Just across the road and down Harris St a bit from UTS Building 6 is the Ultimo TAFE, formerly the Sydney Technical College and Technological Museum. It stands out amid the newer large buildings that tend to be glass and steel–though the new Frank Gehry is an exception. Unlike Gehry, TAFE features polychrome brickwork and an abundance of fine sandstone carvings (over 100 on the facade) largely of Australian flora and fauna.
William Kemp designed the building and most of it was completed between 1891 and 1893 in the Romanesque Federation style which I identify in opposition it the gothic because the archways and windows are curved rather than pointed. The building feels it belongs somewhere hotter than Gothic buildings do. The stonework on the building is worth a look just in itself, there’s cockatoos, marsupials, cassowary, possums, eucalyptus, corral trees, banksias, lizards, ferns, flame trees and various other pods and leaves. The building looks good against the large palms which would otherwise seem a bit out of place in this part of the city. I often find the use of palms, ferns and spiky fern-like palmy things (especially these) a bit misplaced in urban Sydney, but sometimes they work (another example are the four palms in a square outside the ranger’s lodge near the Robinson Gates to Centennial Park, very evocative).
There’s also distinctively patterned terracotta tiles on the facade that seem almost to herald Tetris or some other game from that era, and the feature that I kept finding myself ogling, the large, knob-like sandstone finials which in my experience lack a comparison in this city, finials are almost guaranteed to be pointy and delicate rather than blunt like this lot.
If you snoop around the building you’ll find a number of stained glass windows with the marriage of the arts and industry a key theme in the various scenes, and inside a decorative wooden staircase with plenty of excess panelling. In addition to the palms, the local Ibises make the building feel a bit warmer too, you’ll often see them perched on the finials or roof ridges. You can find out more about the architecture of Ultimo on this gem of a blog.