Mooramong Homestead – Hollywood comes to the Western District

Let’s take a detour from controversy this week and substitute glamour. Hollywood starlet, handsome colonial grazier and 4000 working acres. But lets forget the sheep for a moment and focus on crystal and crockery. This is the home of the son of LKS McKinnon, the famous Lawyer, racehorse owner and breeder immortalised with the naming of the McKinnon Stakes during Melbourne’s Cup Week Racing Carnival.




The property was originally a ‘Squatters Run’ of over 15,000 hectares claimed in 1838 by Scotsman Alexander Andersen and his two partners. Having sold off two thirds of the run, Andersen named the property Mooramong. The sale and profits from grazing provided him with sufficient capital to commission Geelong Architects Davidson and Henderson to design a new homestead and have its construction completed by 1873. Andersen eventually sold the property in 1889.



During the 1920s, the property was purchased by lawyer and racing identity Mr LKS McKinnon who in turn gifted it to his son DJS (Scobie) McKinnon as a 21st birthday present. Scobie excelled as a grazier and breeder of sheep. In 1937 whilst visiting Britain for the Coronation, young Scobie met Canadian born silent screen actress Claire Adams. Besotted the young couple married after a whirlwind 3 week courtship then honeymooned for an entire year whilst touring through Europe, the UK and the USA. Both were independently wealthy. Scobie utilised his gifted property well, achieving record wool clips, whilst Claire had inherited substantial wealth from her first husband. Not only that, she had acted in over 46 Hollywood movies including five Zane Grey films. She worked with the very best producers, directors and actors of the time.



It was Hollywood in real life as the strapping young Cambridge Undergraduate turned grazier and breeder wooed the glamorous starlet – then settled at Mooramong!

Art Deco was all the rage at the time and a staid 19th Century homestead became a very fashionable and trendsetting abode – Modern style, Art Deco elements, with Georgian accents. Melbourne Architect Marcus Martin had been engaged by Claire Adams, The transformation was deemed a modernisation and at the time perceived as very daring.


The weatherboard exteriors were rendered and the 19th Century Gothic features removed even when Architect Martin strongly objected.

A heated pool (the first in Victoria) and an Edna Walling garden design was prepared but never fully implemented. A pavilion and pergola completed the thoroughly modern improvements to Mooramong commissioned by Claire Adams.

Much of the 18-month-long renovation work was done on the interior. Of course, a home theatre was an essential part of the brief for this couple. Other entertainment areas included the music room, bar and games room, the latter two being all the rage in fashionable homes of the time. These areas all displayed the influence of modernism, as did the pool furniture and light fittings throughout the home.


The style of the bar with its green leather dado with chrome strips, recessed fireplace and curved bench took its lead from the interiors of ocean liners such as P&O’s new Orcades. Another fashionable 1930s innovation adopted at Mooramong was the use of built-in furniture, particularly in the kitchen but also in the bathrooms. The use of Formica, too, was cutting-edge, as it was not generally available in Australia until after World War II. Wrought-iron features, such as the front screen door, also appealed to Martin.

Claire, it seems, may not have been Martin’s easiest client to work for, not because of temperament but due to her reported difficulty in understanding drawings. So it was often a case of “build and demolish until it is right”, according to Stephen Dorling, Martin’s assistant at the time. The lounge mantelpiece, for example, was rebuilt six times. She also, apparently, returned a grand piano to London because it wasn’t exactly the colour she’d ordered.


The Mackinnons were very popular, though, and great charity workers. They entertained the cream of high society and local community folk alike, throwing open their home for parties, film nights, musical evenings and card nights, and welcoming all to swim in their pool. Claire’s natural charm and beauty won hearts and her love of animals was legendary.

She even came in for criticism when in 1944 a great bushfire threatened Mooramong and Claire’s first thought was to save the dogs by letting them off their chains — before worrying about the expensive farm equipment. Still, almost single-handedly, she managed to save most of the property, only losing some outbuildings and the manager’s residence, which was rebuilt in 1947.


More work was done on the house over the years, though wartime shortages made it difficult during that period. Scobie died of cancer in 1974. His devastated wife had myriad photos, home movies and press clippings to remind her of their wonderful life together, until her own death in 1978. The couple had no children, and the house and bulk of their estate were bequeathed to the National Trust.


Today the property, its outbuildings and features remain pretty much as the McKinnons left it, a working farm typical of the Western District of Victoria, still operating today. Photographs, curios, furniture and art remaining gives the overall feeling of a glamorous home (and couple) of the 1930s, through to the 1970s that remains etched in time. To this day the property remains a popular location for feature films and television dramas.


Well worth a visit, you can find more detail on location and opening hours on the National Trust website.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.


Fortuna Villa – Riches beyond imagination

Gold – that beautiful precious metal – is what Bendigo is built upon. This week we look at one of Bendigo’s most famous Mansions – Fortuna Villa, a building of over 40 rooms. Its original owner was George Lansell, a very successful mining investor. George invested in deep mining of Quartz reefs. He went deeper than anyone had before him and his reward was fabulous wealth. His home was full of exotica from all over the planet – his garden too was filled with rare and exotic plants from mystical and secret places, most of which are now long gone.


Bendigo has produced over 9 billion dollars worth of Gold since the 1850s – that’s $9,000,000,000, the second highest producing Goldfield in Australia to Kalgoorlie. No wonder historic, elaborate bank buildings line the streets of old Bendigo. Originally discovered by the wives of two farm workers on a pastoral lease, a Mrs Kennedy and a Mrs Farrell, alluvial gold mining soon made way to deep shaft mining after 10 years. After 100 years the Bendigo Goldfield represented the largest concentration of deep mine shafts for Gold anywhere in the world.

George Lansell was born in 1823 in Kent, England. As a young man, George and his two brothers emigrated to Echunga in South Australia to ‘pan for Gold’. The Lansells were soap and candle makers by trade. By late in 1853 George Lansell and his brothers Wooten and William had moved to Bendigo and set up their business as butchers, soap and candle manufacturers. By 1855 Stockbrokers were visiting George and encouraging him to invest n deep shaft mining. By 1860 he had invested, lost and reinvested a number of times. He was learning what was required to be successful at this type of mining. By 1865 – a bad year for mining in Bendigo – Lansell took advantage of the tough times and bought up many shares in the Advance Mining Company and Cinderella Mine. He insisted that the miners go deeper than ever before and from then on he and his companies reaped massive rewards. By the 1870s he had accumulated a large fortune from the Garden Gully Mine and he then purchased the 180 mine. Although he was initially always on the edge of financial ruin, his methods paid off and he became a Millionaire, a philanthropist and returned to London. He was petitioned by the Bendigo Mining industry to return and in the late 1880s he did return. George continued to build onto the house Fortuna he purchased in 1871. He collected furniture, sculptures and art from around the globe. Outside he designed a spacious estate featuring walks, lakes and imported plants and flora. He died in 1906 with his second wife surviving him until 1933. His mansion was in fact directly opposite his prosperous Fortuna Mine.


His second wife Edith and their six children lived there, she remained there until her death. He commenced his lavish building program immediately after he purchased the property in 1871.

