In a city as big as Sydney, things come and go all the time: that’s the point of the city, it grows, it changes, it moves. The thing is though, things come and go for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it is because the city needs to grow. For example, up until the 1950s Sydney had a planning law that restricted buildings to being 150 feet high. In 1957 buildings were permitted to go higher and consequently the city changed from a five storey city to a high rise city. Smaller buildings made way for skyscrapers. The AMP building at Circular Quay was the first skyscraper, smashing the 150 feet limit as soon as it could.
Sometimes things are demolished because their usefulness has come to an end. For example, the Darling Harbour railway goods yard. This was one of the city’s first railway yards, opened in 1855, the same day as the first railway between Sydney and Parramatta was opened. By the 1980s however the system had changed. No longer were the wharves in Darling Harbour taking ships, the harbour wasn’t deep enough for the new tpyes of ships that carried freight and that the railyard once serviced. No ships mean no trains means no railyard. The yard was redeveloped for Darling Harbour as we know it now.
Sometimes things have to make way for a larger city development. When Martin Place was created in the 1920s to make a grand civic space in front of the new GPO, a whole bunch of older buildings had to go. Some were obsolete, some weren’t. Burdekin House on Macquarie Street was considered one of the city’s colonial residence’s and its demolition kick started the conservation movement in Sydney. Curiously Burdekin House was demolished to make way for a new St Stephens Presbyterian Church; the old St Stephens making way for Martin Place.
Similarly the State Office Block on Macquarie Street came down for the new Renzo Piano Aurora Place. That’s a great building, but so to was the State Office Block.
Then the worst of it is some places get demolished because of neglect. They were once loved or worse just thought of as always safe, and suddenly they are under threat and before anyone can say stop, they’re gone, replaced by carparks, badly designed apartment blocks or worse, holes in the ground that no-one has the money to fill. The Regent Theatre on George Street stood empty for over 10 years, Anthony Hordens on George Street as well took longer before the World Square was built. The old brewery on Broadway looks like the latest example.
And then, some things, sometimes, get saved because people decide they want to keep the city as a layer of ideas, styles and eras. Places like the QVB which was slated to become a carpark in the 1960s, The Rocks and Woolloomooloo which were both supposed to be demolished in their entirety and be redeveloped as high rise suburbs, were saved by Green Bans and public demonstration. More recently the finger wharves of Walsh Bay and at Woolloomooloo (there’s that suburb again) were not completely swept away, largely because people stood up and said no, we want them to stay.
The same thing applies to culture, live music and the arts in this city. There’s no point complaining when it goes away if you did nothing to try to save it. The city moves fast and things get left behind if people don’t stand by them and support them. Fbi radio is one of this city’s bright shining cultural lights and if you don’t do something to help it……..