Ormond Hall – A survivor

Back in the ‘70s Ormond Hall was a popular venue for Rock and Roll. Bands such as Skyhooks, Chain, Sherbert and even John Farnham appeared there. But its real history is somewhat more interesting.


Located on a huge block bounded by St Kilda Rd and Moubray St, the land originally housed ‘The Victorian Asylum and School for the Blind’ established as it was in 1866. The facility was made up of a ‘home’ and school designed to house 120 children and adults. It was built in 1868. The ‘Protestant principles’ were stated as ensuring Blind People became useful members of society.


The original building was constructed in Gothic Revival style from the favoured building material for the Victorian Colony’s early public buildings – Bluestone. Architects Crouch and Wilson who designed the original building continued with a number of extensions, the first in 1872, the McPherson Wing as well as a number of Training Workshops. The new wing was used as a showroom for the Institute’s output of baskets, nets, brushes and matting.

The Institute’s buildings set back from St Kilda Rd provided an imposing vista from that famous boulevard. The long curved driveway flanked by large distinguished Elm trees provided a further impressive vision.


Ormond Hall for the Blind, named after benefactor Francis Ormond, was built with its entrance on Moubray St in 1891. The building was designed by Architects Nathaniel Billing and Son. It provided a major teaching and further entertainment venue. Two further brick factories were built east of the Hall between 1922 and 1926 but were demolished in the 1990s.

An earlier single storey stone building was ‘widened’ in 1926 and a further two additional brick stories were also added in 1933. The building was situated on the property’s northern boundary. This building was expanded and developed by the Public Works Department under the direction of Mr J.D. McLean.


The main RVIB building is architecturally important as a landmark institutional example of the work of notable architects Crouch and Wilson, and is comparable with the nearby Royal Victorian Institute for Deaf Children (also designed by Crouch and Wilson) of 1866. Crouch and Wilson were one of Melbourne’s most prolific nineteenth century architectural practices, and designed many Wesleyan churches and other important institutional buildings.

Ormond Hall is historically important for its role as a major teaching and entertainment venue for the blind, and for its long use as a fundraising centre and venue for social gatherings for pupils, employees and the wider community. It is important for its association with Francis Ormond (1829-1889), grazier and philanthropist, and is a fitting memorial to his abiding interest in education and music.

The three storey brick former factory is historically important as the sole surviving element of the extensive red brick factory buildings constructed behind the main building in the 1920s and 1930s.

This structure incorporates part of an early stone building constructed by the Institute. Traditional blind trades such as mat, basket and brush making were taught and carried on in the factory workshops, and the RVIB factory workshops became synonymous with the production of coir matting in Victoria.

A prefabricated Myer house placed on the grounds between 1947 and 1953 is historically and architecturally important as the only known example of one of the many prefabricated houses constructed by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and marketed by the Myer Emporium during the world-wide shortage of housing following the Second World War.

[Note: The Myer Prefabricated House (B3) was demolished in 2010 under Permit No.P12221]

Source: Heritage Victoria


Go there now and it’s surrounded by encroaching buildings from both the Alfred Hospital complex and the St Kilda Rd office blocks on the east side of the road heading back towards Commercial Rd. Battles were fought and lost to stop ‘inappropriate’ development, particularly the Glass tower abutting the property to the north.

Ormond Hall is now basically a hospitality venue. It famously hosted the Belgian Beer Bar for several decades until the 2017 refurbishment completed by Hutchinson Builders. Lovel Chen were the Architects. Here are some of the internal vistas.


MAB Ormond Hall Village Melbourne.JPG


Hutchinson’s work on the hall included minor demolition, conservation works under approval from Heritage Victoria, repair and rectification to the tower, fire services upgrade including the fault in the bar and supper room, electrical upgrade communications and alarm, painting throughout, sand / replish Chapel floor, replace carpet, roof works, removal and disposal of asbestos.

From our perspective this is a wonderful little complex, a real throwback to the 19th Century. Being opposite Wesley College, it still maintains its perspective and independent vista. But with the crowding of larger, taller office blocks and medical facilities, it is a little lost.


Take the time to walk down Mooubray St, stroll through the little park. Shut your eyes and imagine – you’re blind, and this is where you will prepare for life. A wonderful, unforgettable place in Melbourne’s Heritage – Ormond Hall. Saved.

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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.


