A collection of interviews about housing and the idea of ‘home’ in Sydney
The history of a city can be traced through a history of its housing. From caves and bark huts to slums, cottages, dormitories, mansions and flats, dwellings in Sydney embody untold social and economic forces. As singles, couples, families, groups and collectives, Sydney people have lived in rented, experimental, privately-owned, mobile, public, institutional, makeshift and open-air accommodation. These physical spaces contain many layers including stories about shifting patterns of industry and economic boom and bust; and changing aesthetics and ideas about what constitutes the perfect ‘home’. In this group of interviews Sydney-siders talk about private residential space in their city: ideals, identity, memory, status and security; along with big picture issues affecting housing in the City of Sydney.
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Elaine Armstrong is President of the Country Women’s Association of New South Wales which has a building offering accommodation in Potts Point. In this interview she talks about the history and work of the Association and her reasons for joining. In the excerpt below, Elaine discusses the reasons for country people availing themselves of the hotel-style rooms the organisation provides.
Max Raine has been a very well known Sydney real estate agent for many decades. In the excerpt below he describes the Sydney housing market in the years after World War II.
Jack Bell, born in 1914, built a house in the Rosebery Estate in 1940.
In this interview he discusses his sixty seven years in the house on Ripon Way, family life, the meaning home has for him and many other aspects of life in inner Sydney, including the dramatic hailstorm of 1999. In the excerpt below he recalls specific details about buying land and designing and building a house during WWII, and regulations governing residences in the Rosebery Estate.
Ian Milliss was active in the Victoria St squats of the 1970s.
The squatting action followed forced evictions which made way for large scale residential development in Potts Point. In his interview Ian talks about the politics, art, personalities and background to those and other related events. In the excerpt below he recalls finding some touching reminders of the evicted tenants.
Ann Symonds lives in The Astor in Macquarie St.
The Astor is a high status heritage listed block of residential apartments in Sydney’s Macquarie St. A former member of the NSW Parliament’s Upper House, Ann talks in her interview about places she has lived, her work in government and retirement, and the special issues and restrictions encountered when living in a historic building. In the excerpt below she discusses the benefits of medium-rise living in the CBD.
Richard Childs and his wife embraced terrace house dwelling and communal living in the 1970s. In this interview Richard recalls a suburban childhood, moving to then down-at-heel inner-city Glebe, the complex task of returning a large Victorian dwelling, converted into several smaller flats, to its former grandeur and his reasons for moving to an apartment in Pyrmont. In the excerpt below he recalls general philosophical climate of the ’70s.
Robert McEntyre grew up on the rooftop of a Sydney office block in the 1950s, courtesy of his grandfather’s role as building caretaker. In this interview Robert recalls the pleasures of a childhood lived on top of Wingello House in Angel Place, neighbours, family and entertainment. In the excerpt below he remembers the house, play areas and the thrills of Cracker Night in the CBD.
Dan McNamara & Jane Dillon
Jane Dillon and Dan McNamara were architecture students involved in building the ‘Autonomous House’ at Sydney University in the 1970s, an experiment in sustainable living. In their interview they discuss the practicalities of creating a building with little professional expertise; the experience of sharing the residential space and many other related issues including gardening, events, significant people and academic life of the period. In the excerpt below they reflect on earlier utopian movements which influenced their practice, and the ideological background to the creation of the Autonomous House.
Sr Anne Jordan
Sister Anne Jordan runs Cana Communities in inner Sydney. This interview was part of a project about the City of Sydney’s Homeless Persons’ Information Service, which works with Cana Communities and other agencies. In the excerpt below Anne talks about the kinds of homeless people who might be assisted by Cana Communities’ shelters.
Elma Fleming co-ordinated the Crisis Centre at the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross for many years. This interview was part of a project about the City of Sydney’s Homeless Persons Information Centre. In it Elma talks about her childhood and professional life, day-to-day life at the Chapel, and her many experiences with homeless people in Sydney. In the excerpt below she desrines some of the personal circumstances that can contribute to homelessness.
Margot Currey is an artist who lives in a housing cooperative in Erskineville. In this interview she recalls the different houses in which she has lived, the logistics, finances and background to the purpose-built apartment block which she now calls home; and the practical and bureaucratic challenges to co-operative dwelling in New South Wales. In the excerpt below she outlines the many benefits of living in a co-operative.