Tao Gofers is the architect who designed the Sirius building, and he now says that the NSW government should have demolished it—just as they, in his view, destroyed the dreams and aspirations of folks who designed, built and resided in Sirius.
They transformed former Housing Commission chairperson Jack Burke’s social experiment into what Gofers regards as a costly but profitable “sham”.
He acknowledges that the original visible concrete was specified to be white cement and whitish river gravel for aggregate so the structure would gleam ivory like the Sydney Opera House. Because of cost restrictions – as it had to cost not exceeding $6 million to construct, which it did – we transformed it to off-white cement and normal aggregate. He agreed to this condition, but now deems it the worst of his career.
He says that this decision has had long-term negative effects. As Sirius turned grey and was misidentified as a brutalist building from 1979, when it was finished, his is a decision with long-lasting consequences, he believes.
The sale price of $35 million for one four-bedroom penthouse unit confounds him, as he assesses that developers should be able to sell all 76 and accrue approximately $200 million profit.
The initial unit make up consisted of 17 pensioner units, 11 one-bedroom units, 38 two-bedroom units, eight three-bedroom and five four-bedroom units. About 76 per cent possessed balconies, roof gardens or courtyards and all accessed a sizable common room on the main entry level.
While he disagrees with the Coalition government’s policy of transporting social housing tenants into outer suburbs, if it had organised the redevelopment, it could have purchased another 400 social housing units, he says based on his knowledge of new construction in suburban and rural areas.
From the renderings and the artist’s impression supplied to the public of the Sirius redevelopment, the developer disregards the two most essential environmental parameters of the site, he believes.
The extreme noise emanating from the Harbour Bridge steel (one of the major justifications for the in situ concrete side walls – to reduce it) and the car smells from the bridge were issues, he acknowledged.
He also says that the alterations suggested ignore the rhythmic aesthetics and add spaces not aligned with the initial design on an ad-hoc basis.
He acknowledges that Millers Point and Sirius constitute only one minor example of the Coalition government’s policy of resumption of standing social home developments and relocating the tenants to outlying regions.
Areas like Waterloo. Woolloomooloo and Telopea are being cleared of social housing tenants so these regions can be sold to private developers.
Ultimately Taos asked, is it Coalition policy to transport all social housing tenants and other low income people from the central council areas to faraway suburbs? If so, he says, this initiates a new social order of economic apartheid.