From Wattle Daub to Faux American Colonialism – From Necessity to Elegance – Our Heritage

When settlement commenced in Victoria, the new colony had very little to offer in the way of building materials. This week we first review some of the innovative solutions implemented by the early settlers, and then nearby the extravagance afforded by the twentieth century. From slab construction using local timber to mock American Colonial. Four different properties – the Heights in Geelong’s Newtown, the McCrae Homestead at McCrae on the Mornington Peninsula, the Briars at Mt Martha (with its Napoleonic connection) and finally Mulberry Hill in Langwarrin South.

The Heights


The Heights represents the largest prefabricated house built in Victoria (we’d suggest up until recently). It was built in Germany for businessman Charles Ibbotson. Ibbotson was in fact one of the initial partners in the famous Dalgety wool and produce agency and in 1850 or thereabouts was appointed the colonial manager of the company’s operation based as he was in Geelong.


Ibbotson was integrally involved in the development of the Geelong Botanical Gardens amongst other publicly minded services he supported. The house was originally built on two acres with Ibbotson acquiring sixty adjacent acres to complement this initial purchase.


The house was actually completed (the portable wooden house) in 1874. Naming it the Heights, it featured wide verandahs, bay windows, stables and a large water tower. A billiard room was added in 1875.


The German manufacturer was Mr Frederick Bauer. It remained in the ownership of 3 generations of the one family – the Ibbotsons – until 1975 when it was bequeathed to the National Trust. the house is open on Sundays from 1pm until 4pm. Trust members can attend for free.

McCrae Homestead


Across the bay at McCrae a different approach was taken by Lawyer Mr Andrew McCrae and his wife Georgiana, an artist. The homestead was constructed in 1844 and is a rare example of drop slab construction. It was built using local timber – messmate, stringybark (Eucalypts) and wattle (Acacia). The technique was often called ‘Wattle Daub’ at the time of its construction.


The homestead, now 173 years old, is the second oldest of Victoria’s oldest houses. Originally it was the primary dwelling on a very large lease – the Arthur’s Seat Run which comprised over 20,500 acres or over 33 square miles.


Georgina McCrae was the ‘illegitimate’ daughter of the 5th Duke of Gordon (oh my!). She was a very talented artist and a dedicated diarist. The McCraes were one of 6 pioneering families that established properties on the Mornington Peninsula .


Today the property now features a visitors centre with two galleries offering insight in to the works of Georgina McCrae, her life and family and the memorabilia of the descendant Burrell-Twycross family who lived at the homestead from 1851-1926.


a_andrew_mccrae2The homestead has been restored with many of its original features and includes furniture, art and objects from the McCrae family, giving an insight into the lives of Scottish immigrants as pioneering settlers of Port Phillip district at the time.

The homestead is open to the public on Sundays between 1pm and 4pm, but closed July and August.

Georgiana McCrae’s descendants sold the property to the National Trust in 1970.

Briars Homestead


A little closer to Melbourne, just off the Nepean Highway at Mt Martha, another very interesting homestead is located. The Briars Homestead was constructed in 1854 by Alexander Balcombe (Driven down Balcombe Rd in Beaumaris? Now you know!)


Mr Balcombe had unsuccessfully tried his hand at the Gold Diggings and upon purchase of the property he set about cultivating 40 hectares of vineyards. Alas, also unsuccessful. Balcombe was born on the island of St Helena whilst Napoleon was exiled there, his father having business dealings with the former French Emperor. Napoleon stayed with the Balcombe family whilst his own residence ‘Longwood’ was completed.


The Briars is considered ‘the Mornington Peninsula’s foremost property’.

Balcombe erected the pre-fabricated ‘Hutch’ when he arrived in 1846. He added a ‘South wing’ in 1850 and the ‘North wing’ in 1855. The property remained in the possession of Balcombe’s descendants – the Murphy and A’Beckett families until 1976. That year descendant Richard A’Beckett sold 220 hectares to the Shire of Mornington and gifted the remaining 8 acres, including the Briars Homestead , its lawns, trees and remaining outbuildings jointly to the National Trust and the Mornington Shire.



The property carries significant Heritage Listings.

The Briars at one stage had over 40 buildings on the property with 17 remaining. The Homestead is a conglomeration of different interconnected buildings of different styles and construction periods.

