If you’re a Sydney local, then you’re probably not interested in taking a tour of Sydney. But, what if there was a tour that detailed the forces that shaped the city—politically, culturally, economically and environmentally? And what if there was a tour company that was less touristy and more of a focus on the local, the locals and the powers that be?
Well, lucky for Sydney, there are walking tours of Sydney that offer a commentary that dives into how the city came to be.
The team at Sydney Architecture Walks, founded by architect Eoghan Lewis, has long been taking groups of locals and tourists, students and teachers, laymen and architects on walks around our harbourside city. Their intention is to “tell the stories and explain the concepts behind the concrete shells, glass skirts and sandstone facades that define Sydney.” These walks around town do exactly that, opening up new worlds of thought, perspective, and details that leave you seeing a side of Sydney you hadn’t seen before.
In total, there are eight urban narratives—seven on foot and one on bike—to tell and many stories to hear. There are concession prices as well as early-bird discounts for all of the tours.
1. The City, Sydney
Nominated as one of the top 5 architecture tours worldwide by The Sydney Morning Herald, this Sydney tour acts as the perfect introduction to the city by taking a look at three contemporary works that reveal the forces shaping modern-day Sydney. ($49)
2. Utzon and the Sydney Opera House
Delve into the world and mind of Jørn Utzon, the architect behind Sydney’s most iconic building, and the man who described himself as a builder more so than an architect. On this Sydney walking tour you’ll discover his influences and hear the calamitous tale behind his sacking. ($49)
Sydney is more than just the famous postcard view the world has seen over and over again. The harbour is where the modern city crashes up against its maritime and industrial past. This is the Sydney tour, which reveals the city’s self-consciousness. ($49)
4. The Transformation Of Ultimo
Exploring the area between Sydney’s Central Station and Darling Quarter where Sydney’s most drastic transformation is taking place, this Sydney tour will highlight the battle between city and state and show you how it is affecting the neighbourhood. From the old to the new, from the preserving of the past to the pragmatism needed for the future, this tour includes recent headline projects by Pritzker-prize-winning architect Frank Gehry as well as transformative work by some local heroes including Durbach Block Jaggers, CHROFI, Lacoste + Stevenson and Anthony Gill. ($44)
5. Modern Sydney
Explore the interwar period and how modernism’s two strands—the aesthetic principle and the idea behind the machine—dealt with factors unique to Sydney and Australia, and shaped the city we call home. ($44)
6. The Track
On this Sydney tour, you’ll take a walk along the ancestral pedestrian artery of Sydney and the path Charles Darwin recorded in 1836. From Circular Quay to Tank Stream, take in the transformative changes, for better or worse, that have taken place over the years. ($44)
7. The Regeneration of Chippendale
How has Chippendale changed? Home to one of the country’s largest breweries, Chippendale was also once the centre of Sydney’s clothing and textile trade. However, over the years this has shifted and Chippendale now features among the best of art, design, and gastronomy anywhere in Sydney.
This tour questions who has been behind this change as well as the ideas driving the cultural shift while walking by one of Australia’s finest social housing schemes, independent art galleries, converted warehouses and laneway developments. This tour finishes at Handpicked Wines Cellar Door where your discussion can continue while you can sip on prosecco and nibble on cheese. ($80)
8. Three-Suburbs South
The cycle tour winds its way through the inner-city suburbs of Surry Hills, Redfern and Waterloo. Once seen as the badlands, but now home to the city’s thriving creative scene and popular cafes, bars and hangouts, this tour explores how we live and make use of public and private spaces. To get around, you will need your own bike. ($90)
In the words of Eoghan Lewis, on the tours “there are heroes and villains, there is a beginning, middle and an end, there is humour too and all these devices help bring the facades to life, quietly revealing their hidden agendas” because architecture is more than just buildings and the spaces between them; architecture is giving meaning to how people use the spaces of a city.
Sydney Architecture Walks pieces together seemingly disparate pieces of information to tell the many stories hidden beneath the surface. Afterward, a walk through Sydney will no longer be the same. Make sure you check the calendar on the SAW website to see what days which tours are running.
Think somebody you know would love an intellectual and informative walk through the city? Great! The SAW team has gift cards are available online. For more information, bookings and early-bird or concession prices, see the SAW website.