Despite an appeal intended to save the building, the Bidura Metropolitan Remand Centre in Sydney’s Glebe is still destined for demolition, this according to a decision handed down by The New South Wales Land and Environment Court.
A long-sustained symbol of brutalist architecture in Australia, the multi-story, white off-form concrete building was designed in the late 1970s by the NSW Government Architect’s Office, led by J.W. (Ian) Thomson. Architects and heritage advocates have campaigned to save the building since 2015, when developer Visual Land Glebe applied for the creation of a building development that would involve the construction of a seven-storey building featuring 73 apartments and nine two-storey dwellings-and the corresponding demolition of the MRC, to make room for the development.
The City of Sydney rejected the application, leading to a court case. In 2018, senior commissioner Susan Dixon found in favour of the developer, saying that the expert advice offered on the building’s heritage status from consultant Paul Davies was “more balanced and objective” that advice offered by council expert Glenn Harper.
The council at that point launched an appeal to that decision, arguing that Dixon had not addressed the difference in viewpoint between the heritage experts and that her preference for Davies’ advice was unreasonable and illogical.
On 26 March, however, chief justice Brian Preston upheld the original decision; saying that the council had failed to establish its grounds for appeal-based on allegations of procedural unfairness and legal errors and delays–and reiterating Dixon’s belief that Harper had argued for the MRC’s retention because he advocated for the listing of the MRC for the Australian Institute of Architects (NSW Chapter) Register of Significant Buildings in NSW and was an expert and media spokesman for the retention of Brutalist architecture.
Sydney mayor Clover Moore, another MRC supporter, expressed her dissatisfaction in the decision via Twitter.