Want Sydney's doors to open for you?

The keys to more than 70 of Sydney’s signature buildings will be handed over to the public for two days in November.
Want Sydney's doors to open for you?

Lands Department Building; Photo Brett Boardman

Are you curious by nature, love to nosh on real estate news around the BBQ or be titillated by architecture programs on television?  Then Sydney Open is for you.

More than 70 buildings that are usually off limits to the public will throw their doors open on the weekend, 5-6 November.

Sydney Open taps into a curiosity within all of us: ‘People who love history come, then there are the die-hard architecture zealots, or those who just walk past a building every day on the way to work and curiosity has got the better of them.


‘In other words, it is just one great sticky beak,’ laughed Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon, Director Curatorial & Public Engagement with Sydney Living Museums (SLM).

'It not only indulges our passion for real estate - which is very big in Sydney - but our desire to see new vantage points on Sydney. The city is evolving every day - so fast - and this is one chance a year to be witness to Sydney’s hidden secrets.’

At Sydney Living Museums they believe that architecture has become a more democratic experience.

‘It begins with the home for most people, but I think people have become far more knowledgeable about architecture - it is less arcane than it used to be perhaps because of TV programs and other popular media,’ said Butler-Bowdon.

‘Today people look for inspiration when they move about the city; they are far more aware of detail. That is what really comes up, showcased in people’s photos shared on social media – they collect the details.

‘After all, Sydney Open makes all of us a curator doesn’t it – that we can all shape our own itinerary and take a souvenir of the places we visit,’ she said.


Discover Sydney's hidden gems with Sydney Open 2016, such as this unused platform; supplied

The city’s heritage anchors continue to appeal to Sydney Open visitors, among them the the Great Synagogue, Harry Seidler-designed Grosvenor Place, AMP Building on Circular Quay, the Lands Department Building (pictured top), and Deutsche Bank Place.

But each year there are also new buildings that remind us how dynamic Sydney’s skyline is. Butler-Bowdon identified three new highlights. 

‘I am very excited by 200 George Street - or EY Centre – a brand new building designed by architects Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp. It is the type of architecture that is very inviting; it uses natural materials such as timber and sandstone, it embraces technology and innovation, but it is also very organic and responsive through its integration of art and archaeology – It has got it all,’ she explained.

EY Centre, 200 George​ Street; Photo Brett Boardman​

She cited Two International Towers designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners as one of the newest and most exciting additions to Sydney’s skyline. A seamless integration of world-leading sustainability and contemporary workplace design, it is the first building from Barangaroo in the Sydney Open program, and some lucky ticket holders will get to visit its rooftop.

Also new this year is HASSELL’s Sydney studio in the heritage-listed former wool store on Pier 8/9 at Walsh Bay, which Butler-Bowdon believes will also be a great draw card this year.

HASSELL Sydney Studio at Pier 8/9 Walsh Bay; Photo Nicole England​

‘What is exciting about the piers is that they are enduring and always changing their function – that is the thing about great architecture is that it can adapt to different times and different needs.’

Other buildings open for the first time to Sydney-siders include PTW Architect’s Calyx structure in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, and Macquarie Bank's new offices in the historic No. 1 Martin Place building.

Focus on unique experiences

In today’s audience economy that is driven by “the experience” and “the share”, offering something that is unique is key.

Ticket holders can deepen their Sydney Open experience with special Focus Tours on Saturday 5 November. How does climbing the St James’ Church Bell Tower sound, or going behind the scenes of the Powerhouse Museum?  Step inside a restored Georgian Townhouse in Dawes Point or take a hard-hat tour of the soon-to-be-opened 333 George Street.

Check out Focus Tours offered​.

‘Often underground or up high, these tours allow people - keen devotees of architecture and history – exclusive access and are lead by experts who offer an in-depth engagement with a site,’ said Butler-Bowdon.

Golden opportunity

Everyone who buys their Sydney Open tickets by 18 October is also in with a chance to win a Golden Ticket to one of two exclusive experiences.

As a winner you could see the disused St James Station tunnels hidden underneath Hyde Park and once used as RAAF bunkers, headquarters and public air raid shelters during World War II.

Concrete blast doors built into the walls to protect doorways between tunnels can still be seen today, as are messages by soldiers on the bunker walls, the more recent satanic-worshipping cult artwork. These redundant tunnels provide a fascinating glimpse into the city’s history.

Image courtesy International Towers Barangaroo

Or you might take to the rooftop of Sydney’s newest high-rise, Two International Towers at Barangaroo – 180 meters above the ground – where you not only get a 360-degree view of Sydney but can check out the Tower’s state of the art solar power display, which has got architects talking globally.

‘While it is an old adage, it is true - we need to know the past to embrace the future,’ concluded Butler-Bowdon, ‘And Sydney Open is more ambitious than ever in taking people on that journey.’

Book before 18 October and go in the draw for a Golden Ticket

Sydney Open 2016

5 and 6 November

Tickets from $35

Plan your weekend: slm.is/open

No image supplied

Gina Fairley

Tuesday 4 October, 2016

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

Twitter: @ginafairley
Instagram: fairleygina