Sydney Open 2012 – prep

November 1, 2012

This refers not to some golfing or tennis event, but to the opening up for a weekend of more than 50 Sydney buildings to the general public this weekend. It’s an annual event and I suspect is not only very popular, but growing in numbers of attendees every year.  it will attract architects and architecture students, renovators, history buffs of all sorts and probably the entire membership of the Historic Houses Trust who have organised it.

My main interest is the potential for aerial views out windows as well as sketching internal perspective, but I’m not optimistic on the grounds that queues are expected and its mainly foyers which are on show. Even if I don’t manage to put pen to paper, it will still be an interesting exercise in how architects construct internal space.

First up, my Best Internal Space in Sydney has to be the Reading Room of State Library of NSW so it will be interesting to see how more modern architects create grandeur through space.

Secondly, I’m very keen on anything to do with Art Deco and while there are many buildings either from the period or with detail adopted from the original in later buildings, it’s a rare opportunity to see inside such buildings. There are the elaborately painted and gilded Victorian interiors; I could stand in the foyer of the Town Hall for ages.

Thirdly, if any sketching is to be done, it’s most likely to be in terms of theatrical spaces – and there’s a few auditoriums open to the public this weekend.

Fourthly, there’s the vaguest of chances to sketch musicians on Friday night, at St James, Hyde Park Barracks and at Parliament House.

The free Friday Night event will be a practice run for the weekend, with just five in and around the historic Macquarie Street precinct over three hours. The Chief-Secretary’s Building (Guided Tour only) )will be popular among those interested in recent renovation of historic buildings and in its associations with the current Governor-General who now works there; there’s apparently some archaeology on view downstairs, but the foyer is dark red-brown with touches of Nile green. Next up is the NSW Parliament, with both chambers and the Fountain Court on show; this will involve security, so no pencil-sharpening knives! Then there is the Hyde Park Barracks Museum and St James’ Church, including the crypt and Chidlren’s Chapel. Lastly, there is On Seven, the newly-renovated Grand Ballroom on the seventh floor of David Jones’ department store.

I hope to check out the view of Prince Albert Road from the north-east corner of On Seven before it gets too dark. I just have to hope and pray that the pop-up bar isn’t also situated in that very spot. At six o’clock on a summer’s night, the view should be possible; any further south, and you get the big fig trees of Hyde Park North and Nagoya Gardens instead.

St James’ Church may offer a chance to sit down to sketch; it has the same sober, almost spartan interior of St Matthew’s at Windsor and being Greenway buildings, they’re universally considered among the best in town. I think I know the interior given the concerts I’ve seen there, but there’s nothing like observation through sketching. I imagine it will be standing-room only in the Crypt which will include an on-site cellist.

Sitting sketching in one of the two chambers of parliament is wishful thinking at this stage. I’m almost sure I’ll be moved on by guides.

Sunday will be one big Built Environment Crawl, with exactly 50 buildings to choose from.  Next year, I’ll probably do The Rocks circuit, but this year I’ll concentrate on uptown north around Martin Place and downtown south around Town Hall.

I’ll start with the most spectacular Art Deco foyer at Henry Davies York. It’s long and narrow but the colours will be marvellous. Then it’s a matter of checking out the contemporary architects in the financial district; these too will be almost exclusively foyers, so I’m not hopeful of any spectacular city views from roof gardens.

Then it’s back towards Town Hall via the State Theatre, with its very sketchable foyer and auditorium – haven’t been there since the Feminist film festivals of decades ago, those frozen glares for a Male amidst the throng. The Marble Bar of the Hilton is also eminently sketchable if not crowded out, especially around lunchtime. Sydney Town Hall is on the list, but I think it’s restricted to the Druitt Street foyer; in any case, the hall is accessible during free organ concerts. To finish things off there’s a choice of either the head Fire Station, the Great Synagogue or the opulent purple interior of the Masonic Lodge.

Logistically, sketching will involve mostly standing up in tight corners and no wet media. Because I’d like to expand on any sketching of interiors with some later ones of facades, I topped up my waterproof pens and I even bought an expensive Strathmore Toned Tan 5×8″ sketchbook. I’ll try classic Three Pencil renders, taking colour notes for next year’s Open. My routine Daler-Rowney sketchbook has creamy-yellow paper, but I passed by the Grace Building in York Street yesterday and noticed how dark brown these old foyer interiors can be. I’ll take my pencil wrap with me, in case it’s possible to add a bit of colour.

I’ve found some pictures of some interiors on the Net, though I ought to have done more serious prep by now. Crudely put, On Seven looks like any other big white convention centre space (though the fenestration looks great). Davis York looks like the inside of an Egyptian tomb; the Grace Hotel looks like any upmarket New York hotel lobby. I’m anticipating lots of gold in the synagogue and State Theatre. Given these “generic” internal spaces (indistinguishable from anywhere else in the world),  you can see why I’m interested in doing accompanying sketches of the facades.

To maximise the freedom of any sketching, I’m steering clear of buildings where there’s a guided-tour only. Hopefully if I loiter anywhere, I won’t be moved on, but quite a few of the venues have advice about Queues Expected.

Ultimately of course, it’s not how well the sketching goes, but how the sketches scan. I’ll be adjusting my colours accordingly!

As you’d expect, charcoal works well on this tinted ground. Even the waxy Lyra Skin Tones come up well. My oft-used silver and gold in the coloureds (and equivalents in Derwent Drawing) need a re-think. I’m awfully tempted to take the entire 48 Prismacolour in an unobtrusive pencil roll for colourful interiors such as Parliament House, Great Synagogue and State Theatre, though note that most of the mid-tones in Prismacolour (oranges and pinks ‘drop out’).


Eckersley’s York Street have been stocking Strathmore spiral bound sketchbooks, familiar to anyone participating in the Strathmore online workshops. Toned Tan, Toned Gray and ordinary cream bound sketchbooks by Strathmore have now appeared on their shelves in A5 and A4. Toned paper sketchbooks don’t come along all that often; it’s possible to bind your own from sheets of Canson Mi-teintes. 118g/m2 would be too thin really for wet media without buckling.


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