Generally described as ‘over the top’, it was opulent and went far beyond being utilitarian. Drapes covered faux windows, mantle pieces appeared from nowhere. The impression was one of immense wealth – and power.


George Lansell enjoyed the beauty of classical Europe and the Orient and the ‘villa’ very much reflected his personal style and tastes.

The house came close to being demolished after the death of his second wife Edith Lansell. Edith had continued to add to the house and its contents up until her death. One of the interlinked mining companies sold off the contents of the house with much of the collection saved. Many of the items have been displayed in the Post Office Gallery in Bendigo and the Bendigo Art Gallery.


By 1942 it had been acquired by the Federal Government Department of Defence and used as a Map Making facility during WWII and remained in the hands of the Defence Department until 2008.

It is now in the hands of a private owner who permits regular tours and public access after 65 years of being closed.


According to the Heritage Council of Victoria, Fortuna Villa’s description is as follows:

“The Villa is a rambling three storey asymmetrical rendered brick mansion, in a variety of styles , predominantly French Second Empire and Queen Anne”, reflecting the various periods of construction. Cast Iron Balconies decorate the North, East and West elevations. The original house, purchased in 1971, is encompassed in the centre of the present house and is much altered. Originally it was designed in 1857 and extended to the further designs of Bendigo Architects Vahland and Getzschmann, Emil Mauermann and William Beebe.


By the early Twentieth Century, Lansell had expanded the house to over 40 rooms, one of the largest in Victoria. Lansell transformed the industrial site of settling ponds and tailings dumps into spacious gardens and ornamental lakes, extravagant fountains and follies, with pathways and exotic plantings.

The estate is actually located atop of the rich New Chum reef.

The house has been stripped of its original furnishings but still retains magnificent lead light and etched glass windows, with plaster and pressed metal ceilings, parquet flooring, its two very unique bathrooms (c1904) and its outstanding conservatory (c1880) with French Ruby glass imported from Italy and floor to ceiling windows of etched glass depicting mining scenes, Australiana and Heraldic scenes. Then there is the Pompeii Fountain (c1879), a copy of the great fountain in Pompeii inspired by Lansell’s 1879 visit to Italy and Pompeii, and a further fountain and rockery in the South Garden, stables, a tailings dam converted to a brick Swimming Pool (called the Roman Bath), a coach house, a brick laundry, a former shade house South of the house and a garage North West of the house for Lansell’s Benz motor car, the first in Bendigo.

How is it significant?

Fortuna satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:

  • Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion B Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion C Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
  • Criterion E Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics
  • Criterion H Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria’s history.


Why is it significant?

Fortuna is significant at the State level for the following reasons:

Fortuna demonstrates key historic phases of Victoria’s history, notably the gold mining era, the development of the City of Bendigo and the history of defence in the state. The Fortuna cultural landscape is associated with the gold mining industry of Bendigo, particularly the extraction of gold from the richest quartz reef in the world in the nineteenth century, which had a significant influence on the settlement of Bendigo. (Criterion A)

Fortuna is an outstanding demonstration of the wealth and prosperity of Bendigo and Victoria during the gold rush period. The quartz-crushing works attached to the mansion represent a direct link between its owners’ wealth and its source. Fortuna is historically significant as the home of two of Australia’s wealthiest gold-mining families, Christopher and Theodore Ballerstedt, the earliest successful reef miners on the Bendigo goldfields. These men are often referred to as Australia’s first mining magnates, and George Lansell, known as the ‘Quartz King’, one of Australia’s most successful and adventurous nineteenth century mine owners. Although there were no mines on the Fortuna site, the estate was developed largely on the waste from Lansell’s 180 mine, north of Fortuna, which was one of the richest mines in Bendigo. The ore treatment site was gradually transformed into a picturesque landscape of lakes and gardens. Fortuna demonstrates the lavish lifestyle of the very wealthy families of Victoria’s gold-rush period. (Criterion A)


Fortuna is an example of the large private properties appropriated by the military during World War II, and has been in Defence control since 1942, when it was acquired as a base for mapping activities. It was the headquarters of the Survey Corps, later the Army Survey Regiment, until 1966 when it became the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO). The work of the regiment was highly important for the war effort, as preparing maps was a matter of urgency. New techniques based on American methods were developed at Fortuna, including innovations in aerial photographic surveys, and cartographic and lithographic techniques. (Criterion A)

Fortuna has a number of features which are rare in Victoria. It was rare for such a lavish house to be built so close to the industrial works that were source of the wealth that created it, in this case the crushing works for the ore from the Ballerstedt and later the Lansell gold mines. This reflects the need for security to protect the gold produced on the site. The survival of a nineteenth century villa estate, with a grand house surrounded by its original garden, is also unusual in an urban setting, and many of Fortuna’s garden structures, such as the iron fountain, rotunda and iron arbour are now relatively rare. Other rare features at Fortuna include the Pompeii fountain and the Roman bath, whose significance is increased by its origin as a tailings treatment pool built by the Ballerstedts in the 1860s. (Criterion B)


Fortuna has archaeological significance for its potential to contain historical archaeological features, deposits and objects associated with the establishment, development and use of the place. In particular the battery house is likely to contain archaeological features and relics associated with the operation of Lansell’s quartz crushing battery (and possibly remains of an earlier battery belonging to Ballerstedt), and other mining activities. 

The area in the direct vicinity of the house has the potential to contain historical archaeological features, deposits and objects associated with the construction and use of the place, including sub-floor deposits, refuse and garden or landscape features. (Criterion C)

Fortuna is an outstanding and relatively intact example of an extensive nineteenth century villa estate. The house, developed over several decades, is significant as one of the grandest residences built in Victoria in the nineteenth century. The villa is significant for its outstanding collection of stained and etched glass windows, for its ornate plaster and pressed metal ceilings and parquet floors, and for its now rare intact early bathrooms. The conservatory is significant for its outstanding glass workmanship, and is regarded as among the most important examples of its kind in Australia. The Pompeii fountain is unique in Victoria and indeed in Australia. The Roman bath is significant as a rare feature in a nineteenth century villa, and is the only known surviving private swimming pool from this period in Victoria. (Criterion D)

Fortuna is aesthetically significant for its decorative architecture, its remaining interiors and for its landscape setting and garden buildings and structures. The picturesque landscape extensively planted with trees, shrubs, garden beds and lawns is located on high ground that retains an undulating and modified land form of a former mining site with terracing, walls, steps, fences and gates, roads and paths and a lake, being a former settling pond. The contrasting and extensive plantings consisting of conifers, evergreen and deciduous trees, palms, shrubs, herbaceous plants, camellias and roses form a garden of aesthetic significance. Fortuna’s gardens, at their peak, were a marvel of aesthetic design, and many significant plantings remain. (Criterion E)

Fortuna is inextricably linked with George Lansell, the ‘Quartz King’, Australia’s first gold mining millionaire, who is credited with being the driving force behind much of Bendigo’s early prosperity. Lansell made a significant contribution to the mining industry in Bendigo and is credited with the introduction of technologies such as the diamond drill for quartz mining. Fortuna Villa and its grounds were Lansell’s passions and he decorated them extravagantly. (Criterion H)


Fortuna is also significant for the following reasons, but not at the State level:

Fortuna is of historical significance at a local level for its association with the history of Bendigo.

