A black and white photo of Townsville's cityscape in the mid 70s. A round building, with what looks to be a spout, towers over.

This iconic building has been compared to the Sydney Opera House and its facade gets a shake

It has been described as one of Australia’s most recognizable buildings after the Sydney Opera House, but this icon is set to get a facelift.

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

But now the building’s exterior is about to be completely repainted, prompting admirers to sift through its history.

The Sugar Shaker is located in Townsville city center on Flinders Street.(Supplied: Townsville City Council )

The hotel will maintain its silhouette reminiscent of a sugar shaker with a distinctive spout-like shape at the top.

dr Mark Jones, a prominent architect and associate professor at the University of Queensland, said the Sugar Shaker has become one of Australia’s most recognizable buildings.

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

“I don’t think there is any other building in Australia apart from these two examples that is so exemplary of the city in which it is located.”

A black and white photograph taken from a helicopter shows the construction of a circular skyscraper in the 1970s.
Townsville’s Sugar Shaker was built in the 1970s and remains the tallest building in the CBD.(Supplied: Townsville City Council)

dr Jones said when the building opened as Hotel Townsville in 1976, there were two similar properties in the country; the Tower Mill Hotel in Brisbane and Australia Square in Sydney.

“I suspect the architects for the Sugar Shaker drew inspiration from those two buildings,” he said.

“But they took it a step further with this interesting housing on top of the rooftop air conditioner cooling towers that gives it the shape of a sugar shaker.”

A black and white photograph of Townsville's Flinders Street Mall.
The hotel is often featured in images used to market Townsville.(Supplied: Townsville City Council)

46 years after the Townsville building was erected, debate continues as to whether the resemblance was intentional.

“I’m not sure if they thought of a sugar shaker straight away or if that came from people afterwards,” said Dr. Jones.

“In any case, it is a wonderful symbol of the sugar cane region.

“I can’t think of any other example apart from the kitschy big banana and big pineapple style installations.”

A long shot of Townsville's modern CBD.
46 years after the construction of the building, the “Sugar Shaker” is being renovated.(ABC North Qld: Chloe Chomicki)

Marketing director for lobby group Townsville Enterprise Lisa Woolfe said there were several local theories about the design.

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

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

A color photo of a regional town with a circular building towering over all other lots.
It is disputed whether the building’s resemblance to a sugar shaker was intentional.(Supplied: Townsville City Council)

Townsville Deputy Mayor Mark Molachino said he suspected the architects were intentional with their design.

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

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

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

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

“Locals are very passionate about the Sugar Shaker, but it needed a refresher,” Mr. Gray said.

A photo of multiple balconies on a sandstone building.  Half of them were painted gray and white.
The “Sugar Shaker” should be completely repainted by the end of August.(ABC North Qld: Chloe Chomicki)

The refurbishment, including a complete repaint of the building, is expected to be completed by the end of August.

“The building itself will be painted gray,” Mr. Gray said.

“There will be white running up the risers just to loosen it up a bit too.

“I think it will go quite well with the buildings around the city and look a lot more modern.”

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