Australian firm CplusC Architectural Workshop has released a radical proposal to reinvigorate the demolition-threatened Sirius building in Sydney. Their design features a Tetris-like addition to the famous brutalist social housing structure that is strikingly similar to Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 in Montreal.
Like Habitat 67, Sirius is a model community and housing complex that changed the way the city viewed development in Sydney’s Rocks district in the 1970s and 80s. Though it sparked controversy upon completion, Sirius stands today as a symbol of strength and inclusion in the city.
The existing Sirius Building; via ArchitectureAU
Designed by government architect Tao Gofers for the North Street Wales (NSW) Housing Commission in 1978, the Sirius building is the only high-rise development in the neighborhood, offering exclusive views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The modular structure was inspired by the Japanese metabolist movement and consists of 79 residential concrete cubes in a stacked-box formation. CplusC’s proposal adds a series of towers also featuring staggered blocks and terraces to the iconic complex.
“Immersed not only in greenery throughout all living spaces,” the studio said, “the pods branch off the current vertical circulation cores, providing a practical link between old and new.”
Renderings of CplusC’s proposed addition
In a blog post last September titled “Let’s get Sirius about heritage,” CplusC urged the community to support the Save Our Sirius Foundation (SOS), which raised funds to challenge a former ruling that denied the building a spot on the State Heritage Register — something that would permanently protect it from being demolished. Mark Speakman, NSW Heritage Minister, instead proposed that the site be sold and redeveloped for financial gain. This plan is part of a wider goal to sell off public housing throughout the nearby Miller Point neighborhood, which some argue may marginalize the city’s low-income residents as well as impinge on the other architectural gems in the area — including the iconic Opera House.
The SOS preservation campaign is backed by Sydney’s Mayor Clover Moore as well as Australian Institute of Architects President Ken Maher and has incited a ban on unionized workforces and public protests. Last September, over 1,500 architects and people gathered in opposition to the ruling. “Architects have a reputation for many things, but demonstrating in the streets isn’t typically one of them,” said CplusC in the post, “It’s a sign that something pretty significant is happening.”
A visualization of LAVA's proposal; image © LAVA
CplusC isn’t the only firm to produce an alternative design for the Sirius building. In 2015, LAVA released conceptual drawings of Sirius that included upgrading amenities and adding a “clip-on” curved balcony to each apartment in an attempt to improve the relationship between the brutalist building and the sophisticated landscape of the harbor. Gofers himself was pleased with the idea. While LAVA’s design is an improvement, it’s much more subdued than that of CplusC and doesn’t add any more residences to the complex.
Some may argue that latest proposal by CplusC is over the top, unbuildable and that it overwhelms the original structure. But to convince people that a building shouldn’t be demolished, a new vision of what is possible must be drawn out. “The Sirius project is equal parts provocation and conceptual catalyst,” the architects told Dezeen, “a spur to shift thinking and engage with place-making on a new and larger scale as much as a practical proposal.”
Renderings of CplusC’s proposal
If a larger development is the goal, why not restore the Sirius to its former glory — paint it white as it was originally intended — and build it out with a complementing piece of sustainable design that respects the neighborhood’s contextual history? Economic diversity, mixed tenure housing and attention to preservation are key components that make landmark communities like The Rocks places of future equity. A respectful yet adventurous extension could work here.
Right now, only two tenants occupy Sirius. With a major revamp in addition to its official listing as a state-protected heritage site, Sirius could be so much more than the eyesore and bankrupt building that many people see it as today. Speakman’s ruling will be challenged by the NSW Land and Environment Court on April 6 and 7.
Tao Gofers will also be giving architectural tours of Sirius from March 11 – 25 during Art Month Sydney.