Getting Inside Sirius

The Phillip Room has been covered in black plastic to stop people seeing it and to stop residents using it.

The common areas of Sirius that have been progressively taken away from the residents and their visitors.  These spaces and how they were used are crucial to understanding how Sirius became a successful high-rise public housing estate. The common areas were where residents interacted and formed a close-knit community. The interiors of Sirius are now mostly concealed from view. Here is what the NSW Government does not want you to see…

The Phillip Room is the major common room in Sirius. It is accessed through glass doors from the entry foyer, and it opens out to a courtyard on the eastern side. It includes a kitchenette behind wooden paneling, and above it is the library.

The library was designed as a quiet space for residents and their guests.

The Heritage Room on the eighth floor was set aside for older residents and their guests. Entirely covering two walls of the Heritage Room is a fabulous panorama of Sydney. The photo dates from 1976 and is now an important heritage item in its own right. Centrepoint had just been completed at the time it was taken, and in the bottom right-hand corner are some of the terraces of The Rocks that have since disappeared.

Turning to the east, there is a wonderful view over the harbour from the Heritage Room, and glass doors on its northern side open to a rooftop garden.

There are rooftop gardens on almost every level of Sirius. The rooftop garden below is on the eighth floor and is accessed from the Heritage Room.

Many of the higher units have balconies, and most of those on the ground floor have private courtyards that flow into the larger public courtyards on both sides of the building.

The interiors of Sirius included great attention to detail. The shapes of the external window surrounds, the concrete modules that were craned into place, are echoed in details throughout the building, from the typeface used for signage throughout the building, including the street numbers, to the original Hycraft carpet which survives throughout the building, and to the shape of the timbered ceiling inside the Phillip Room.

Below are two display units from 1980 – a two-bedroom unit…

and a studio apartment…

Before Sirius was shrouded in plastic, these photos of residents inside their apartments were taken.

Elizabeth Farrelley was one of the last people to see inside Sirius. In her column the same week she wrote:

“The Sirius building itself you may or may not like. I do, although as much for its crazy-sweet purpose as its architecture. Sydney is such a glass-hearted, venal kinda town. For it to snuggle the poor so close seems a move of such perverse kindness it’s hard not to love. And hard not to despise any government that single out those sweet spots for traduction.” (See the full article here.)

Tim Ross (Rosso) is inviting you to join him at Sirius on Friday 31 March:

“I’ve always believed that the best way to save it is to get people close to it and over the last month the architect Tao Gofers has led over 1000 people on his walking tours around the building. The Department has responded by blacking out the windows so people can’t see in (yes petty I know). We would like to continue to celebrate the building and get people up in its grill so to speak. I invite you to join us for drinks at Sirius this Friday night from 5pm. No placards or chants, this is just people being social in a place that is owned by the people. If you are in Sydney I hope you can make it. Yes, it’s Australia, we will have snags in bread.”

The last time Tim Ross was at Sirius it was for the sell-out performance of Man About the Sirius Apartments.

Throughout March the Sirius Foundation has been running tours of Sirius by its architect Tao Gofers. More than 1000 people have signed up to see one of Sydney’s most loved buildings, or to draw Myra in one of the studio sessions. FACS and the government have been obstructive. The studio sessions were scheduled for the Phillip Room, the common room in Sirius that is part of Myra’s home, but at the last minute her access to the Phillip Room was revoked. We transferred the studio sessions to the front courtyard of Sirius, which FACS and the government cannot lock off, and took people inside Sirius to visit Myra in her apartment. By the end of the sessions Myra was worn out, but she loves meeting people so her spirits remain high.

The NSW Government has responded to the success of the tours by covering the interiors in black plastic and locking residents out of all common rooms and rooftop gardens. Now the only way to see the interiors is in photos like the ones above.

Tao’s tours were restricted to the exterior of the building except for a brief visit to the foyer from where small groups were invited to visit Myra in her unit. Myra and Cherie, the only remaining residents of Sirius, supported and welcomed the tour groups who enjoyed a glimpse inside Sirius.

When visitors are confronted by ten uniformed security officers inside the main building of Sirius, they know they should feel intimidated. When services to Sirius and areas within it are being closed off, residents feel they are being bullied by the government and its agents. The Save Millers Point Facebook page reported:

‘Peter Anderson is the senior bureaucrat responsible for the welfare of Myra and the other vulnerable residents. He is making it impossible for Myra to live in her home. The hot water in Sirius has been turned off for a week and she is being denied access to the common areas of Sirius that are part of her home. She is being evicted an inch at a time.

‘Today a group of people visited Myra to draw her in her common room. The common room used to be freely available, but now Housing requires residents to submit an application before using it. Peter Anderson takes up the story:

‘“Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) as owners of the Sirius building were approached by Mr Dunn, on behalf of Myra to hold sketching sessions of Myra for 2 days being 11 and 25 March 2017. LAHC agreed to this request on 15 February 2017.”

