Excuse me, where is Room 1156?

In the belly of the beast at the Con.

Art by Claire Ollivain

The Sydney Conservatorium of Music is, quite literally, a glorified hole. Dug beneath the Royal Botanic Gardens and overlooking Sydney Harbour, there’s no doubt as to why the Con is the poster child for the University. It’s such a shame then, that students themselves don’t get much of a view in this building which has been awarded for its design.

The issue with the Con being a massive hole in the middle of a city is that other things happen to be underground too. I don’t know which architectural genius decided it’d be great to dig the hole for a performance institution not just over, not just beside, but all the way around the City Circle line, but I’d like to pour cold water over their head. What, you might ask, is the end result of this masterstroke in design? Rumblings mid-recital, rumblings mid-recording and even just rumblings that interrupt the flow of practise and study as the trains travel from St James to Circular Quay, and back again, in relentless droves.

One other perk of this unique design is that half of Level One is inaccessible via Level One. To venture into ‘the back of the Con’, one must loop back and climb to Level Two to pass over the train line, and then descend again to access the remainder of the first level. What this does to the poor first years each year is just criminal: many are left wondering why they have classes in a non-existent part of the building while just a few staircases away, my friends, is where your class in Room 1156 happened to be.

One of the other truly delightful quirks of the Con being the Con is that the campus is totally incapable of retaining a café for more than a year. In 2018, the Con didn’t have a café at all which, naturally, was the fault of a myriad of governmental red tape — enough, apparently, to prevent any new business moving in. In 2019, someone must have finally gotten through the paperwork and in came Fast Fuel. This short lived, overpriced and mildly flavoured café didn’t even last the year. Then came 2020, and there was finally hope; Piccolo Me, the favoured watering hole of Con students since time immemorial, expanded from the Botanic Gardens and opened a small shop in the downstairs café space. But the promise of 2020 proved illusionary, and the cafe was only open for a handful of months out of the year. With the advent of 2021, the Con saw yet another change: the Piccolo Me downstairs moved upstairs into the actual café and finally, after half a decade of revolving door cafes, we pray that they may stay.

It would be remiss of me to end a reflection on the quirks of the Con without at least some small remark on the availability of practise rooms. All I have to say is this: to everyone who studies on Main Campus, if you think library spaces are a rare commodity, you haven’t seen anything yet.

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