Lands Dept Building, Bridge Street Sydney NSW 2000

December 8, 2011

Third in my little series this week of four most-difficult-to-sketch ‘wedding cake’ buildings in Sydney from the Victorian era. I’m not aiming for anything finished – just enough marks to make it recognisable.

Today’s is the Lands Department Building near Circular Quay. Like the QVB, it occupies an entire city block. Unlike a lot of other similar buildings in Sydney, it features life-size sculptures of colonial gentlemen on the facades. It might not feature in too many lists of Sydney’s most socially significant buildings, but for most of the early 20th century it was – along with the Sydney Town Hall – the tallest building in town and thus featured in a lot of the Sydney panoramas drawn by the likes of Sydney Ure Smith and Lloyd Rees.

James Barnet designed this building in Renaissance Revival style – he designed the General Post Office, Customs House, Callan Park, Victoria Lodge (Royal Botanic Gardens), East Sydney Tech, the new wing of the Australian Museum, the Mortuary Station at Central Railway, Darlinghurst Court House, Univ of Sydney Medical School. Out of town – Goulburn Post Office, Court House and Gaol, Bathurst Court House, etc. You grow up or live in Sydney, you live with Barnet! Built 1877-1890, using dressed Pyrmont sandstone; take note of the mix of orders in the columns; the four facades differ from each other. Walter Liberty Vernon  – another who left an indelible hand on Sydney’s architecture – had a hand in the design (Central Railway station, Darlinghust Fire Station, Pyrmont Fire Station, Annandale Post Office, Art Gallery of NSW, Registrar-General’s building, etc.)

My view is in Bent Street and can be sketched sitting down on seats under palm trees, away from pedestrians (always a boon!) and there’s the potential for adding the fruit vendor stall as a human context; the traditional all-wooden fruit barrows are long gone (though the one in Barrack Street hung on for ages).

The second below is a three-quarter view of the north facade, feasibly drawn out of the way of pedestrians, standing up, outside Wagamama restaurant in Bridge Street. The north facade head-on is virtually impossible because of the trees and vegetation in Macquarie Place. A third vantage point of interest is from the north-west in Gresham Street.

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