The timber west wing is a vernacular weatherboard cottage, with a skillion on the north side and a verandah along the south, originally with a hipped shingle roof, now covered with corrugated iron and extended. The south wing is a narrow brick building with a symmetrical plan form and a central recessed verandah along the west side flanked by small rooms at each end. The almost square north wing is of brick with a hipped roof and an encircling verandah, altered in the late nineteenth century, on to which the rooms open through French windows. The Edwardian red brick east wing originally contained one very large room, used as a dining room. It has none of the flamboyance usually associated with the Edwardian period, but reflects the simpler architecture of the older north wing. The kitchen addition to the east wing is of asbestos cement. Nearby surviving outbuildings include a small brick building, probably built between 1857 and 1862, clad with corrugated iron at one end, and with a hipped metal roof, which once contained a laundry and dairy; a concrete block apple store, built in the early twentieth century; and further away from the house the early brick stables and barn. Remnants of Balcombe’s garden, including some mature trees, survive, and the homestead stands amid an unspoilt picturesque rural landscape.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au


The Briars can be visited 7 days of the week all year round.

It features the historic Homestead, walking trails, the Shire Nursery, an Astronomy centre, an Eco Living display centre and several privately run hospitality destinations – Josephines Restaurant and Angus and Rose which includes a café.

Mulberry Hill


And lastly we visit Mulberry Hill. Described as an American Colonial style home, it was designed by Harold Desbrowne Annear, a renowned architect of the times. Amongst other works he was credited with were the Federation Arch on Princes Bridge Melbourne in 1901 that celebrated the establishment of the Australian Federation and the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York.


He was a pioneer in developing smaller ‘suburban size’ houses, his most notable being the Chadwick Houses on the Eyrie in Eaglemont. But this home was somewhat more grand – more in line with his earlier constructions of Beleura in Mornington and Cranlana in Toorak.


Mulberry Hill was the home of Sir Daryl Lindsay, the Director of the National Gallery of Victoria from 1941 to 1956. These days however his wife Lady Joan Lindsay is somewhat better known – as the author of the famous mystery novel and film ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’.


The House, its contents, a collection of Australian Art, Georgian Furniture, glassware and Staffordshire ceramics was bequeathed to the National Trust by the Lindsay’s in 1984 upon their passing.


Mulberry Hill was developed from a simple late 19th Century weatherboard cottage into a stylish and rather grand residence that featured a scenic circular porch with slender columns and long white shutters. Materials were reclaimed from earlier Melbourne mansions through ‘Whelan the Wrecker’ for its construction.

The property is open to the public from 11am to 4pm from September until June. A small entry fee applies.

Spring is nearly upon us and these wonderful treasures are available for all to see. It’s of real interest to see the development of building and construction in the ‘Colony’ and by viewing these remarkable homes it’s possible to trace the development and expansion of colonial extravagance when much larger more expensive mansions were constructed in the late 19th Century.

Heritage Listings give a window into our past. We must continue to protect them and the buildings we treasure.

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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 Queen Victoria Markets – 99% Safe.

For many in Melbourne, a visit to the Queen Victoria Market is a weekly ritual.


Originally it was a ‘meat market’. Down by the Flinders St Railway Viaduct from Spencer St to King Street was the Fish Market, quite an extraordinary building. Up the hill from the Fish Market on the block bounded by Williams St, Market St and Collins St were the Western Markets, where produce and all types of goods were on offer. Across the city on Exhibition St bounded by Bourke St and Lt Collins St were the Eastern Markets – well known for produce, goods from the Far East and other interesting items. Ultimately, whilst the others were all demolished either early in the 20th century or the remnants later in the 20th century, the trade shifted to the Queen Victoria Markets. In the 1950s and 1960s Queen Victoria Market was predominantly a Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market.

The change to becoming a popular retail market came in the 1960s when the Wholesale Market was removed to Footscray Rd on reclaimed swampland. The advances in refrigeration and transport saw the need for a purpose built facility. The Queen Victoria Market was essentially an infrastructure built to be serviced by Horse and Dray with little or no refrigeration.


Western Markets

The Western Markets were established in December 1841 – a little more than 6 years after the establishment of the fledgling Port Phillip Colony. It commenced life as a General Market but gradually became a Wholesale Market, operating for over 90 years.


Eastern Markets

The Eastern Markets were established in 1847 also starting as a General Market but gradually attracting Market Gardeners and Fruit Merchants. Over 224 stands were operated by the growers and those who dealt in fresh produce – fruit and vegetables. It was estimated that over a thousand growers used the market over the full year.

So as was earlier stated these two markets were absorbed into the Queen Victoria Market which became the new hub for Victoria’s fruit and vegetable industry. One of our colleague’s grand-uncle was a Flower Grower – Daffodils, jonquils and other bulbs. In the early 20th century both during and after the great war, he would drive a horse and dray with his flowers first to the Eastern Markets and then to the Queen Victoria in later years, leaving at 7.00pm the evening before from Boronia and Bayswater for the long journey to the city.