Fortuna is a historic landmark in Bendigo. It symbolises the founding of the town, and is important as a reference point in the community’s sense of identity. Many of the town’s citizens have worked on the site and several active community-based social groups have been formed to actively promote the history and importance of the site. The community, through the City of Greater Bendigo, has shown a profound interest in the future of the site.

Fortuna is significant for its association with one of Australia’s wealthiest gold magnates, Christopher Ballerstedt, who played an important role in the development of Bendigo’s gold mining industry. It is a demonstration of the work of the prominent Bendigo architects, Vahland & Getschmann, E Maurmann and W Beebe.


All in all a rather significant building and a spectacular history, but there is a final chapter.

In 2017 the Fortuna Villa Estate was released for public sale. The masterplan offers modern housing – houses and townhouses positioned in a horseshoe configuration facing back at the Estate’s Lake and Historic Mansion.

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According to the Estate’s website it consists of “79 contemporary architectural residences on one of Bendigo’s most renowned locations.”


You can view the development here

For us it certainly provides a major juxtaposition to the eccentricity and charm of the old estate. But you will experience “spectacular views of gardens, lake, historic villa and uninterrupted views over Bendigo”.

The last question is whether it resonates with the Heritage Listing and its reasons for protecting the original Fortuna Villa. We’ll let you be the judge of that.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Fisherman’s Bend Major Development Halted

Fisherman’s Bend – where exactly is that? The Mouth of the Yarra River? The junction with the Maribyrnong River? Webb Dock? South Bank? Well in reference to the area earmarked and approved for development it’s all of the above. It’s an area that covers 480 hectares (equal to the CBD district of Melbourne) and it will be the biggest single development in Melbourne ever. It is planned that over 80,000 people will live here with a further 80,000 employed and working in the new precinct. The plan is that the development of Fisherman’s Bend will link Melbourne’s CBD via the river and connect it to Port Phillip Bay.

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For now the project is on hold. It would appear there is much to be done before any real construction and development begins. Please read this report from Architecture AU written by Patrick Hunn.

Tower timeout: 26 Fishermans Bend developments halted

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Satellite view of central Melbourne and the Fishermans Bend renewal area

The Victorian government has “called in” 26 live development applications for towers in Melbourne’s Fishermans Bend, which it says were inappropriately dense.

State planning minister Richard Wynne criticized the decision of his predecessor, former planning minister and current leader of the opposition Matthew Guy, to rezone the formerly industrial area adjacent to the CBD “overnight,” without a plan for development.

The former planning minister’s decision sparked a spate of high-rise development applications and led to soaring property prices, which meant the government was forced to buy back land at highly inflated prices for community infrastructure such as schools and parks.

“What Matthew Guy did at Fishermans Bend stinks,” he said. “We make no apology for putting a stop to this development free-for-all – we’ll get the planning right and give Victorian families a community they can be proud of.”

Albert Park MP Martin Foley said, “Matthew Guy’s planning mess left us with a soulless Fishermans Bend where unplanned high rises were let loose on the community, and the interests of local residents were ignored. We’re fixing that mess.”

The affected applications will be referred to an independent advisory committee and “won’t be approved unless they have the community’s interests at heart.”

Opposition planning spokesperson David Davis said, “We need the additional [residential] capacity and now [Victorian premier] Daniel Andrews is causing delay, confusion and uncertainty by this unprecedented announcement,” according to a report from the ABC.

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The Fishermans Bend renewal area as laid out in the Fishermans Bend Draft Framework

The Australian Institute of Architects praised the government’s decision. Recently appointed Victorian chapter president Amy Muir said, “Fishermans Bend is a significant site that will shape and define our future as a city and as a growing community.

“The rezoning of Fishermans Bend prior to the implementation of planning controls or a holistic masterplan sets a dangerous precedent for providing imbalanced developments and ill-conceived built environments leading to long-term detrimental effects upon immediate and surrounding communities.”

She said a plan for the development of the area should not be rushed. “It is imperative that we have processes in place in order for the best design outcomes to be implemented.

“This is not about quick fix solutions but rather considered, holistic design solutions that acknowledge the significance and legacy of the project.”

In October 2017 the state government published its Fishermans Bend Draft Framework, which noted that parts of the area could have population densities of 1,300 people per hectare, and that the government should “introduce density and built form controls that support the creation of a clear centre in each precinct and support increased economic activity.”

The plan also projected that the area would be home to more than 80,000 people by 2050.

Muir said, “Moving forward we strongly support and recommend the engagement of a design review panel represented by the Australian Institute of Architects, the Planning Institute of Australia, the Urban Design Institute of Australia and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects.

“The Institute supports a rigorous consultation process with experts in the field in order to provide balanced design advice from an urban planning, urban form and landscape perspective.

“We are very aware of the commercial endeavours that these projects hold. However we also understand that there needs to be a balance between commercial intent and the quality of the design outcome.”

On Twitter, Planning Institute of Australia (Victoria) president Laura Murray said, “If Fisherman’s Bend had been properly strategically planned in the first place, we would not be in this mess.

“I look forward to reading the outcomes of the upcoming panel report.”


The area has always been somewhat forgotten by Melburnians. Not surprising as to a large extent, the area was cut off from the rest of Melbourne. Reserved as Crown Land for decades after Emerald Hill, Port Melbourne and the town of Melbourne were developed, it was a watery, sandy, scrub ridden wasteland in the eyes of the British and European settlers.

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Home to fishing communities living on the beach in shacks it provided the perfect location to develop extractive and ‘dirty’ industry at first then aircraft production and General Motors Holden all leading the way after World War II. Prior to World War II, Cement Works, soap factories, tanneries, abattoirs and the like filled the eastern end of the precinct. During the 1960s and early 1970s the old Fisherman’s Bend Airstrip (RAAF) was used as Melbourne’s first drag racing strip. Then with the building of the West Gate Bridge and the expansion of the facilities at Webb Dock, the area became a wasteland until the development (mainly via volunteers) of the Westgate Park added some civility to the area.

In 1839 an early settler wrote thus.

“The row up the Yarra I shall never forget. The Yarra’s waters were as clear as crystal, wild fowl rose in numbers from the river’s bends as the sounds of our oars disturbed them. Here and there the stream was overarched by the growth on either side.”

Fast forward to 2018. What is the vision for the future? According to the latest assessments, there has been little forward planning on transport, amenities such as schools and parks, and the massive relocation of huge numbers of people and industry to the area in a relatively short period. General Motors Holden has left the area except for a minor presence. As it stands Williamstown Road (named as it terminated at the river ferry depot) leads to a large empty space on the south side of the Westgate Bridge, earmarked for residential multi-storey apartments. To the east of the bridge heading back to the CBD along Lorimer St are disused docks, factories and vacant land.

