Sydney Town Hall, part 2

December 6, 2011

Geometric Forms

Here I am breaking down the building (especially the George Street facade) into geometric forms, assisted by horizontal perspective. A lot of emphasis in the past was put on reinforcing the corners of buildings, something that’s not at all evident in today’s skyscrapers. This idea of geometric forms comes from Bert Davidson’s “Keys to Drawing” drawing book.


The next step up in complexity is this three-quarter view, with the additions of the projecting front portico and steps, and the reinforced corners. My sketches so far have been based on the original building, incorporating the City Council offices (1868-1878), before the concert hall (Centennial Hall, 1885-1890) was added. The architectural style is Victorian (French) Second Empire and the mansard roofs immediately recall the Louvre and Paris’ Hotel de Ville (Town Hall).

A note about the concert hall: the concert hall is like a giant ‘shoebox’ attached to the city offices. Important in the concept of the concert hall was the focus on the two side entrances (the Cathedral side and the Druitt Street sides). Much of the ‘feel’ of this is now lost, but the grandiose side entrances, reminiscent of German concert halls, can be seen in the fisheye photo on the Sydney Town Hall wikipedia site.

This difference between the first and second stages of building is shown in these photographs of the time. They are Creative Commons files, disseminated by the Powerouse Museum on Flickr. Notice that the horizon line is a nudge on either side of the dark shadow line running right around the building. Notice, in passing, changes to the steps (the large porte-cochere had to be removed because of the building of Town Hall railway station beneath it); notice too the large sandstone pillars forming the entrance gates (those familiar with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney will recognise the style) and notice too the existence of the lovely Gresham Hotel at right and the Queen Victoria Building under construction. On the business of viewpoint: a close approximation of this vista is out the window at the Children’s Book Department of Kinokinuya Bookshop, 500 George Street, the Galeries retail centre.


I subjected the second of the photos to some perspective lines (difficult at left because of shadows):

Putting all this together on an A4-sized piece of paper, Step One was a foundation of perspective lines and geometric forms in 2B pencil, followed by an all-over reworking adding architectural detail and a Step Three involving the delicious shadows in 9B pencil, with 2B for shading (unfinished). I deliberately followed the approach of my drawing teacher who advocates working “all over”, building up the drawing in all areas equally.


Side elevation, architectural plan: (This helps prove that there are five bay windows between the two building corners.) – see what looks like an architectural model, excellent for breaking down the structure into its architectural components – this leads to the various historical photos in the Powerhouse Museum Collection


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