There is a rich history, a vibrant and living history of Melbourne in our Market culture and history. Generations of migrants both worked and traded at the various markets – Jewish, Italian, Greek and Chinese – for over 150 years. Until 1978 the Markets were all controlled and managed by the City of Melbourne. That year the Market Trust was established and in 1993 the Melbourne Market Authority was established to replace the Market Trust and manage the Footscray Rd Wholesale Market site. Footscray Rd had been officially opened by then Premier Sir Henry Bolte on October 30th 1969.

The real irony is that it is the City of Melbourne formerly under Robert Doyle that  planned to introduce a refurbishment ultimately rejected by Heritage Victoria.

Heritage Victoria is a Government agency that comes under the auspices of the Planning Department and its Minister Richard Wynne, under Premier Daniel Andrews Labor Government.

With Robert Doyle’s untimely demise both the Acting Lord Mayor Aaron Wood and Doyle’s ultimate replacement the new Lord mayor Sally Capp sought to press on with a modified version of the original plan submitted to Heritage Victoria under Doyle’s reign. However it has become increasingly obvious that the project is simply not going to proceed.


Now – in steps the Federal Government. With the smell of Elections in the air both at the State and Federal level, Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has announced on Sunday July 22nd the Queen Victoria Market had been placed on the National Heritage list for its outstanding value to the nation.

It simply means that prior to any development plan of significant impact, it must first be assessed by the Federal Environment Department with regard to the site’s Heritage Listing. That would seem to be game, set and match. However it is a very curious decision based on the development plan mooted essentially having been driven by the Liberal Party notables such as Doyle other Liberal Councillors and a swag of interested developers.

It becomes ‘curiouser and curiouser’. Here is a reprint of the Age article dated 21st of July 2018.

Josh Frydenberg grants Queen Victoria Market national heritage listing


The Queen Victoria Market will on Sunday be added to the National Heritage List – joining the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Bondi Beach and the Australian War Memorial among 114 listed sites around the country.

While the listing does not prohibit Melbourne City Council’s planned $250 million redevelopment of the market, it adds a further layer of complexity to revamping the site.

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg will on Sunday announce he has listed the market on the register.

Its listing means that any development plan “likely to have a significant impact” on the site’s heritage must be assessed by the federal environment department before it can proceed.

The move follows a Heritage Victoria ruling in March that ground to a halt the city council’s plans for major renovation works.

The council had planned to temporarily remove four of the market’s 140-year-old sheds and dig three levels of parking and storage areas for traders beneath them.

The refurbished structures would then have been returned to where they have stood since 1878.

But Heritage Victoria told the council it did not accept assurances the sheds could be returned in their original condition.

The council is now reviewing its plans.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the new heritage protection – which the city council applied for in 2015 – would not hamper the market’s redevelopment.

“The heritage listing and renewal can exist side-by-side and both are incredibly important,” she said.

Cr Capp said she hoped national heritage protection would “once and for all” convince those people with concerns about the redevelopment “that the renewal will stay true to what people love about the Queen Victoria Market”.

She said the millions of dollars the council wanted to spend on the market would restore its heritage buildings and secure its place as a traditional open-air market.

The application by Melbourne City Council to obtain a national heritage listing says the market “demonstrates the importance of fresh produce markets to colonial settlements, and the way people accessed fresh produce at the time”.

Mr Frydenberg said the listing “celebrates the vibrant living culture and character of the Queen Victoria Market”.

“For almost 150 years, it has sustained Melbourne, first as a meat market and then as a food and produce market.”

An estimated 6500 burial sites remain under the Queen Victoria Market’s sheds, stores and car park, which sit on the edge of Melbourne CBD and are increasingly surrounded by apartment developments.

The cemetery is the largest early colonial cemetery in Australia, and was a resting place for both settlers and Aboriginal people who died before 1854.

“The colour, noise and traditions of market trading continue to this day within the Victorian-era structures, layout and fittings that make it such a grand old part of the Australian story,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Other Melbourne sites on the National Heritage places list include the Royal Exhibition Building, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Rippon Lea and Flemington Racecourse.

Source: theage.com.au

What it ultimately demonstrates is that genuine people power can stop the seemingly unstoppable. The development has seen major opposition with it remaining a major sticking point for the newly incumbent Mayor Sally Capp. One can’t help but wonder whether this latest action has had a dual purpose – gain some brownie points for the Federal Government with Victoria’s population – and also extract the new Mayor out of what has proven to be a very unpopular project.


