the freeway. And they were a certain type of architecture. In Burwood you’ve got the Appian Way, which is curved, and that’s heritage listed, you can’t do anything to it. And I thought that Haberfield was heritage listed but, no, the [WestConnex] is going through and that’s it.  
I suppose I’m old enough to sort of think, “Yes, we’re losing my era.” Because it’s being destroyed by it all being pulled down and [then] put up all this modern stuff. But what is the word ‘modern’? See, on Saturdays, on Foxtel channel, they have real estate, selling places. And they’ll say, “This is modern. This is modern.” And I think to myself, “In the 50s we were all saying, ‘That’s modern’.” You see, so you’re using that same word all the time through but each generation of kids growing up think, “Oh, this is modern and nothing else has been modern.” But it’s been all modern all the way through.
Smith recalled the housing firm Pettit & Sevitt from the middle of last century, who were the first firm to sell homes based on models that you could visit and see constructed on lots.
Pettit & Sevitt were the first ones who did it and they were very, very modern. And I remember Ridley and I going with his parents to have a look at a place on Carlingford Road. And they got out of the car and said, “Well, that’s not a house!” And Ridley said, “Well, that’s the way it’s going these days. That’s how we’re going to build houses.” And they walked in and they said, “This is terrible! This isn’t a house!” because to them, being so much older, they couldn’t … The concept of something new like that they couldn’t do it. And so when we built our first house in Warrawee it was very, very modern [for] that era. You know, cathedral ceilings and windows everywhere. 
And our house in Warrawee, my mother-in-law she couldn’t take it. She said, “Why is this lounge-room so big and sectionalised?” And I said, “Well, I teach music so that’s up that end, and then you can sit here with the fireplace here.” You know, [a] modern sort of fireplace going up. And all that sort of thing. So, the word ‘modern’, the concept in your brain, it depends on where you’ve grown up.
Smith worked on the Sydney Opera House in the quantity surveyor’s office doing calculations:

“We were on the floor because the drawings were so big. You know, we had our comptometers here” indicating to her right, “And you did calculations on them, like a computer, yeah.”

But she said that the building represented a huge change for Australia aesthetically at the time because of the way things had been done previously. “You see, the Opera House also, let’s face it, was so … Because of the British background … “ We talked about the emigres from Europe who had brought Modernism to Australia. She added, “in the 50s and 60s we were still terribly, terribly Anglo-Saxon.” She told me she had once gone to Dick Dusseldorp’s house with her husband:
I remember going to their house out in Castlecrag, because he got Ridley to get a fountain specialist to design a fountain for him. And that was a very modern home. See he came from Holland. He was Dutch. And he came with all sorts of new ideas.
I mentioned that Dusseldorp had been a project manager on the Snowy River Scheme.
Yes. That’s it, you see, you’re right. You see, ‘project manager’, that was a new thing. “Project manager?” And architects were saying, “Well, we manage it. Why do we need a project manager?” And you often had clashes between the two and you still do actually. But you see he brought his ideas from Holland with him. So that’s a richness of culture coming into the country.
On the website of St Andrews Cathedral School, it says that the new building was the school’s ninth building. At the time it was constructed, the school had around 380 boys enrolled.

Glenn Harper was awarded the Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship in 2015. He used the time this bequest allowed him, to write and document The_Brutalist_Project_Sydney, which includes an Instagram feed.




Above: The entrance to the school.


Above: The entrance at the corner of Kent and Bathurst Streets leading to the underground shopping arcade that goes to the train station.