Demolished: State Office Block

Constructed as part of the 1960s renewal and modernisation of Sydney, the State Office Block was an innovative and eye-catching addition to the city’s skyline. Fifty years later, discussion continues around the heritage value of the modernist skyscraper and the divisive decision to knock it down.

The State Office Block was, briefly, the tallest tower in Sydney. Opened in 1967, the skyscraper housed public servants in column-free, contemporary modular offices for 30 years.

Architect Ken Woolley’s ground breaking design responded specifically to Australian conditions by incorporating innovative sun protection measures. Each concrete floor slab projected beyond the window line to form sunhoods. These were clad in glare-reducing bronze sheeting that weathered to a dark brown, giving the building its nickname, the ‘Black Stump’. The building’s interior was similarly pioneering yet practical, influenced by Scandinavian modernism and equipped with efficient modular furniture.

When government policy shifted in the late 1980s to leasing rather than owning office space, however, the building was proposed for sale. Then Premier Barrie Unsworth dismissed its significance, saying: ‘We will always retain our heritage buildings but there is no real reason why we should retain the State Office Block’ (Daily Telegraph, 27 April 1987). Despite heated public opposition, by the 1990s the skyscraper was considered old enough to be outdated, yet too young to be of heritage value. It was demolished in 1997. In the same year, construction began on the State Office Block’s replacement, Aurora Place.

The former State Office Block marks a double anniversary in 2017 – 50 years since it officially opened its doors to government office workers, and two decades since it was demolished.

Demolished Sydney is on show at the Museum of Sydney until 17 April 2017.

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Demolished building in foreground, Harbour Bridge in background.
Past Exhibition
Past exhibition

Demolished Sydney

Demolished Sydney explores the buildings that once shaped the city’s skyline, from the convict built Commissariat Stores to the city's last island of industry, the Kent Brewery

Painting of first Government House created by Jacob Janssen, 1850.

Demolished: first Government House

Built on a prominent rise overlooking Sydney Cove, first Government House served as the official residence and administrative office for the first nine governors of New South Wales

Painting Pyrmont

When artist Jane Bennett began capturing Pyrmont’s steel and concrete structures during the late 1980s, many considered them industrial eyesores rather than part of Sydney’s heritage landscape

Sepia photograph of demolished buildings in Sydney during the 1930s.

Unlocked: Demolished Sydney

Like cities across the world, Sydney has been in a constant state of building development and urban change. Our exhibition, Demolished Sydney, looks at how demolitions have shaped our dynamic city landscape