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Planned ‘vertical school’ for the area

The State Government has ‘called in’ 26 ‘live’ development high rise applications within the precinct, which it says are inappropriately dense.

Land prices have risen astronomically and the Government must pay a premium now for sites required for schools, parks and playgrounds.


Artist’s impression of what Ingles St will look like in the new Fisherman’s Bend precinct

In short, where is the ‘plan’? if this is to be the showpiece Melbourne’s Gateway deserves, it will require careful planning in architecture, public transport, recreational parkland and facilities, and infrastructure such as schools, community centres and sporting facilities.

Let’s take a breath – and create something superb – a vision for the future – perhaps that even considers that original settler’s first impressions. Is it possible? It is if we plan for it. What’s your opinion?

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

The Trees on St Kilda Rd – Gone and going!

The St Kilda Rd tree removals have begun. What is particularly sad is the removal of the Elm trees, a species struggling to survive the ravages of the Dutch Elm Beetle and the disease it has spread widely through Melbourne’s famous Boulevards and gardens. In the case of these trees, they were aged well over 100 years old and had significant investment from the Melbourne City Council, the State Government and others in protecting them from the Dutch Elm Beetle disease.

Take a look at the photo in yesterday’s Age Newspaper. The trees have been clear felled and the area is now a scene of devastation – as would be expected of a construction site of this magnitude.

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The Heritage listing of the trees by the Federal Government – to be correct, the trees were added to the ‘National History List’ and as of Valentines Day 2018, that’s exactly what they are now – History.

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Melbourne Grammar School

Consider the Architecture of the precinct – Melbourne Grammar, Victoria Barracks, the Shrine of Remembrance and a plethora of medium rise, fairly uninteresting, multi-storey buildings. The elms and plane trees are in fact overriding features of interest on St Kilda Rd and Albert Rd – as well as the Domain Tram Interchange building which harks back to the early 20th Century.

The issue is not the project – the Metro Rail Project. It’s simply the decision – based on pure economics to remove the trees – heritage listed trees, that Heritage Victoria have now given permission to remove.

For a full update, read the article in yesterday’s Age here…

‘Final blow’: tree felling begins on St Kilda Road

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Tree felling works begin on the corner of Albert and St Kilda Roads on Wednesday.

Felling has begun to remove dozens of plane and elm trees along Melbourne’s St Kilda Road this week to pave the way for Metro Tunnel project in a move locals say strikes at the heart of the grand boulevard’s identity.

Twenty-six mature trees along St Kilda Road between Toorak Road West and Dorcas Street and from within Albert Road Reserve will be chopped down in the coming days, after works began on Wednesday.

Heritage Victoria on Friday granted permits to remove 60 trees in the area, despite the road recently being permanently added to National History List.

The permit paves the way for 47 trees to be removed from St Kilda Road and 13 from the Albert Road Reserve.

A further twelve trees were cut down in St Kilda Road last year.

It is believed to be among the largest number of trees cut down in one fell swoop in the leafy boulevard’s history. And there’s more to come.

The Melbourne Metro Rail Authority plans to chop down a total of 95 trees along St Kilda Road, down from 170 following fierce opposition from the community.

However, the Authority will need to obtain more permits to complete the works.

Marilyn Wane, who lives on St Kilda Road, said it was the “final blow.”

“We’re just devastated,” Ms Wane said. “The thing that is most upsetting is that they’ve started with oldest and most valuable assets in the whole area. Those elms trees are part of avenue which has been there for 100 years. They are destroying history.”

Ms Wane also accused the authorities of being “underhanded” by publicly withholding the permits until just hours before the works began on Wednesday afternoon.

“It would be nice if the treated us with respect given it’s our backyard they’re digging up,” she said.

The Authority has promised to plant two trees for every one removed, and says the new trees would be planted in improved soil conditions and with better irrigation.

“We are continuing to investigate reducing this number further however some removal is necessary for a project of this size,” a Metro Railway Authority spokesman said.

Liberal Member for the Southern Metropolitan Region Margaret Fitzherbert accused the government of going for a “cheap and nasty option” despite changing its mind for Swanston Street, which was originally also going to be dug up as part of the project.

“This is going to have a massive impact on the area for years to come,” she said.

Late last year, the Andrews government announced it had signed a $6 billion contract, to build the nine kilometre tunnels and five underground stations with the Cross Yarra Partnership consortium led by Lendlease, and a $1.1 billion contract for high-capacity signalling with CPB Contractors and Bombardier Transportation.

Draft plans for the new Anzac Station detail a significant transformation of St Kilda Road, and stirred controversy over an new design for bike lanes along the boulevard.


Presently one of our team is awaiting a letter from the Minister for Public Transport M/s Jacinta Allan on an alternative plan for the removal, storage and return of the trees.

It would appear we have missed the bus, tram or train in this instance – the trees are well on the way as a group to oblivion. What a terrible shame for our beautiful city and its most beautiful boulevard. As a somewhat famous outlaw muttered before his death…

“Such is life”


Boer War Memorial at Albert Rd Reserve



Victoria Barracks


Victoria Barracks


Victoria Barracks


Melbourne Grammar School

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Heritage Listing – What is it?

Recently there has been a range of buildings, locations or sites that have invoked Heritage Status as the key element of the requirement for preservation. For the main we here at Balance Architecture and Interior Design are concerned with Heritage Listings referring to buildings, internal fitouts and associated groundworks – the Architecture, the design, the history.


The Victorian Heritage Register has quite specific criteria on which it will base a Heritage Registration. For the purposes of clarity we provide you with the information here so that you can both understand Heritage Listings and ensure suitable buildings, locations and objects are covered in a manner you have perceived.


Find out how to nominate a place to the Victorian Heritage Register, alter or remove a registration, or download registration forms and guidelines.

Any place or object registered by the Heritage Council is of special cultural heritage significance to the State of Victoria and legally protected to help ensure it survives for future generations to appreciate.

Registration doesn’t mean it can’t be sold, prevent it being employed for a different use, or guarantee that it will never be altered:

Registration Process Chart (PDF, 345.4 KB)

What registration means (PDF, 50.3 KB)

Owner rights and obligations

If a place or object is recommended, we provide a report to the owners and seek their views before adding a place or object to the register. This includes:

  • a statement of cultural heritage significance
  • a proposed extent of registration
  • proposed activities that may not require a permit.

Owners of a place or object subject to an Executive Director recommendation have obligations (DOCX, 460.9 KB) to ensure that the place/object is protected prior to the Heritage Council making a decision about whether it should be included in the Register.

Owners guide

Heritage Victoria has published a new brochure for owners of Victorian Heritage Register listed places.  It provides important information relevant to you as an owner or custodian of a heritage asset, including information regarding the Living Heritage Grants Program which provides conservation funding for Victorian Heritage Register listed places.


Anyone can nominate a place or object to the Victorian Heritage Register, but only a small percentage of them will meet the Heritage Council of Victoria’s criteria.

Confirm eligibility

Before you complete a nomination form ask yourself the questions below. If you answer yes to any of them you’ll probably need to look at other protections for the place or object:

Is the place or object solely of local significance?

The Heritage Register is reserved for places and objects which are considered to be important to Victoria as a whole.

