Demolished Sydney

Demolition of the tram shed at Bennelong Point, Fairfax Media 30 December 1958. Fairfax Syndication FXJ171876 (c)Since 1788 Sydney has been built, unbuilt and rebuilt as it has grown from Georgian town to Victorian city to the global urban centre it is today. Demolitions have been a constant part of the city’s evolution – sometimes welcomed as a sign of progress, and at other times reviled as a short-sighted obliteration of culture. But behind every demolition is a fascinating story of a changing city and its people.

Opening on Saturday 19 November 2016 at the Museum of Sydney, Demolished Sydney remembers a variety of Sydney’s lost buildings, from the Garden Palace to the Kent Brewery, surveying some of the most significant demolitions of the past two hundred years.

“Like cities across the world, Sydney has been in a constant state of building development and urban change,” said said Mark Goggin, Executive Director, Sydney Living Museums. “Some city improvements have come at the cost of familiar landmarks, such as the Hotel Australia and Rowe Street, which have fundamentally changed Sydney’s culture and character.”

“Others have erased structures to create places that are now an intrinsic part of the city landscape, such as Martin Place and the Sydney Opera House, as a reminder that demolition can have a positive impact on a lively and changing city landscape.”

The exhibition reflects on how demolition has, at times, made way for the city’s most iconic buildings: the Fort Macquarie Tram Shed would be replaced by the world-famous Sydney Opera House, while the convict-era Commissariat Buildings would allow for a modernised Circular Quay.

It also looks at the demolitions that signalled the end of eras and the beginning of others: both the Pyrmont Incinerator (demolished 1992) and the Kent (Carlton United) Brewery (demolished 2008) were demolished as industry moved out of the city fringes and people moved back in, while the demolitions of the Hotel Australia and Rowe Street in 1971-2 were part of a CBD office boom that spelled the demise of the once vibrant nightlife in this part of town.

Demolished Sydney explores how Sydney’s buildings have risen and fallen as technologies have changed, populations moved and industries diversified. Some buildings, like tram sheds and cinemas, were made obsolete by cars and television, while others were felled for city improvements, land values, environmental legislation or demand for housing and offices. Some demolitions have sharpened an appreciation of Sydney’s built heritage and led to a push for its preservation.

“As our urban environment changes, so too has our idea of heritage and our understanding of what should be preserved for the future,” said said Curator Dr Nicola Teffer. “The ways in which we navigate the tension between the dynamism of urban change and the need to protect the past will continue to be a complex but fascinating process which will evolve as our city journeys into its future.”

Demolished Sydney is a fascinating tour of Sydney’s past and present, allowing visitors to trace the city’s evolution and better understand its mix of Georgian, Victorian, Art Deco, industrial and Modernist architecture.

Demolished Sydney
Museum of Sydney, Corner Phillip and Bridge Streets, Sydney
Exhibition: 19 November 2016 – 17 April 2017
Admission fees apply

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Demolition of the tram shed at Bennelong Point, Fairfax Media 30 December 1958. Fairfax Syndication FXJ171876 (c)