On one day only, some of Sydney’s most intriguing buildings are throwing open their doors to the public. Ever wanted to explore the subterranean world of St James Station? Or find out what Frank Gehry’s ‘paper bag’ building is all about? On Sunday 1 November, Sydney Open will turn the key to these places and many more. Place-hack the city to find a surprising variety of architectural styles and uncover the stealthy private lives of the city’s familiar structures. We’ve picked out a few to get you started:
Customs House: A historic drinking hole
Architectural style: Mixed, due to many renovations
Customs House has seen an alcohol culture span two centuries. With drinking the main social ritual in a colony short on comfort and food, many of the hotels surrounding Customs House in the 1800s funnelled the world-wide trade in spirits, beer and wine. And Customs House Hotel, known as ‘The Widows’ due to the marital status of its barmaids, was a popular drinking spot among customs agents and freight people. Here is where customs agents made deals to quickly clear shipments and made agreements with barmaids to be served non-alcoholic drinks for a clear head for business.
Mortuary Station: Train station for the dead
Architectural style: Free gothic
During the rule of Queen Victoria who spent half of her reign as a widow, a new importance was attached to the funeral industry. The Mortuary Station was built to carry mourners and the deceased on a train to Rookwood Cemetery near Lidcombe. Taking on this special function, the station was elaborately decorated with carvings of angels, cherubs and gargoyles, and adorned with a garden. The sandstone structure mimics the receiving Rookwood terminal and while both buildings appear religious, they were never intended as places of worship.
Sydney Masonic Centre: Headquarters of an ancient society
Architectural style: Brutalist
The Sydney Masonic Centre has been the headquarters of freemasonry since 1883. Did you know that Robert Menzies, Donald Bradman and Graham Kennedy were all freemasons? With elusive definitions and medieval symbology, freemasons carry the enigmatic air of an ancient secret society. Find out for yourself by looking inside the Grand Master’s suite, the centre’s lodge rooms and exploring its library, museum and archives.
Sydney Open is on 1 November. Tickets are: $49 general, $44 concession, $42 members, $35 under 26s, $40 each for groups of four or more. Buy a City Pass by 16 October to go in the draw to win one of the Golden Tickets to limited capacity sites (including the St James Station tunnels).