The “Sugar Shaker” in Townsville is undergoing a drastic change, prompting fans to scrutinize its history

It has been described as one of the most iconic buildings in Australia after the Sydney Opera House, but this icon has been set for a facelift.

The Sugar Shaker in Townsville has defined the city skyline for more than 46 years with the color of its original brown sandstone.

But now the building’s entire exterior is being repainted, prompting fans to scrutinize its history.

Sugar Shaker is located in the heart of Townsville on Flinders Street.(Supplied: Townsville City Council )

The hotel will maintain its silhouette, which is characteristically a sugar shaker that resembles a spout at its peak.

Dr Mark Jones, a prominent architect and associate professor at the University of Queensland, said the Sugar Shaker Building has become one of the most iconic buildings in Australia.

“Most of the Townsville photos include this building, not unlike the Sydney Opera House,” he said.

“I don’t think, except for these two examples, that there is another building in Australia that is quite representative of the city in which it is located.”

A black and white photo taken from a helicopter shows the construction of a circular high-rise building in the 1970s.
The “Sugar Shaker” was built in Townsville in the 1970s and remains the tallest building in the Central Business District.(Supplied: Townsville City Council)

Dr. Jones said that by the time the building opened in 1976 as the Townsville Hotel, there were two similar properties in the country; The Tower Mill Hotel in Brisbane, and Australia Square in Sydney.

“I think the architects of Sugar Shaker drew some inspiration from these two buildings,” he said.

“But they went one step further with this interesting enclosure on rooftop air conditioning cooling towers that gives it the shape of a sugar shaker.”

Black and white photo of Flinders Street Mall in Townsville.
The hotel is often used in photographs used to market Townsville.(Supplied: Townsville City Council)

46 years after the building was erected in Townsville, debate continues over whether the resemblance was intentional.

“I’m not sure if they were directly thinking of the sugar shakers or if that came from people then,” said Dr. Jones.

Either way, it’s a wonderful symbol of the sugarcane growing region.

“I can’t think of another example, except for the gigantic large banana type and the large pineapple type facilities.”

Wide shot of the modern CBD area of ​​Townsville.
Forty-six years after the building was constructed, the Sugar Shaker is being renovated.(ABC North Qld: Chloe Chomiki)

There are many local theories about the design, said Lisa Wolf, marketing director of pressure group at Townsville Enterprise.

“Apparently, it was modeled after a sugar shaker sold in a nearby coffee shop,” she said.

“But I’ve also heard over the years that people refer to it as lipstick.”

Color image of a provincial town with a circular building that precedes all other estates.
There is controversy as to whether the sugar-shaker-like buildings were intentional.(Supplied: Townsville City Council)

Townsville Deputy Mayor Mark Molacino said he suspected the architects were intentional in their design.

“I don’t know the date of the design, I’ll be honest,” he said.

“But whoever designed it made it look as close to a sugar shaker as possible, so they did a good job with the likeness.”

The hotel has been known as Centra Townsville, Townsville International Hotel, and Holiday Inn over the years, but is currently owned by the Hotel Grand Chancellor.

Director Paul Gray said choosing a new color for the “iconic” building was a “daunting” task.

“Locals are very excited about the Sugar Shaker, but it needed an update,” Gray said.

Picture of several balconies in a sandstone building.  Half of it is painted gray and white.
The Sugar Shaker is expected to be completely repainted by the end of August.(ABC North Qld: Chloe Chomiki)

Renovation work, including completely repainting the building, is due to be completed by the end of August.

“The building itself is painted gray,” Gray said.

“It’d be white running over the risers, just to break it up a bit as well.

“I think it would match well with buildings around the city and would look more modern.”

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