Monday, 26 June 2017

1959: Sydney City Council Proposal to turn the Queen Victoria Building into a public square

Some might remember in the early 1970s when architect Harry Seidler called for the demolition of the Queen Victoria Building in George Street and that a multi-storey carpark replace the building.

Demolishing the QVB was an idea for more than a decade. In the late 1950's Sydney City Council wanted the building demolished for a public square with an underground carpark modeled on public squares in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

One proposal called for York Street to be tunneled.

Source: Anon. 1959. "Lord Mayors Idea For A New Square". The Sun Herald, May 10: 12. 

They felt that the building was just half the value of the site itself and not earning revenue for the council, who were the landholders.  They felt the public square and carpark would earn more revenue.

The question will be asked - What if it became reality?

  • The proposed square for the eastern side of George Street would never be in the works.
  • Stricter building codes for York, Market and George Streets. Some of the tall buildings we see today might not have been allowed, especially those in more recent years. The impact would go even to King Street and beyond.
  • The focal point for events around Town Hall would have shifted to its north instead of the east. The public rallies and civil gatherings along George Street would not happen in the way we see today.
We should be grateful that one of finest buildings in Sydney from the Victorian era is still with us today. The decision to convert the building into a shopping centre has paid off massive dividends for Sydney. It is a much-loved destination for shopping in central Sydney and the most famous retail complex of all. It is a meeting place for people too. One can dine at a cafe and restaurant and watch the world go by. 

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