So you be the judge. But ultimately the result in our opinion is solid – it’s rather fantastic actually that such a genuine historic icon, an integral part of Melbourne’s real heritage lives on to fight another day!

Excuse me now, I have to drop down to Peel St for the fruit and veg. Meet you in the Produce Hall for a macchiato and cannoli.

Bon appétit.

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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.

Renaissance or Removal? What lies ahead for Old South Melbourne?

South Melbourne has long been recognised as one of the last vestiges of true 19th Century Architecture and heritage in Greater Melbourne. Many parts of the area carry Heritage Listings or Heritage Overlays. When land values begin to overtake the building’s value occupying the space some rather predictable things begin to happen.

The lower end of Clarendon St, Moray St and Kings Way was always a semi-industrial area. That industry in general has long since departed. Many older warehouses and office buildings, constructed in the 1960s and ‘70s provide great opportunity for developers. At what cost to the integrity of the Heritage listed buildings and area overlays in the vicinity?

Over the next 5 years, the character of the area will change dramatically – it already has. Market St between Clarendon St and Cecil St is almost unrecognisable with new multi-storey accommodation towers fronted by remnant warehouse façades – what might that be about? The street was unchanged for decades until the Australia Post garage was sold off about 5 years ago. To be blunt it was never attractive. The real concern is that having successfully created very profitable developments, others now wish to mimic that success in more sensitive locations.

Look at Moray St. The Metro Rail Tunnel consortium has just turned Moray St into a replacement bikeway for the period whilst St Kilda Rd is out of action for several years. Moray St at the moment is still blocked off at Coventry St for this project. But wait! There’s more. The Deague Group have purchased a site at 81-109 Moray St and have now gained the approval to construct a seven level commercial project. The company, a family business, trades as the Asian Pacific Group. With a Rothe-Lowman office design permit the plan is to develop a $150 million office project next to its existing business park. It will include ‘reflection gardens’ and a gymnasium with a limited number of ‘hotel rooms’ for clients or visitors.

Moving up Moray St a little further we arrive at a site on the corner of Dorcas St and Moray St currently occupied by a well known Real Estate firm. It has been purchased by Private Australian Developer Perri Projects with the intention of building a boutique luxury hotel. (Nice juxtaposition with the Ministry of Housing old Commission Flats across the road) Port Phillip Council has granted a planning permit. Perri Projects have purchased the adjoining properties.

“More than a hotel, we envisage this mixed use development to be a lifestyle destination in South Melbourne including retail, food and beverage and a rooftop function and events centre.” Interestingly a less salubrious but very popular traditional hotel sits on the next corner down – Bells Hotel – with a rooftop garden, functions, events and food and beverage.


David Scalzo, Managing Director of Perri Projects was quoted as saying:

“South Melbourne is an emerging precinct, and ideally located at the doorstep of the CBD and nearby to all the tourism and business markers that drive demand for a luxury hotel such as the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, AAMI Park, and all the major sporting precincts and freeway networks,” he said.

“There is a distinct lack of new, luxury hotel offerings in this area. The majority of existing hotel stock around St Kilda Road and South Melbourne is now ageing considerably so we’ve identified a real gap in the market for quality, bespoke hotels for business and high-end leisure travellers,” Scalzo said.

The hotel, designed by national award-winning practice, Plus Architecture, will boast three street frontages that incorporate extensive ground-floor amenity in the form of a café/restaurant and bar.


“Anchored to the corner of Moray and Dorcas Street, the façade was imagined as a collection of crystalline blocks in which gritty concrete frames are juxtaposed with vapour-like glazing to create a dream-like presence,” said Plus Architecture Director, Ian Briggs.

Inside, the hotel will cater to a largely business premium market with larger-than-average premium suites along with a pool, gym and business centre and a focus on high-end interiors and local designer and supplier collaborations.

Source: https://www.hotelmanagement.com.au/2016/10/26/perri-projects-develop-new-south-melbourne-hotel/ Oct 26 2016

Cross over Tope St and the current L+H Electrical showroom and warehouse has just been purchased by the Victorian Police. It is zoned ‘Commercial 2’ and is a relatively large site with three street frontages. No word yet on what is to be developed here, but one would expect it will be an office tower of some description.

Move across to Clarendon St – just up the road from the Tea House, north of Haig St on the western side of Clarendon St. Chinese Developer Holder East is looking to build a 48 storey high skyscraper on the site. Long term tenants have moved on from the purchased site.