Places of purely local significance are more appropriately identified through heritage overlays to the local planning scheme. If you believe the place is mainly important in the context of its local area, you should contact the relevant local council.

Is the place or object solely of natural or environmental significance?

The Heritage Act applies only to places of cultural heritage significance.

Some places that are solely of natural or environmental significance will be protected by virtue of their land management status. For example, forests, coastlines or areas of remnant vegetation will often constitute public land that is managed as a National Park, State Park, Coastal Park, fauna reserve or similar.

Other places that are solely of natural or environmental significance may be more appropriately identified and managed through Environmental Significance Overlays, Significant Landscape Overlays or Vegetation Protection Overlays in local planning schemes If you believe the place is important solely for its natural or environmental values, you should contact the relevant local council.

Is the place or object solely of Aboriginal significance?

The Heritage Act doesn’t apply to places and objects which are important only in respect of their association with Aboriginal tradition or traditional use.

Such places are better protected through legislation administered by Aboriginal Victoria

Nomination form

You must use the correct form:

Application to nominate a place or object for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register form (DOCX, 134.6 KB)

The form includes a detailed guide to help you complete it accurately:

  • read the guide carefully
  • make sure you complete mandatory sections
  • provide attachments where required.

We won’t consider your application if:

  • it’s incomplete
  • it has inadequate or insufficient information
  • it’s for a place or object that has already been considered and rejected, unless you provide substantial new information.

Victorian Heritage Register

For a place or object to be included in the Victorian Heritage Register it must meet at least one of the Heritage Council of Victoria’s Criteria for Assessment.

Use the Criteria and Threshold Guidelines to help you apply the criteria to your application.

7 August 2008: Criteria adopted by the Heritage Council pursuant to Sections 8(1)(c) and 8(2) of the Heritage Act 1995:

Criterion A – Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history.

Criterion B – Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history.

Criterion C – Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s cultural history.

Criterion D – Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects.

Criterion E – Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics.

Criterion F – Importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.

Criterion G – Strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons. This includes the significance of a place to Indigenous peoples as part of their continuing and developing cultural traditions.

Criterion H – Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria’s history.

GuidelinesThe Guidelines (DOCX, 249.3 KB) for nomination to the Victorian heritage Register (VHR) provides valuable information to support you in developing a nomination for the VHR.

Landscapes of Cultural Heritage Significance

The Assessment Guidelines will help you understand, identify and assess the cultural values of landscapes in Victoria. These Landscape Guidelines were endorsed by Heritage Council of Victoria and Heritage Victoria in February 2015.

If a place is nominated to the Victorian Heritage Register, these Guidelines supplement The Victorian Heritage Register Criteria and Threshold Guidelines.

Landscape Assessment Guidelines (DOCX, 6.4 MB)

Short Form Landscape Assessment Guidelines (DOCX, 1.5 MB)

Amend or remove

Owners or other parties who want to amend or remove a registration need to complete the application form:

Application to amend or remove an item on the Heritage Register (DOCX, 139.4 KB)


Registrations on the Victorian Heritage Register can be amended by:

  • changing the extent of registration including adding or removing land
  • changing the Statement of Significance or permit policy
  • removing or amending permit exemptions
  • removing a place or object from the Heritage Register.

Once a place or object has been added to the Victorian Heritage Register, owners can apply to have the extent of registration altered. Altering the extent might include increasing the amount of land that is included in the Register, or applying to have the amount of registered land reduced.

Owners can apply to have permit exemptions put in place identifying works which don’t need a permit under the Heritage Act 2017. Exemptions can save time and resources for both permit applicants and Heritage Victoria.


Applications to reduce the extent of registration or to remove a place or object from the Heritage Register are rarely approved.

You need to demonstrate that the place, or the extent of registration, doesn’t adequately satisfy the Heritage Council’s criteria.


You may be surprised to note that the criterions are quite general. Heritage Registrations that remain intact and unchallenged are often based on the very unique Architecture that (a) demonstrates cultural history, (b) rare and endangered aspects of Victoria’s Cultural History, (c) the potential to reveal information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s History.


Read the Criterion carefully. By understanding the criterion it provides a very solid backing for supporting those buildings, locations or items challenged by Developers and others in VCAT.

The recent APM ‘Alphington Power Station’ is a good case in point. It simply did not meet the requirements of the criteria to register for Heritage Listing.

It can be seen that the process to gain listing on the heritage Register is an interpretation of the criteria stated:

“The Heritage Council of Victoria is a ten member independent statutory decision making body that makes decisions on heritage issues with Victoria. The council members are drawn from a wide range of professional disciplines and organisations, supported by a small secretariat. Separately, Heritage Victoria is a Victorian State Government agency and is part of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Its Executive Director is responsible to the aforementioned Department.”


Note, this is separate to the Heritage Council of Victoria, an independent statutory body established under the Heritage Act 2017. Confusing? A little.

The Heritage Council’s powers and responsibilities are set out in the said Heritage Act. The Council is in fact independent of Heritage Victoria and its Executive Director in its decision making and quasi-judicial roles.

The Heritage Council has real power when it chooses to apply it.

There have been confusing comments made over the last few months as to Government and its role in interpreting or enforcing Heritage Rulings. Hopefully this clarifies that role and gives insight into how the process works.

In many cases, the first the public knows of a Heritage registration is when it is challenged by a developer or organisation. Often when a project is contracted via a Tender process, the responsibility to adhere to such a Heritage responsibility becomes that of the Head Contractor, builder, engineer or developer – not the Governments. The Government must be seen to have carried out due process, provided full information and respected all Heritage Registrations in the preparation of the Tender documentation, Tender process and Tender acceptance.


It’s a fine balance between recognising frivolous applications for Heritage registration and ensuring genuine Heritage values are respected and adhered to.

Clarity will ensure not only a better future for Victorians, but real respect and funding for Heritage values and projects.

Ask a simple question. Who is challenging or has ignored a Heritage Registration?

  • A planner? Architect, builder, engineer or major contractor
  • At what stage of a project or a prospective project has this occurred?
  • Has the Government through either Heritage Victoria or the Planning Minister been made aware of the perceived challenge or transgression?
  • Has Local Government, State Government acknowledged the Heritage registration?

Pure Politics is useless. Politicians may stridently attack the Government of the day or the Opposition. But remember Heritage ‘Listing’ or Registration is in fact a process. Examine the process not the participants. Clarity will always trump emotion.

Til next week

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Melbourne’s biggest construction project ever – the Melbourne Metro Rail Project – minus 800 trees.


Melbourne Metro Rail Project

Since planning for the Melbourne Metro Rail Project began in 2014, the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) has been advocating for cultural and environmental heritage to be a key consideration in planning for the project. The following detailed position statement regarding the Domain Station/St Kilda Road precinct has been approved by the Board of the National Trust of Australia (Victoria).

