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It’s Brutal. Our heritage is on The Rocks. Over-development is getting Sirius.

The puns come easily, but it really isn’t a laughing matter. While developers appear to slash and burn across the city without impediment, activists have come out in force and proverbially chained themselves to the trunk of the 1980s brutalist social housing building, Sirius.

In the book, Sirius, published by Piper Press, authors John Dunn, Ben Peake and Ameira Piscopo tell the story of this monumental building, icon to some, eyesore to others, but universally acknowledged as a landmark, literally and historically.

With journalistic conciseness, the book tells the story of Sirius, beginning with Jack Mundey and the Green Bans that helped save The Rocks from the greedy claws of developers and prompted the building of new social housing in the city. It then looks at the design and construction of the modular, mixed level, purpose-built Sirius, with behind the scenes insights and detailed descriptions from architect Tao Gofer. Images include artist impressions, sketches and floor plans as well as internal and external photographs.

However, the story of the physical structure is just a backdrop to the real story – that of the now erstwhile residents who were part of a unique community unlikely to ever be recreated. Gofer’s thoughtful, empathic vision was realised as a near utopia, where people across the social strata interacted in a true communal environment.

Selected stories of ousted tenants are at once heart-warming and heart-breaking. Sirius manages to distil history, politics and humanity into an engaging and readable book. It is current, but it is also timeless – and that makes it required reading for anyone who believes that intrinsic social values need to be rescued from relentless pouring of concrete.

★★★1/2

Reviewed by Rita Bratovich.