The National Trust strongly supports the restoration of the Sydney Building.
We note the recent debates concerning Sydney Building following the recent fire. Both the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings are important structures relating strongly to Canberra’s heritage and must be conserved. They were built as separate units in two matching buildings in 1926-27 and completed in 1941-46
Comments are often made that visitors identify with these buildings when they arrive in Canberra.
While heritage listed, it is accepted that they can be adapted to new uses and upgraded when required. There is now an opportunity to ensure that what is reconstructed has good fire protection and it may be a stimulus to have all the Sydney and Melbourne Building upgraded so they are presented and a unified complex in good condition.
However, there is a wider issue coming from the recent event, which is the fire protection of heritage buildings. Over the past few years we have lost the Canberra Services Club, Gungahleen Schoolhouse (which was recently delisted from the ACT Heritage Register), and both the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings have suffered previous fires. Other heritage places are also at risk.
It may be prudent to have a fire safety audit of all heritage listed buildings that have not been upgraded recently to identify what needs to be done to reduce the possibility in the future.
The current reconstructions may also be an opportunity to remove intrusive elements such as the glazed-in first floor balcony on the Sydney Building to match the unglazed balcony on parts of the Melbourne Building.
These initiatives could be a shared responsibility of the owners and the community through an ACT Heritage Grant project.
For further information contact
Mr Eric Martin
(02) 6260 6395