Advocacy Position Statement: Melbourne Metro Rail Project Domain Station/St Kilda Road Precinct


The National Trust accepts the strategic justification for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, including the transport objectives to increase capacity across the metropolitan rail network. We believe that the Environmental Effects Statement and subsequent Inquiry by an independent Inquiry and Advisory Committee has provided an appropriate process to consider the impacts of the project, of which heritage is just one, as well as providing an opportunity for community consultation to occur and for community concerns to be considered.

It is our view that St Kilda Road and environs is a place of outstanding value to the nation, as well as having a high level of significance to the local community and the state of Victoria, and that all care must be taken to avoid or minimise negative heritage impacts associated with the Melbourne Metro project. We believe that it is essential for heritage impacts to be minimised and managed appropriately, in the context of St Kilda Road’s environmental and cultural values as an urban landscape which has evolved over many years.

On balance, the National Trust supports the MMRA’s preferred location for Domain Station. We understand that the Melbourne Metro Tunnel contractor will be required to meet a number of performance requirements relating to heritage management and environmental outcomes. It is the National Trust’s expectation that the St Kilda Road boulevard will be reinstated, as close as practicable, to its current configuration following the completion of the project, including the planting of super-advanced tree specimens. We also expect that environmental conditions, including soil volume and irrigation, will be improved following the completion of the project. The National Trust does not support the relocation of the Domain Station to the Shrine of Remembrance reserve, as it is our strong view that this would result in unacceptable impacts on memorial plantings and the setting of the Shrine.



The Melbourne Metro Tunnel comprises twin 9km rail tunnels from Kensington to South Yarra As part of the project, an underground railway station and train/tram interchange (Domain Station) is proposed at the intersection of St Kilda, Domain and Albert Roads.

As part of the planning process, an Environmental Effects Statement was prepared, which was publicly exhibited from 25 May to 6 July 2016 and reviewed by a specially appointed Inquiry and Advisory Committee, which held a public hearing from 22 August to 7 October 2016. Following the inquiry, a report was prepared for the Minister for Planning, In December 2016, the Minister for Planning released his Assessment under the Environment Effects Act 1978, which concluded the Environment Effects Statement (EES) process for this project.

The National Trust’s views are informed by consultation with the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority, participation in the EES process, community consultation, and expert advice provided by the National Trust’s Significant Tree Expert Committee.

Environmental Effects Statement and Inquiry

On 19 September, the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) made a submission to the Inquiry, supported by advice from the National Trust’s Significant Tree Expert Committee, including significant concerns about heritage impacts in the Domain Parklands and along the St Kilda Road corridor. Below is a summary of the National Trust’s key submissions relating to the Domain Parklands and St Kilda Road corridor:

Domain Parklands

  • The alignment option above CityLink would have an unacceptable and detrimental impact on the heritage of the Domain, including the loss of up to 81 trees in Tom’s Block, and the long-term impacts of soil stabilisation methods.
  • The National Trust strongly advocates for the lower alignment under the CityLink Tunnels, as the upper alignment poses an unacceptable risk to the state significant Domain Parklands.

Shrine Reserve

  • Trees in the Shrine Reserve should be retained where possible as part of the detailed design.
  • If some specimens cannot be retained, their species and significance should be adequately recorded to replace the plantings and plaques as soon as possible, either in situ, or in a new location nearby agreed by relevant stakeholders.

St Kilda Road

  • The National Trust supports alternative excavation methods in St Kilda Road with the aim of protecting trees.
  • The National Trust supports the evidence presented that block replacement is the best horticultural method of replacing avenues, however the community’s appreciation of the heritage significance of the avenue, and the amenity value of the trees, should be considered as part of succession planning.
  • The National Trust would expect that any tree removal on St Kilda Road would be demonstrated to be completely unavoidable.
  • Sufficient soil volume and irrigation must be provided to re-establish an avenue with equal or improved landscape characteristics, namely large trees with touching canopies planted at similar regular intervals to emulate the existing trees.

During the Inquiry hearing, the MMRA confirmed that the tunnel alignment would be below CityLink, negating the National Trust’s key concerns about impacts on Tom’s Block. A number of the National Trust’s other concerns were addressed through amendments to Environmental Performance Requirements, including maximum tree retention (EPR No. AR1). The Minister for Planning further added a requirement that no trees should be removed through early works that are not associated with early works (EPR No. AR1). Heritage was also explicitly included as a consideration for requirements relating to Landscape and Visual Performance Requirements (EPR No. LV1)

Early Works

In December 2016, the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority submitted a Permit Application to Heritage Victoria for a permit for Early Works on St Kilda Road, including the removal of 103 trees, and the removal of bluestone and concrete street elements.

The National Trust made a submission in consultation with the Significant Tree Expert Committee, and submitted that the scale of proposed tree removals on St Kilda Road would have an adverse impact on the recognised significance of the place. We submitted that all care must be taken to ensure that impacts are minimised and mitigated through sensitive detailed design and construction methodology. We submitted that the application contained insufficient justification for proposed tree removals, or details regarding the reinstatement of the trees and remediation of the St Kilda Road corridor. We further submitted that the application was based on a worst case scenario, and as such, had the potential to see unnecessary tree removal. The National Trust’s submission sought permit conditions requiring landscape reinstatement, including tree replacement, and the storage and re-use of bluestone removed during the works.

On 27 April 2017, the Executive Director of Heritage Victoria issued a permit for Early Works, permitting the removal of 18 trees, temporary bluestone kerb and guttering removal and replacement, tram realignment and installation of associated infrastructure. It is the National Trust’s understanding that the permit allows the removal of the minimum number of trees required by the works, and that further tree removal may be sought for future stages of the project. Conditions of the permit require the preparation and approval of a Tree Management and Protection Plan, the replacement of all trees prior to the completion of the Metro Tunnel Project, the preparation of a detailed tree planting methodology and maintenance schedule, the reinstatement of bluestone kerbing and guttering, and financial security in the form of an unconditional Bank Guarantee.

On balance, the National Trust is comfortable with the Early Works permit, and the permit conditions address many of the National Trust’s key concerns.

Boer War Memorial

Following participation in consultation regarding the Boer War Memorial and the review of documentation accompanying the MMRA’s permit application to Heritage Victoria, the National Trust supports the removal, storage, conservation, and reinstatement of the Boer War Memorial under the supervision of qualified professionals, and in consultation with relevant stakeholders. The National Trust does not support the relocation of the memorial to the Shrine reserve, and would expect that the memorial is reinstated to as close as possible to its current location, and that the station design is sensitive to the heritage values of the memorial.

Alternative Station Proposals

Shrine Reserve

The National Trust understands that during the EES Inquiry process, an alternative design for Domain Station was submitted for consideration, proposing the relocation of Domain Station beneath the Shrine Reserve. The Minister’s Assessment included the following statement (p18)

In this Assessment, I have concluded that the environmental effects of the Project as proposed for the Domain can be adequately mitigated and managed, however I have also said that the opportunity for refinement of the Project to achieve an even better environmental outcome should be facilitated.  Moving the proposed Domain Station in the way considered by the IAC may result in potential traffic management, amenity, heritage benefits (particularly in relation to tree 19 retention), and urban design and landscape opportunities during and after the construction phase, and is something I think should be further investigated.

