Sydney Town Hall, part 1

December 5, 2011

Too wet to sketch outdoors today so I took photos instead.

There are several things bouncing around in my head at the moment:

* arising from the book “Building Sydney’s History”, the idea of what the Parkers might have photographed if they’d been in Sydney a hundred years ago;

* Sydney’s more prominent “wedding cake” buildings from the Victorian era ( normally off-limits as too difficult) – Sydney Town Hall, Sydney General Post Office, Customs House, Lands Department building, all deploying sandstone;

* deconstructing difficult buildings using geometric form (see Bert Davidson’s deconstruction of the church atop the Spanish Steps in his “Keys to Drawing” book)

* deconstructing difficult buildings using perspective (perspective has come up in my drawing and pen-and-ink classes, as well as in Borromini Bear’s Flickr Comments);

* urban sketcher Gerard Michel’s restrained use of pen and a simple blue wash for the sky.

I tried sketching a 3/4 view from outside the NAB bank building in Park Street (nice wide footpath) but got bogged down in too much detail too quickly. Street furniture and a giant tree hindered my grasp of the architecture. realised. I needed to get a handle on the facade face-on in George Street (outside Woolworths) first. I also took two side views of the porch/steps, an ‘addition’ to the ‘shoebox’ of the first building fronting George Street (a ‘shoebox’ of a Hall was added later in 1886-89). I aimed in all the photos I took today to get as much of the whole building in frame.

Sydney urban sketchers very often avoid buildings right in the central business district because the streets are too narrow and there are next-to-no piazzas or public spaces in which to take in the whole of any one building. That’s why you’ll use the Opera House and Customs House, where a proper ‘view’ can be obtained. 


The most interesting shots of buildings in Sydney’s centre are taken from several storeys up, in olden days from the roofs of surrounding buildings. The PowerHouse Museum’s glass plate negatives are always good value and are on Flickr, and downloadable as Commons files. They often feature the buildings without trees or the static from street furniture.


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