The first attempt at approval for Holder East’s development at 56-62 Clarendon Street had failed until the plans were better compliant with Victoria’s Better Apartments Design Standards, which were implemented to ensure developers and architects delivered apartment projects with more access to natural light, airflow and storage, among other things, to improve apartment liveability.

Holder East and their project designer, Fender Katsalidis, made significant amendments to the original proposal – increasing room sizes and improving natural light.

Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne said the government struck a fair deal that ensured Holder East could “get on with their project”, as long as the needs of future residents were met.

“Melbourne’s population is growing and we’re making the most of it. Our Better Apartment Design Standards are about ensuring new apartments are the high-quality, liveable spaces Victorians deserve.”


With a reported construction budget of $60 million, the Clarendon Street building will be a 48-level glass structure with 208 dwellings, built on a 1,212 square metre site

The Clarendon Street development will be Holder East’s second Melbourne high-rise residential project go through the approval process in less than a week. Holder East also received approval for a 231-apartment tower located in South Melbourne.

The planning minister said that apart from increasing the size of apartments and improving access to natural light, Holder East also made amendments that addressed laneway and traffic congestion and overdevelopment.

Source: https://theurbandeveloper.com/articles/chinese-developer-gets-green-light-for-48-storey-melbourne-skyscraper-

Holder East are also building a substantial Apartment Block of 231 dwellings at 1-13 Cobden St South Melbourne (east of Kings Way). this will be a 19 storey Apartment Tower.

Finally we move to Bank St between Clarendon and Moray St. Currently the old AAV Studios building known as the Butter Factory, an adjoining office and warehouse to the rear between Bank and Dorcas St with car parks on Dorcas St and on Bank St is up for sale and rumoured to be valued above $45 million.

In addition, the former ANZ building on the corner of Bank and Clarendon is now vacant and looking for a long term lessee. it also has a development permit at the reaar where an addition to the main building was added, quite tastefully, in the 1970s. The development has a height limit, believed to be 5 storeys.


The big question is what are we going to end up with? Consider the development occurring right across South Bank. Add to this the number of apartment and office towers marching up to Emerald Hill. Where is the master plan?

Without too much imagination, its very likely that the current Dorcas St Public Housing Estate, one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in South Melbourne will be subject to some type of Public Private Partnership deal. Bank St is subject to a National Trust Heritage Overlay. It would appear there are some very powerful forces currently at work in this area. Let’s hope that there is some level of both Town Planning, Architectural and Design guidelines. South Melbourne is a jewel – it must be protected and respected. Time will tell.

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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.

Real Planning – Real Progress. Time for a Uniform Approach.

Melbourne City Councillor Nick Reece has called for an improvement in the overall standard of the city’s new buildings during this current construction boom. At Balance Architecture we wholeheartedly agree with him. There are some wonderful new buildings completed and very exciting projects still in the pipeline. But it would appear, especially with many of the earlier developments of this new millennium, that there has been no uniform application of standards applied to such new developments and constructions. Often there are attempts to crowd far too much infrastructure onto minuscule plots of land, or to appease heritage values in a grand fashion, yet with little real appreciation of the true heritage value of a building or location.


Or particular concern to our team and many others is the lip service, paid to some heritage CBD sites, known as ‘corner sites’. The Developers purchase a land parcel that eventually includes these corner locations and proceeds to develop major towers behind or on top of the important corner properties. Known as the ‘80m on corners’ rule, this fairy obvious flaw in the planning regulations will see a 27 storey high tower built atop of one of Melbourne’s last remaining pubs. The tower will be perched above the remaining facade of the old Metropolitan Hotel on the corner of Williams St and Little Lonsdale St, thus acknowledging its historical value – (not!).

The critique from Melbourne Heritage Action explains in detail this anomaly.

Planning rules target historic corner buildings


In June, the last CBD pub that didn’t have heritage protection, the 1925 Metropolitan Hotel on the corner of William Street and Little Lonsdale, became the latest place threatened by the little known ‘80m on corners’ rule.


A development proposal would see just the external walls retained, and a 27 storey ‘as of right’ tower above, perched on legs through the roof. This has fortunately been put on hold while the City of Melbourne moves to heritage-list the site as one of the few pubs left in the CBD, though this may not prevent something like it going ahead. Listed buildings in the CBD and South Carlton have been allowed to have towers-on-legs above retained facades despite the obviously poor heritage outcomes. The Elms Family Hotel on Spring Street and the former Bank of Australasia on the Haymarket are two examples currently under construction. A worse version, without legs, is happening to the (non-heritage listed) gold-rush era Great Western Hotel on King Street, where the facades will be stuck the base of a 27 storey tower, allowed thanks to the 80m rule.