‘Just before the first studio session, Peter Anderson wrote “postpone access to the Philip Room for the purpose of the sketching sessions” but advised, “LAHC will now work with Mr Dunn and Myra to arrange a suitable future time for the sketching sessions.”

‘A few days ago the Philip Room was shrouded in black plastic. It now looks unlikely that Peter Anderson will propose new dates for Myra’s studio sessions inside the Phillip Room.’

8 Responses to Getting Inside Sirius

  1. Hugh Piper 28 March 2017 at 8:38 pm #

    NSW government housing department is aggressive -and basically ignorant . Time for the new premier to pay tribute to those who have gone before. Like her parents. Save Sirius – it is an important part of Sydney’s developer dominated history. Symbollically and architecturally it is very significant and important.Melbourne loves it’s history and preserves it – Sydney has always been so slack and remiss in this area- wake up – have some dignity not a developers whore.Brutaliasm is a school of architecture not a crime – much of it is wonderful – and this is one great example – and it is so deeply entrenched symbolically in our modern history.

    • John Dunn 29 March 2017 at 9:16 am #

      This morning on ABC 702 radio, Pru Goward continued to peddle misinformation when asked about the government’s sale of Sirius, saying that each property sold in the area would provide funds for building five public housing properties elsewhere. Shaun Carter said since he works in the industry, he estimates the value of Sirius is $60 million and he cannot see how this amount would be enough to build 400 new homes. The Sirius Foundation has solutions that would deliver $60 million to the government, retain half the units in Sirius for social and affordable housing, save the Millers Point community from total destruction, save a significant heritage building, and provide an environmentally and socially responsible solution. Pru Goward has so far refused to meet the Sirius Foundation or listen to these solutions, and her department overseen the cutting of electricity and water to the units of remaining residents, the sealing off and hiding from view the common rooms of Sirius (which are part of the homes of the remaining residents), and installing ten security guards inside Sirius to intimidate the ten visitors who were allowed to visit Myra in her home at the weekend. This is shameful behaviour.

  2. Mark Marusic 28 March 2017 at 10:28 pm #

    We ready need to save our mid 20th century heritage before it’s too late – a huge part of our history will have very little physical evidence then

  3. Kathryn 29 April 2017 at 9:52 pm #

    John and Margaret,
    Alexei and I have been following this closely in the media and on the web…and all your incredible efforts. We hope you are well, and we hope common sense will prevail and Sirius is saved!
    Kathy & Alexei Mazin

  4. David Emmerson 26 January 2018 at 11:34 pm #

    It’s an iconic building, both in dream and design. It is one of the most fascinating structures on (our) Sydney Harbour and the gardens on the roof attract the eye, to think, to question, to wonder, and to learn. Since the early Eighties, when visiting Sydney on High School excursions, this building, even as a young child, has always connected with my understanding of Australian egalitarianism and caused me to think. Even if I never got to visit the interior (which actually I haven’t yet) that doesn’t matter, because somebody else gets to, and for me, thats part of the point. The building has an intriguing beauty, the roof top greenery is just what should be there, Sydneys greenery, high above the living city. If were to be replaced – what with? Another boring glass and aluminum tower? I find it difficult to understand how the NSW government can not see the cultural value and more than that, the human beauty, evident in this prominent building. I would like to offer my support to all those trying to save the Sirius building, as well as my sincere thoughts for those forced to leave their homes.

  5. Geoff Buah 14 February 2018 at 7:37 pm #

    one word LIBERALS and another DEVELOPERS – The bain of Poor Sydney

  6. Amy Toal 14 May 2021 at 11:15 pm #

    My husband and I grew up in the Rocks and Millers Pt, my husband and his dad were the 3rd tenants to move into the building when it was first built. When they were moved out of “slum housing” around the corner, in Susannah Place (now a living history museum- highlighting 1800’s houses). We both have multi generations living and working in the area, like many other residents. It was the loss of the beautiful community, which resembled that of a small country town- supporting each other through good times and bad, that hurts the most. Not to mention the 8 suicides this sell of caused (how do you relocate a 89 yr old, blind woman, who had never lived in any other suburb- ever) As most of the properties were wharfie housing until it became public housing in the early 1980’s, causing the loss of the 99-yr leases that the older residents had previously held. Which happened just after the libs tried to kick us out back then and failed, during the green bans. Long term planning??

  7. Amy Toal 15 May 2021 at 12:10 am #

    When The Libs tried and failed to sell off the “wharfie/council housing” properties in Millers Point and The Rocks back in the late 70’s- early 80’s (Thanks to the great efforts of the residents, Jack Munday and the Waterside Workers Union etc). So The Libs decided to rebrand the properties into ‘The Housing Commission’, which scared and intimidated residents into signing new leases, under the new brand name. Which in turn, and very conveniently and very quietly replacing the 99yr council leases, which residents had previously held. Public housing properties have rebranded several times since then but this has never required the signing of new leases, under the new brand etc.

    Which leads me to ask… How long has this recent sell off of the public housing been in the planning?

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