We understand that as a result of this Ministerial direction, the MMRA undertook investigations into the feasibility of relocating the station underneath the Shrine reserve.

It is the National Trust’s strong view that this alternative proposal would result in significantly more adverse heritage impacts than the MMRA’s preferred alignment, given the national significance of the Shrine reserve. The proposal would also require the removal of a large number of memorial plantings dedicated to various individuals and groups, which we believe would be an unacceptable outcome. The National Trust does not support this alternative alignment.

Fawkner Park

In May 2017, the National Trust received information regarding an alternative proposal to relocate the station to Fawkner Park. Following a review of this proposal, and discussions with MMRA, we understand that this option is not feasible, as it would not meet the transport objectives of the project. For this reason, the National Trust does not support this alternative alignment.

Nomination to National Heritage List

On 16 January 2017, St Kilda Road and Environs was nominated for the National Heritage List. On 13 February 2017 the Minister used the emergency listing provisions to include St Kilda Rd and Environs in the National Heritage List. The Australian Heritage Council is required to make a recommendation by 1 December 2017, and on 28 April 2017, the National Trust wrote to Dr David Kemp, Chair of the AHC, supporting the inclusion of the place on the National Heritage List.

Potential Nomination to World Heritage List

On 12 May 2017, the National Trust was provided with a copy of a letter submitted to the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy, requesting an emergency nomination of St Kilda Road and Environs to the World Heritage List. The National Trust supports further research to determine the viability of a World Heritage nomination.



Take all of the information into consideration. Do you believe there is an adequate plan in place to protect the Heritage value of this most famous of Melbourne’s vistas? Add to this the other significant City buildings such as 222 Flinders St, the third oldest stone warehouse building in the Melbourne CBD (1856), the Port Phillip Arcade, Campbell’s Arcade and Gossard’s Building (corner of Franklin and Swanston), which may well be effected, there is much to consider.

And there’s still time to register your opinion. We suggest the City of Melbourne, your local State Government MP or contributing to the National Trust campaign. Whatever you do, don’t be silent. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.


Power Without Glory – Festival Hall to be Demolished

This weeks story is somewhat predictable.

“Festival Hall in Dudley St West is to be demolished. Chris Wren, the current Director of the company that owns and operates the venue is a direct descendant of John Wren who established the venue over a 50 year period from 1915 onwards. John Wren is a famous (or infamous) Melbourne figure from early last century who was the subject of the Book and Television series authored by Frank Hardy – Power Without Glory. The plan is to knock down the building whilst retaining elements of its facade. Twin Towers will be constructed – one 16 stories high (apartments) and one 10 stories high – retail and office.”

Festival Hall Interior

The building currently has a Heritage overlay – based not on its architecture – but on its historical and social importance to Melbourne. This interim heritage protection granted by Planning Minister Richard Wynne last year expires on March 1st, 2018.

Festival Hall is a good example of the confusion that ‘Heritage Listing’ can imply.

Festival Hall Melbourne

The original building was constructed in 1913. It was originally known as the ‘West Melbourne Stadium’, shortened to ‘The Stadium’. It was built by a Sydney Boxing Promoter Mr R.L. Baker. It was purchased in 1915 by John Wren and his General Manager Dick Lean. The Wren company Stadiums Limited staged Boxing matches and Pro Wrestling there for over 70 years. It also featured Roller Derby, Ballroom Dancing, Religious gatherings and even an indoor Tennis exhibition match with John McEnroe when he was in his prime. World Champion Boxers such as Lionel Rose, Johnny Famechon and others such as Anthony Mundine, Lester Ellis and Barry Michael have also featured there. The Melbourne Painters and Dockers Union used it as a meeting place as did many other unions and during the Great Depression, unemployed men would gather at Festival Hall to be picked for Dockwork.

Festival Hall development John Wren ll (left) and Chris Wren of Stadiums Pty Ltd

In 1955 the original Stadium was destroyed by fire but rebuilt in time to feature Boxing, Basketball and Gymnastics events during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Dick Lean’s son Dick Lean Jnr set about establishing Festival Hall as a Music Venue from the 1960s onwards. (Either he was very focused on profit or was terminally deaf – the acoustics are simply frightening) Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Doobie Brothers, Little Feet, The Eagles all performed major concerts there from the mid 1960s through until the late 1980s. It was the only venue capable of holding the numbers to ensure these tours were viable in Melbourne. When the Docklands Stadium venue was built many of the touring bands opted to appear there from early 2000 onwards. As well they now have the options of Hisense Arena and Margaret Court Arena and a refurbished Myer Music Bowl.

Melbourne’s development juggernaut can bulldoze Festival Hall, but not our memories

The proposed demolition of another historic venue reminds us even Australia’s live music capital can’t escape the cold, hard realities of commercial real estate.


Like millions of others, I have fond memories of live entertainment at Festival Hall. Sure, the room was lacking in atmosphere, bonhomie, charm and sound quality – almost anything, actually, that makes a great music venue – but that doesn’t stop me treasuring the experiences of seeing the Ramones in their late-career dotage and Nirvana at their absolute apex, despite Kurt Cobain being obviously ill.
So it was a sad day in Brisbane when, in 2003, the building was demolished to make way for the construction of an apartment block. We’d been through it all before too many times, most notoriously when the beloved Cloudland Ballroom was knocked down in the dead of night in 1982 by the Deen Brothers, the premier/hillbilly dictator Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s demolition firm of choice. Their slogan was “All we leave behind are the memories”.

Demolition plan to bring curtain down on Melbourne’s Festival Hall

For Melbourne, the potential loss of its Festival Hall for another proposed block of flats has nothing to do with acoustic or architectural aesthetics – unlike, for example, the historic Palace Theatre. Like Brisbane’s version, Festival Hall was designed for sporting spectacles, mainly boxing. It was the simultaneous arrival of television and rock’n’roll that resulted in the room throwing open its doors to live music, most famously the Beatles in 1964, as also happened in Brisbane.

It’s about memories, the loss of a rare midsized venue that can hold between 4,500 and 5,500 punters, and the blow to the self-image of Australia’s self-proclaimed live music capital. The local industry first flexed its muscle in January 2010 after the (mercifully temporary) closure of the punk venue The Tote in Collingwood – an event that prompted a rally of more than 10,000 people to march through the city against punitive liquor-licensing regulations.

It made Melbourne quite literally evaluate what it was in danger of losing. A Deloitte study, commissioned by Arts Victoria the following year, found that live music was worth $500m to the state’s economy, with attendances of more than 5 million a year employing more than 17,000 people. According to the state’s peak advocacy body Music Victoria, the city has more live music venues per capita than anywhere in the world.

The slow death of music venues in cities

So the music sector’s muscle is built on solid economic foundations. That’s to say nothing of its priceless cultural contribution. Try, for a moment, to imagine the cities of Liverpool, Manchester, London, New York, Sydney (particularly during the 1980s) and smaller centres such as Brisbane and Dunedin in New Zealand without reference to the artists who helped to define their history and legacies.

