Building Sydney’s History: structures, sculptures, stories and secrets

December 3, 2011

Derek and Julia Parker. Building Sydney’s History: structures, sculptures, stories and secrets. Woodslane Press, 2011.

What’s makes this book interesting is that it was published this year, so as well as covering a lot of ground familiar to Sydney urban sketchers, there’s an element of freshness. It combines a lively text with straight-forward photos, often a large panoramic view with smaller ones focussing on architectural detail. Noteworthy is the extensive use of double spreads – the book is about 8-inches square. At roughly 230 pages, it covers 45 locations.

I appreciated the fact that it covered locations not dealt with in other similar books on Sydney: the Finger Wharf, Don Bank, Rookwood Necropolis, Darlinghurst Gaol, the Dymock’s Building, Chifley Square and Cleveland Street High School. Babworth House and Carisbrook are new to me. Blues Point Tower and Warringah Mall even make the cut. Gallipoli Mosque Auburn and Sydney Olympic Park railway station don’t, but that’s okay – there’s plenty of food for thought. The premier architectural space, the State Library (now Mitchell) is there.

Well worth a look, especially if you need to revise your Sydney sketching wishlist. I know I haven’t sketched everything: Experiment Farm Cottage and Old Government House Parramatta, or the facade of Sydney Grammar School from the raised viewpoint of Hyde Park across the road. For urban sketchers, it’s worth emulating some of the photographs as a preliminary to going out and drawing the publicly-accessible buildings plein air, just to get a feel of the architectural style (e.g. Garrison Church from the cutting on page 100, the Mortuary Temple p.111 or the nice afternoon shot of Balmoral Pavilion on pp.191-192). Some featured are of course private properties (Babworth House, Juniper Hall) and others like the Strand Arcade, Dymocks Building, State Theatre and Sydney Town Hall will be difficult because of pedestrian congestion roundabout.

Two points I appreciated enormously: the provision of exact addresses and the inclusion of historical maps in back.

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