28 January 2011

"A fitting tribue to a wonderful Sydney icon and a living treasure!"

That is how Dean and Principal of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Professor Kim Walker described the formal listing of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on the State Heritage Register.

The annnouncement was made this week by NSW Minister for Planning, Tony Kelly, with The Con joining Walsh Bay and St Patrick's seminary at Manly as the most recent additions to the Register.

"We are delighted with this acknowledgement of the extraordinary history and culture of our world-class education facility and performance venue," Professor Walker said.

"Our beloved Con is a living treasure with close to 3000 students and staff making daily use of the heritage venue and thousands of audience and community members visiting each year.

"This listing is very exciting as it further establishes our building as a destination of public importance in its own right.

"It also recognises the generations of nationally and internationally recognised musicians that have been associated with the Con, including current alumni of prominence Richard Tognetti, Paul Dyer, Richard Bonynge and many, many more."

Created in 1999, theState Heritage Register recognises places and objects 'of particular importance to the people of NSW' that 'enrich our understanding of our history and identity.'

Listing means that a heritage item is legally protected under the NSW Heritage Act and is eligible for financial incentives from the NSW and Commonwealth governments.

In making the announcement, Mr Kelly described the Conservatorium as "a rare and intact example of an early colonial building in the centre of Sydney."

He also noted the "association with numerous important figutres in the music field" since the former stables was converted fore use as a Conservatorium in 1915.

Professor Walker paid special tribute to former NSW Premier and SCM Foundation Patron, Bob Carr and former Education Minister and SCM Advisory Board John Aquilina for championing a major upgrade of The Con from 1997.

"We owe Bob and John our warm thanks for standing firm and holding their vision to complete an historic rebuild in the face of sustained political pressure." Professor Walker said.

"It was during this upgrade that the original pavestones of Macquarie's time were discovered at the entrance to the Verbrugghen Hall."

How the Conservatorium was listed on the State Heritage Register

The NSW Heritage Council has developed criteria to help establish whether an item is state significant. Here is how it rated The Conservatorium against these criteria:

Historical Significance

The building was a key element in Governor Lachlan Macquarie's grand vision to make Sydney into an attractive, well designed city. The design was a result of Macquarie's ideas with input from his wife Elizabeth and was executed by ex convict architect Frances Greenway. The Stables was the first stage of Macquarie's plan for a New Government House and although this was not built, the Stables influenced the new Government House that was eventually built. After the building's conversion to the Conservatorium of Music it has been the principal music education institution in the State and continues to fulfil its role in the building originally modified for this purpose.

Associative Significance

The Conservatorium of Music is of State heritage significance through its association with Governor Lachlan Macquarie, his wife Elizabeth and Francis Greenway, the colony's first 'Civil Architect'. In its role as the principal music education institution in NSW for many years it has strong and significant association with noted musicians and administrators such as Henry Verbrugghen and Eugene Goossens who were Directors of the Conservatorium.

Aesthetic Significance

The Conservatorium building is a notable exemplar of the Old Colonial Gothick Picturesque style of architecture in Australia. In addition it is the only surviving example of this style of architecture designed by Francis Greenway. The Conservatorium of Music continues to feature as a prominent landmark in the townscape and the Royal Botanic Gardens and a focal point at the entry leading to Government House.

Social Significance

The Conservatorium of Music is of State heritage significance for its association with generations of noted Australian musicians. It was and continues to be a focus for musical activity attracting visiting performers to perform in the auditorium

Research Potential

The results of archaeological investigations to date have revealed much about the early history and activity of the colony and many artefacts uncovered are displayed and interpreted in the new building.


Being the only surviving example of Francis Greenway's design in the Old Colonial Gothic Picturesque style makes the Conservatorium of Music a rarity. In addition it also appears to be the only extant stable block in the Sydney CBD which survives from the Macquarie period.

Contact: Mick Le Moignan

Phone: 02 9351 1385

Email: 1f1d5752775b132f0e3e522c0d2835304d2d1a2a1d4410301154033e