The Great Western and the Metropolitan have come under this kind of pressure because of a clause first mooted in April 2016 as part of new rules about how much you can build on any one site. These rules included a mandatory setback of 5m from any street or lane above a pedestrian-scaled podium of 20 to 40m (5 to 10 storeys), EXCEPT if it was on a corner, in which case you could go up to 80m (27 floors). This clause means corner sites are more valuable, and sure enough both hotels were sold in mid 2016 at higher than expected yields. The reasons for this peculiar situation, which will mean a pedestrian scale for one site and a sheer tower next door, were never fully explained, and its clear it particularly affects historic buildings.


Other corners in the CBD that are now under more pressure include a number of ex pubs, such as the 1872 Alexandra Hotel on the Russell and Little Lonsdale, which was only sold this month. The 1913 Kilkenny Inn on King and Lonsdale, has been rumoured to be for sale for some time, and the Art Nouveau Charles Hotham Hotel on Spencer Street was sold a year ago. Other buildings are at risk, such as the 1923 bank, now a hotel, on the corner of Collins and Spencer, the 1869 shops on the corner of Queen and Little Bourke, and currently unlisted places like the 1913 warehouse on King Street cnr of Little Bourke.


MHA believes that this 80m-corners rule was a mistake that should be rectified, but this seems unlikely. In the meantime, we can only hope that improved heritage rules, under way at the moment, will prevent the kind of terrible compromises created by pitting heritage against high development potential.

Source: melbourneheritage.org.au

An anomaly such as this cannot be corrected in the future. This and other issues simply reflecting the need for good design in the ‘most liveable city in the world’ have concerned the City of Melbourne where its legislative process is trumped by the State Government’s Planning Department’s overview and extensive powers. In his article published in the Age, dated July 1st 2018, Councillor Reece is quoted as saying:

“We have let too much crap be built”

Councillor Reece is the chair of Melbourne City Council’s Planning Department.

The article continues…

New city design rules to target bad – and good – building plans


Now, the council wants current Planning Minister Richard Wynne to help it raise the bar: by giving city planners new rules to discourage developers turning streets into unpleasant places to be.

It wants Mr Wynne to hand them more power to negotiate with architects and developers over how their buildings impact on city streets.

This week, Mr Wynne released for consultation the council’s Central Melbourne Design Guide – the biggest rewrite of the city’s urban design policies since the 1990s.

The guide attempts to improve building designs by encouraging some types of design, and provides a raft of directions on what developers must avoid.

It wants developers to learn from some of the lessons of the worst buildings of the past decade.

What Melbourne City Council wants to see less of:


“We want to see more buildings that give back to the public realm,” says Cr Reece, who argues that while Melbourne is by far Australia’s most attractive and interesting city, it has been degraded by recent bad architecture and design.

He nominates the 46-year-old former BHP House, on the corner of William and Bourke streets, as evidence that “good design holds up and continues to shine over time”.

He also points to buildings such as the postage stamp sized Monaco House in Ridgway Place, the Riverland bar on the Yarra, Federation Square and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Parkville as examples of the city’s modern design excellence.

But while these were shining beacons, they are being weighed down by other, terrible examples, he says.

“We are seeing low-quality design outcomes,” says the Labor councillor, who served in senior positions with both ex-Victorian premier John Brumby and former prime minister Julia Gillard.


The council’s proposed design policy wants fewer service doors and outlets to electricity substations, fire equipment and gas outlets placed on footpaths.

Their proliferation, caused by a competition for space on the street, sees developers build on tiny plots and opt for the easiest solution: placing essential services on the ground floor.

The Age photographed Cr Reece this week on just such a street: Literature Lane, at the back of the new A’Beckett Tower.

“A long row of services along the lane way has cruelled … this gem of a laneway,” Cr Reece says.

The council’s policy also targets the damage done to city streets from parking.

It wants to see huge vehicle entrances to underground car parks on major streets wound back and also proposes banning above-ground car parks in the CBD.


The policy attempts to push developers to design better street frontages and avoid street walls or podiums that present a continuous monotonous facade.

Cr Reece cites Spencer Street’s discount outlet, next to the award-winning Southern Cross railway station, as just such a building: “A scar on Melbourne [blocking] the connection between the city and Docklands”.


