chapter  2
12 Pages

Buildings and the performance of identity

ByPatsy Hely

In a discussion about commodities, the sociologist Henri Lefebvre wrote ‘like all languages, the language of things is as useful for lying as it is for telling the truth’ (Lefebvre 1991: 81), in part suggesting that the appearance of a thing, its material and shape languages, might conceal the conditions and processes that brought it into being. The idea that I extrapolate from this – that a building might lie – is perhaps fanciful but I use it rhetorically here to examine ways in which two iconic Australian buildings have refracted ideas about identity. Both have occupied the most prominent site in Sydney Harbour – Bennelong Point, a thin arm of land forming the southern side of the cove Sydney centres around.