Sunday, October 10, 2010

Customs House

The refurbished Customs House at Circular Quay opened in 2005. It's an imposing building dating from 1845, which houses a library, exhibition space, offices and at the top, Café Sydney. The ghost of a convict who was hanged on the site supposedly roams the premises proffering rum to passers-by; no one offered me a drink of any kind, but a helpful librarian told me that the building, though aesthetically very pleasing with its recurrent themes of red, white and black, interesting modern features, lamps, curves, computers, onsite coffee bar ("Young Alfred"), swastikas on the marble (with a handy plaque explaining that use of the fylfot pre-dates the Nazis' appropriation of it), ongoing exhibitions on Sydney architecture/Italian grocers/the magic of Shanghai, and last but not least a scale model of the Sydney CBD under glass, is a failure as a library. The architects responsible for the ambitious refurbishment didn't give any consideration to its use as such, and it is, like the swanky new Surry Hills Library, "a stressful place to work" as a result. No wonder Queen Victoria looks so stern from her vantage point above the portico.


  1. I love the Chinese lanterns above the loans desk.

  2. The design is great; it's just a shame that the librarians find it so impractical.

    The quote on the little prayer sheet is Pablo Neruda:

    but wait for me,
    save me your sweetness.
    I too will give you
    a rose

  3. Why are those pattern of swastica symbols at the entrance to the Sydney Customs House? Sydney harbour is the welcoming entrance to aAustralia, I know there is people who said that it is an historical building but, couldn't they been covered? If there are a lot of spots covered with new stuff in the building why not the swasticas?

  4. As I say in my comments above, Anonymous, there's a plaque "explaining that use of the fylfot pre-dates the Nazis' appropriation of it". It's an ancient historical symbol (follow the link I provide for more). But I think they get that question a lot.