by Robert Griffin and Robert Brown, historians The most distinctive feature of Paddington is its architecture: an extraordinary concentration of Victorian-era housing, built on an undulating topography. Narrow and turning streets; broad, straight and flat streets; or steeply sloping ones framing harbour views, all are dominated by the rhythmic repetition of terrace houses. There is also an astonishing variety within what is essentially
a repetitious form. Verandahs and balconies, projecting party walls, stucco ornament and decorative cast iron work display a remarkable range of detailing and decoration and these houses, arranged in level rows or stepping up and down the steeply sloping streets, create an exceptional built environment.
The majority of these terrace houses were constructed in the Victorian period
– Queen Victoria’s reign, from 1837 to 1901 – and it is the quality and extent
of this Victorian-era terrace housing, in its variety and intactness, that makes Paddington unique. To paraphrase the historian Max Kelly, Paddington is a virtual compendium of the forms of the Sydney terrace house during the
19th century and a superlative example of the diversity of these forms
This chapter explores the creation of Victorian Paddington: the influence
of the topography of the place; the pattern of subdivision of the early rural estates; and the development of its characteristic element, the terrace house.
It also explores the way in which the suburb and its housing have evolved, and continue to evolve, to create the unique urban environment that exists today...
Chapter 6 - Gentrification
by Sharon Veale and Peter McNeil, social commentators In 2017 a newly renovated Paddington Street terrace was put on the market with a rear lane car-stacking elevator. Some terraces in the suburb now have internal lifts, wine cellars and infinity edge swimming pools. Yet this is the suburb where in the 1920s and 30s terraces were cut up into flats for 10 or
more people with one outdoor toilet. Whatever has happened? This is the process of gentrification. It has proceeded in Paddington since the 1950s
and comes with benefits and costs . . .
. . . as a result this chic village has been something of a bellwether for
Sydney’s property market for decades. This chapter charts the gloss of gentrification in Paddington from the end of the 1950s up until the early
21st century. Gentrification has been one of the more powerful urban forces shaping Australian cities. Neither urban planners nor deliberate government policy dictated how this pattern of urbanism would play out in Paddington, instead a complex constellation of social, cultural and economic influences shaped a unique outcome . . .
Paddington’s story is about shifting social classes and economic investment and the reimagining of a fine-grained historic inner-city area from shabby to high end chic. Today Paddington has become a spectacle of consumption and leisure. In just over 50 years it has metamorphosed from a suburb perceived
as having ugly narrow streets, lined with rows of dark terraces, dunny lanes and alleyways used by families, to one of Australia’s richest suburbs. Paddington
is now widely regarded as a prestige residential suburb where stylish terraces, markets, high end fashion boutiques, gastropubs, fine dining restaurants,
cafes, gourmet providores, wine bars and galleries reflect the money, style
and tastes of its residents.
Youthful intellectualism, cosmopolitan style and artistic sensibilities, combined with old timers and post-war migrants from Portugal, Greece, Malta, Italy and the former Yugoslavia (with their colourful terraces and corner shops), characterised the initial wave of gentrification in the late 1950s . . .
Chapter 7 - Conserving Paddington
by Seridan Burke, town planner & writer The depth of expertise within the Paddington Society enables it to continue
its contributions to the conservation of a precinct of national heritage significance. Its engagement ranges from large-scale developments like
the Royal Hospital for Women site, the St John’s Church development in Oxford Street and developments at White City and the Scottish Hospital
site, down to the small and increasingly rare timber cottages of Paddington.
The Society has for more than 50 years dedicated itself to the conservation
of Paddington for future generations. Through the Society members have provided to councils professional advice and reports prepared by some of Australia’s top heritage and architectural practitioners. This key civic service
by numerous members is recorded in the 2003 profile of the Paddington Society It Never Stops Does It! prepared by historian Ron Johnson.
Through specialist subcommittees and technical reports the Society effectively delivered the specialist advice that consultants and heritage advisers later
used when employed by councils.
Commissioner Bunning’s and Abraham’s recommendations have been fulfilled; Paddington is today a celebrated precinct of architectural and historical merit, its existing character and identity preserved. Moreover, the area is subject
to planning instruments which recognise that “Paddington is a living place
which will continue to undergo change; appropriate contemporary design is encouraged and necessary if change is to occur in a manner which respects
the significant characteristics of Paddington” . . .
Chapter 8 - Bohemian Paddington
by Sandra Hall, writer & film critic . . . Sydney’s bohemian tribes had a variety of homes before many of them
began to converge on Paddington in the early 1960s.
… Rudi Komon’s arrival on the scene triggered a radical change to the art market’s geography. He was a Czech, whose experience on the art market dated back to the war years when he had known many of Prague’s painters
and cartoonists. In Sydney, he complemented his career as an art and antique dealer by becoming a wine judge and cellar master for the NSW Wine
and Food Society. And in 1959, he bought an old McWillam’s wine bar in Paddington Street, promptly converting it into a gallery. His stable of artists grew very fast, partly because he adopted the European custom of paying
them a retainer in return for the right to sell their work. Fred Williams,
Leonard French, Clifton Pugh, John Brack and Peter Powditch were just a
few of the names who grew to appreciate his practice of combining his skill
as a dealer with his enthusiasms as a bon vivant. Lunching and dining well became an intrinsic part of the gallery’s operations
. . . Paddington was benefiting from something much bigger than a shift
in the art market. The Vietnam War had created a climate of protest among young people throughout the West and with it had come the counterculture
– a movement championing feminism and sexual liberation and questioning materialistic values and everything they represented, from the nuclear family
to the nine-to-five job. The previous generation, with memories of the Great Depression and World War II still fresh in their minds, had seen Paddington
as a slum, indelibly linked to the hard times that had marked their youth.
When they had felt ready to settle down and raise their families, they had wanted all that was new, bright and spacious.
In contrast, many of their children saw brightness as blandness and found monotony in the airy, open streets of the suburbs. If they had experienced
the coming-of-age ritual shared by so many young Australians in the 1950s
and 60s, they had lived for a while in Europe, returning with a taste for
antique furniture, heritage and houses with “character”.
Paddington suited them very well and they went to work, shaping the
terraces to their needs . . .
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