The proposed apartment project on the site of the Melbourne_s Festival Hall

The proposed apartment project on the site of the Melbourne’s Festival Hall

The subsequent passing of the “agent of change principle” by the Victorian government in 2014 imposed obligations on developers to protect existing live music venues from noise complaints by residents. This means that the onus is on developers to provide noise attenuation measures should their plans fall within 50 metres of an existing venue, unless it is the venue which plans to expand, in which case the onus is reversed.

But that hasn’t insulated Melbourne’s music scene from the cold, hard commercial realities of real estate. Since the 2010 groundswell, Melbourne has lost not only the Palace Theatre but the Ding Dong Lounge in the city (which held its last drinks only 10 days ago), the Caravan in Bentleigh and a number of St Kilda venues, including the Palace, the Greyhound Hotel and the Esplanade, although the latter is scheduled to reopen in October.

In a statement, Music Victoria’s CEO Patrick Donovan urged the developer and local and state governments to retain and protect the “iconic” Festival Hall. “The developer’s proposal comes at a time when all eyes are on Melbourne and Victoria as a world leader in live music,” he said. “Melbourne has been recognised as a global music city, hosting the international Music Cities Convention in April.”
But Festival Hall’s owners have made a commercial calculation that there is more money to be made from selling the site than in continuing to compete with similar more modern venues, including Margaret Court Arena (which is slightly bigger, with a capacity of 7,500 people). And as much as the City of Melbourne and the state government have done to work with the music sector, there’s no agent of change principle or heritage listing at stake here.

And that’s why the pleas of Music Victoria will probably fall on deaf ears. At the end of the day, the city is not in the business of protecting memories. At the entrance to what is now Festival Towers in Brisbane, there’s a rather sad collection of photographs from gigs gone by that few other than the building’s residents will ever see. The application for the Melbourne development speaks blandly of “harness[ing] the emotional aspects of this venue”.

Which will mean absolutely nothing to anyone who ever passed through its doors to see the Beatles, Stones, Kanye West and homegrown acts including AC/DC and Courtney Barnett.

Back in Brisbane, Hutchinson Builders’ Scott Hutchinson – a music tragic who also built the Triffid in partnership with the former Powderfinger bassist John Collins and the band’s manager, Paul Piticco – is now starting work on a 3,500-capacity venue to “replace” Festival Hall in inner-city Fortitude Valley.

Perhaps Music Victoria might consider sounding out the state government or a similarly philanthropically minded developer, should any exist, about a long-term investment in a purpose-built midsized music venue – one with better acoustics and atmosphere than Festival Hall could ever offer.


Festival Hall was still holding major concerts up until as recently as 2008. And there are still many international and local acts using the venue. But quite simply the venue has seen no real technical investment for many years. As such it is an inferior choice for touring bands.

The Architecture is awful. From the outside it could be a warehouse. Located next to the West Melbourne Railway Goods Yards, frankly its appearance was never an issue.

But there is a really good lesson to be learned here. A Cultural Heritage listing is nowhere near as powerful as an Architectural Heritage listing. And it is really important that the two types of listing are not confused. By doing so the case for preservation using either Heritage listing is devalued.

Compare this to last week’s discussion on the Heritage value of two buildings to be partially demolished by St Vincent’s Private Hospital – if it can have the Heritage listings removed. Both buildings were constructed in the 19th Century. The Brunswick St property Dodgshun House in 1865 and the Eastern Hill Hotel about 1854-56. Both also have Cultural Historical Significance. The area the buildings stand has a full suburb heritage overlay – on architecture.

From the Age Newspaper 24/01/18…

Heritage advocates not throwing in the towel in fight to save ‘House of Stoush’

Heritage Victoria is considering an application to save Festival Hall from the wrecker’s ball and list it on the state’s heritage register.

The official, but anonymous, request to save the venue was submitted this week after The Age revealed its owners have applied to knock down all but the hall’s facade and build an apartment complex in its place.

“Heritage Victoria has received a nomination to the Victorian Heritage Register for Festival Hall,” a spokesman for the Department of Land, Water and Planning said. “The nomination is under consideration.”

For reasons of privacy, it has not been revealed who nominated the hall for protection.

Festival Hall is in a part of West Melbourne that is under development pressure

Festival Hall is in a part of West Melbourne that is under development pressure

[IMG Festival Hall is in a part of West Melbourne that is under development pressure]

Its heritage listing, if accepted, would not upend the developer’s plans to build 179 apartments on the site.

But it would require the developer to gain a heritage permit, which could include conditions that require it to preserve more of the hall.

The building already has some heritage protection, however the developer argues its proposal does not breach those controls.

A planning application lodged with Melbourne City Council is for a 16-storey residential tower and a 10-level tower with a mixture of retail and office space.

1516835500388The Dudley Street facade and main entrance would be retained and given a gold and grey finish, and an imprint of the boxing ring and stage would be built into the design of a ground-level public plaza.

But most of the hall, built in 1955-56 after the original 1915 building was destroyed by fire, would be demolished.

An image of Festival Hall from developer Urbis' application to demolish all but its facade.

An image of Festival Hall from developer Urbis’ application to demolish all but its facade

Festival Hall currently has interim heritage protection, granted by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in March last year, however this is due to expire on March 1.
Mr Wynne said in granting interim protection to the venue and several other unprotected West Melbourne buildings that the historically industrial suburb “is a rapidly changing part of the municipality and is under significant development pressure”.

Developer Urbis argued in its planning application that the design respects Festival Hall’s history and meets the conditions of the interim heritage control.

“(A) key consideration for Festival Hall being recommended for heritage controls is on the basis of its historical and social significance and not on its architectural merits,” Urbis said.

“As such, an interpretation of the past use (being the public plaza landscape response) is considered to be an appropriate mechanism for preserving the social and historical significance.”

The department’s spokesman said a final decision on whether Festival Hall warrants heritage protection will be made by the Heritage Council of Victoria, which is separate to Heritage Victoria.

Advocacy group Melbourne Heritage Action said the hall was important enough to preserve.

“It has such a high historic and social significance that it is a good candidate for the Heritage Register,” spokesman Rohan Storey said.

The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Shirley Bassey all performed at Festival Hall, which was for many years Melbourne’s only large concert hall.

It also hosted gymnastics and wrestling during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and many blockbuster boxing matches.

But its owners said this week the venue increasingly struggles to compete for bookings with Margaret Court and Hisense arenas and is on course to become unprofitable.

Its website shows it has just 10 performances scheduled in the next four months.

Chris Wren, descendant of Melbourne identity John Wren and director of the company that owns the century-old venue, said it could not survive “facing up to a younger, bigger, stronger opponent”.


Festival Hall is culturally important to Melbourne. As is suggested in The Age article reprinted here, the real issue is to ensure the developers provide and create a realistic and significant window into the way the venue has shaped life in Melbourne over the last 100 years.

A living museum, perhaps an entertainment venue, but it needs to be considered and included in any new architectural plans for the site. And the push for this requirement needs to be backed up by the State Government, the Melbourne City Council and Heritage Victoria.

As the Beatles song all those years ago cried out – ‘HELP’ (or was it ‘When I’m 64’?)

Either way with inaction we again have much to lose.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.