The Functional Tradition: wharf buildings

The Finger Wharf in Woolloomooloo adjacent to the Sydney CBD is a great example of the Functional Tradition in action. There are similar wharves in Walsh Bay (on the western side of the Bridge), which has been designated as an Arts Precinct, but most of the similar wharfs elsewhere on the harbour have been redeveloped.

The Woolloomooloo wharf was completed in 1915 and is the longest timber-piled wharf in the world, and during its working life mainly handled the export of wool.  The wharf is 410 metres long and 64 metres wide and is composed of two side sheds running almost the length of the jetty, connected by a covered roadway between; see interior below.  The roofline is three parallel gable roofs and the external elevations are distinguished by a repetitive Mondrian-like gridded timber structure; it's a powerful design.

Container ports with larger facilities and cruise liner terminals were gradually developed around the city after the 39-45 War, and they inevitably caused the usage of this wharf to decline and by the 1980's it wasn't being used.  The State government decided to demolish it and replace it with a new marina and resort complex. I'm staggered that even thirty years ago anyone would even consider demolishing such a fine building partic-ularly as it could clearly be adapted for an alternative use.  Fortunately enough people thought it should be retained, and when demolition was due to begin in early 1991, the locals blocked the entrance to the site and the building unions bless'em, imposed a Green Ban. The government eventually backed down and the wharf has since been renovated into apartments and an hotel.

This building is just under a hundred years old and with a location so close to the CBD, it has many years of active use left; it's one of the harbour side buildings that make Sydney what it is.

Woolloomooloo 01

Woolloomooloo 02

Woolloomooloo 03

 

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