I frequently walk past this building in Sydney’s CBD. It’s on Castlereagh Street, sandwiched between two glinting steel-and-metal spires, and every time I see it, I want to know more. Who built it? Why is it so run down? Why has no-one bought it? And most poignantly, what stories would it tell if it could speak?
The building fascinates me, I suppose, because I’m fascinated generally by the question of how story affects inanimate objects. How narrative can imbue items with a value totally in excess of their actual utility. Significant Objects and Wicked Sick BMX are two projects that have explored the way this happens, by measuring how an object (a BMX bike, a porcelain ornament, an old alarm clock) increases in market value (as measured by ebay) when invested with a compelling and entertaining story.
But no-one, so far as I know, has done something similar with something as big as a building.
And I suspect that such an experiment would reveal, in fact, the inverse effect to that demonstrated by Significant Objects and Wicked Sick.
The value of story, when it comes to buildings, is negative. At least in Sydney.
My guess is that this ghost building, here in the middle of one of Sydney’s most valuable strips of real estate, has remained run-down and unsold because of heritage regulations that prevent potential developers from tearing it down.
Nobody wants it.
Which seems a funny irony, really.
Story has saved it.