The city of Sydney has many buildings with relatively modern, distinctive architectural styles such as the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, however heritage style architecture as one of the distinctive features of city.
Many housing developments on the outskirts of Sydney since the 1980s have been constructed by the project home industry. Project homes are also a common option for “knock-down rebuild” porperties in the middle-ring suburbs. Designed for the average family, these homes are typically very large in size, take up a large proportion of available land, and tend to provide more space per person than any other affordable housing type in Sydney’s history. They tend to blend a range of different architectural styles, and offer exterior aesthetics based on a “contemporary”, “classic” or “heritage” look. They can consist of a formal living room, a rumpus room, a formal lounge, 4 or 5 bedrooms, a grand entrance, and often a central staircase. These constructions tend to create a homogeneous neighbourhood.
In inner and middle-ring Sydney suburbs it is very common for homes to be altered rather than knocked down. Evidence of various waves of immigration after 1950 can be seen in the alterations made to some older homes. For example in Roseberry, Greek, Italian and later Middle Eastern migrants made changes to homes which are now deemed unsympathetic to the architectural heritage of the area. These included the construction of columns, balustrades, aluminium windows and cement rendering. More recently it has become commonplace for the front façade of older home to be restored, while the back end of the home is almost entirely opened-up to allow for seamless integration of the outside
Heritage buildings in Sydney generally fall into one of the following categories of architecture: Gothic Revival, Georgian, Classical, Romanesque, Italianate, Federation, Edwardian, French Second Empire, or Queen Anne.
The city of Sydney
A large number of heritage buildings remain in Sydney. In many cases, these buildings are restored and renovated to ensure their continued use. In other cases the facades of heritage building are retained, while more modern buildings are constructed around or behind them. The Town Hall and Macquarie Street precincts are examples of the heritage architecture found in Sydney which has been maintained and restored.
Town Hall precinct
Three landmark heritage buildings are located in the vicinity of Town Hall on George Street - the Queen Victoria Building, Town Hall and St Andrew’s Cathedral. The Queen Victoria Building, built in the 1880s, has been restored to enhance the remaining Victorian features of the building, including restoration of the external sandstone façade and carvings, use of a Victorian-inspired colour theme and tessellated tiles for flooring. In addition, modern shop fronts have been designed to minimise distraction from the original features of the building. Sydney Town, located adjacent to the QVB building, is based on French Second Empire architecture. Begun in 1868, it is built from sandstone sourced from nearby Pyrmont. The architecture includes mansard roofs, wrought iron cresting, a large stepped entrance, and balconies and platforms suitable for public receptions. Recent restoration work has included restoring and cleaning the façade and the clock tower. In some cases this has involved re-carving intricate pieces of sandstone.
Article: Old trade, new look: stonemasons carve town hall a new face.
Watch the Stonemasons in action at Sydney Town Hall.
Next to the Town Hall is St Andrew’s Cathedral. The oldest cathedral in Australia, it was completed by 1868, and was designed based on Gothic Revival architecture. It contains a hammerbeam roof, carved sandstone ribbons and piers, marble and pressed-design tiles, and stained glass windows. In 2000, the cathedral underwent a major restoration. The entire floor of the cathedral was lifted, cleaned and relayed. Any damage tiles were replaced.
Macquarie Street precinct
The Macquarie Street precinct contains a number of early colonial buildings including the Hyde Park Barracks, NSW Parliament House, the Mint, Sydney Hospital, and St James Church. Sydney Grammar School, St Mary’s Cathedral, Government House, the General Post Office, the Great Synagogue, the Strand and Customs House are located nearby. Several of the buildings were designed by architect and convict Francis Greenway between 1818-1822. Each of these buildings has had ongoing restoration work completed.
United Brewery – Central Park Development
In some cases it is not appropriate or cost effective for heritage buildings to be restored, or the previous use may deem much of the building inappropriate for future use. The Central Park Development on Broadway, Sydney, is located on the former site of the Carlton and United Brewery. The Brewery began operation in 1835 as Kent Brewery, and was acquired by Carlton and United in 1983. The brewery ceased operations in 2005. Frasers Property and Sekisui House are jointly developing the site which includes the brewery, along with a large number of buildings and associated structures, and some nearby properties. Some of the industrial buildings will be retained and converted, and some will be demolished. Some items that represent the history of the site will be retained such as signage, and machinery such as beer vats and malting tanks. Two heritage streetscapes have been retained and restored, and terraces, pubs and warehouses nearby have been revitalised for cafes, shops, galleries.
The oldest buildings in Sydney are located in and around Parramatta including Old Government House and Experiment Farm, and Elizabeth Farm in Rosehill.
Terrace houses were a feature of Sydney from the 1830s and are seen in the inner suburbs. They are common in suburbs such as Paddington, The Rocks, Ultimo, Kirribilli, Balmain, Newtown, Bondi Junction, Milsons Point, Forest Lodge, North Sydney, Glebe, Surry Hills, Alexandria, Redfern, Leichhardt, Erskinville and Darlinghurst. Terrace houses were usually constructed in rows, and most commonly were two stories. They were often decorated with filigree of cast-iron or wrought iron, parapets, and detailed dividing walls.
Workers cottages were popular in the Victorian period (1845-1900). These often had cast-iron lacework, bull-nosed verandahs or hipped roofs, and at times timber fretwork. Many timber cottages have been demolished, but many weatherboard cottages remain. Workers cottages developed at a time when industry was thriving in the city, and people were most likely to walk to work. They were common in inner city suburbs such as Leichhardt, Surry Hills, Redfern and Balmain, but were also found in other suburbs nearby to industries. In Homebush, workers cottages developed close to the abattoirs and brickworks. Brick workers cottages became more popular as bricks became less expensive.
Federation architecture occurred between 1890-1915. Common features of these homes are decorative timber features, tall chimneys and roofs, fret work, Australian themes and verandahs. A Federation home had a large garden, and was a sign of prosperity. Following the end of World War I, as a result of a lack of tradesmen and supplies, Federation Homes were seen as too extravagant and went into decline. Suburbs with examples of Federation homes include Penshurst, Turramurra, Millers Point, however they are common in many areas as the availability of cars increased the suburbanisation of Sydney.
Californian Bungalows were constructed between approximately 1915 and 1945. These are defined by gabled roofs, pillars supporting a verandah, stone, brick and timber materials, and are traditionally painted in dark greens, reds and blues. Californian Bungalows are common in the suburbs of Ashfield, Concord, Lane Cove, Beecroft, Pennant Hills, Coogee, Clovelly and Parramatta. These houses reflected the changes that were occurring in the society. They were less pretentious than Federation houses, more accessible to the average person and lanes down the side of the house allowed space for a car.
Deputy Principal at a Sydney high school. Coordinating author of the Geoactive text book series.