“People around the world know Australia by its architecture,” says Tim Horton, director of the Sydney Architecture Festival. “We have some of the finest city buildings shaping architecture in the new century.”
To celebrate these feats of design, one need only browse the program for this year’s festival. The running motif seems to be concrete, concrete and concrete. It is Brutalist architecture that has made our city look and feel the way it does today.
“Brutalism is all about architecture that is bold, stands out and is well made,” Horton says. Students and alumni of UTS should feel free to quote him when detractors from other universities poke fun at the Ultimo tower. After all, it’s a feat of Brutalist design.
More important than reflecting upon the Sydney skyline, is looking forward, or more specifically, westward. The festival’s hub has moved to the University of Western Sydney’s 1PSQ building. This hub will act as a public forum, where the community can discuss the coming challenges and cultural benefits that we face as an ever-expanding metropolis.
“We like to think the festival can play a role in new thinking on designing for cultural diversity, on our built heritage and a radical approach to better, more affordable housing,” says Horton. “This is not a festival of fine homes and real estate pictures. We [already] get a steady diet of house prices and renovation shows. Sydney deserves more than that.”
Here are three unmissable events:
Launch Event: The Green Rebellion Goes West
“Western Sydney is the future of greater Sydney,” Horton says. “After a decade of staging the festival in the old quarter of the eastern CBD, this year we take a very deliberate leap into the new world. Not only is this where Sydney's growth is strongest, but it's where good design is needed most.” The festival launch starts at King Street Wharf, where guests will board the Royale ferry, and chug their way along the Parramatta River. While aboard, there will be opportunities to examine architectural works lining the waterway, while mingling with leaders in, and enthusiasts of, the design industry.
The Royale departs from King Street Wharf at 5pm, September 29. The capacity is for 100 guests, so get tickets now.
Meet the Aussie Mosque
The new Punchbowl Mosque is a contemporary concrete masterpiece. “We see Brutalist architecture being about the past, but its ideas are with us today,” Horton says. “At a time when we're all looking for architecture with a difference, the mosque does this by being a great work … that stands out. It announces its quality from the start. It could just as easily be an art gallery or museum.” The Sydney Architecture Festival is touring the new mosque in partnership with the Australian Islamic Mission.
There are two guided tours on September 30, at 10.30am and 1.30pm. Tickets for the mosque tour are free, but filling up quickly.
Sydney, You’re Brutal (Tours: The New World and The Old Quarter)
Architect Glenn Harper describes himself as a “Brutalist tragic.” Radio legend and comedian Tim “Rosso” Ross thinks of himself as a mid-century enthusiast. Who better, then, to show you the Brutalist exemplars of our city. Over two days, these two walking tours meander through Sydney. In The New World tour, guests start at the festival hub in Parramatta and see how Brutalist architecture is reflected in contemporary feats of design. The Old Quarter Tour wanders around the inner-city, exploring, in detail, unsuspecting landmarks like the Reader’s Digest Building, Surry Hills’ Police Station and the Masonic Centre.
The New World tour takes place September 30 at 2pm, The Old Quarter tour takes place October 1 at 10.30am.
Sydney Architecture Festival runs from September 29 to October 2.