An extraordinary book has just been published, written by Sydney architects Phillip Thallis and Peter John Cantrill and titled Public Sydney: Drawing the City. [Historic Houses Trust & university of New South Wales, 2013] In addition to thoughtful text, provocative essays and wonderful images the book contains at its core hundreds of scale drawings of Sydney’s public buildings that permits a consistency of comparison over time. It is the combined work of many individuals working for more than a decade. At the launch at the Museum of Sydney several speakers made the point that there are only one or two other cities in the world with such a rich and nuanced resource.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s Australian carried an article flagging the imminent sell off of one of Sydney’s most important late nineteenth century public buildings, the Lands Department Building fronting Bridge Street, built between 1876 and 1892. It is widely considered to be one of the best of the venerable clutch of buildings designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet in the 1880s.
Apparently we record but we do not maintain. Another bit of the public domain is up for sale again, spaces we all once owned are constantly being privatised and who knows where it will end?