And the policy tries to dissuade developers from using highly reflective glass that both obscures views and causes dangerous reflections for drivers.

The Prima Pearl tower in Southbank was in many ways an “elegant tall tower”, Cr Reece said. But he argues its highly reflective materials “cause unacceptable levels of glare”.


Recently retired planning academic Michael Buxton is a vocal critic of Melbourne’s recently built skyscrapers and has lambasted successive planning ministers for not standing up to developers.

He said the city council’s new design rules were “minor window dressing” that would help if approved.

“But the really big issues – height and bulk and apartment size – the state government just isn’t interested in,” Professor Buxton says.

With more tall towers on their way to Melbourne’s city centre, though, Cr Reece hopes Mr Wynne will approve his council’s new policy so developers and building designers know precisely what will be supported.

“It makes economic sense to create great streets,” he says.


Cr Reece’s examples of excellence

“We need to be more sophisticated than thinking everything built before 1900 was beautiful and everything since 1960 is ugly. We all love Town Hall, The Exhibition Building and Manchester Unity Building. But there has also been some amazing buildings built this millennium that we should acknowledge and celebrate. We have many beautiful buildings, designed by contemporary architects.”

  • Eureka Tower (2006) – Fender Katsalidis
  • Monaco House – Ridgway Place, city (2008) – McBride Charles Ryan
  • Federation Square (2002) – Lab Architecture Studio and Bates Smart
  • ACCA – Sturt Street, Southbank (2002) – Wood Marsh
  • AAMI Park (2011) – Cox Architecture
  • Riverland (2006) Six Degrees and Arbory Bar and Restaurant (2015)
  • Jackson Clements Burrows – Yarra Edge, Federation Square and Flinders St Station.
  • VCCC – Parkville (2017) – Silver Thomas Hanley and Design inc (STHDI) and McBride Charles Ryan (MCR)
  • Peel Street Developments – Collingwood (2017) – DKO and Jackson Clement Burrows
  • Urban Workshop – Lonsdale Street (2006) – NH Architecture, Hassell Architects and John Wardle Architects

Source: theage.com.au

At Balance Architecture we have some sympathy for Councillor Reece’s position, as well as being in agreement with recently retired Planning Academic Michael Buxton’s comments. For some time now we have suggested that all planning authorities – State, Municipal and Federal, combined with Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Council of Victoria must work towards a uniform policy on design and development that acknowledges our city’s rich and diverse architecture yet provides an educated and meaningful platform for development.


And if this doesn’t happen, unfortunately there will be further Corkman Pub style debacles tied up in legal debate for years to come – when finally it’s too late – the horse has bolted. There must be planning laws that apply across the board on construction and development agreed to by these separate agencies empowered to enforce planning law. Currently it simply requires an application to VCAT to overrule many such planning directions.

In any case, from our perspective this initiative from Councillor Reece and the City of Melbourne is a sound direction for the future. With the consideration given by planning Minister Wynne and his department to projects like the Queen Victoria Market, Southbank’s new Art Precinct and other developments we may well be turning a very significant corner.


What we don’t want is unplanned chaos as was the likely outcome of the previous Government’s Fisherman’s Bend debacle. Strong planning directions as evidenced by Wynne’s decision to fully investigate all requirements for that project prior to any commencement of building is a major step in the right direction. Lets hope this is the beginning of sensible planning, development and design for our great city, and the vision of its founders realised with great beauty, functionality and liveability.


As John Batman said, “This will be the place for a village”

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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 Ballarat Fernery Re-creation and Restoration.

The population of Ballarat are quite excited and enthusiastic about the revival and restoration of its Botanical Garden’s 1887 Fernery. Balance Architecture are proud to be involved in this grand project.


For your interest, we repeat the article here…


This amazing building could soon tower above the Gardens once more, if it’s approved

One of the Gothic highlights of Victorian and Edwardian Ballarat is proposed to be rebuilt in the Botanical Gardens, with the planned construction of a replica of the ornate 1887 fernery.


[img A welcome return: the original fernery in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and (inset) the recreated version by Balance Architects which is expected to be completed by October 2018, pending Heritage Victoria approval.]

The building has been designed by Balance Architecture and is a copy of the original Gothic entrance, which was completed in 1898. The firm referred to original photographs and plans of the filigreed ‘batten fernery’ to recreate what the wooden structure looked like. The plan is being considered by Heritage Victoria.

It is not clear when the original fernery was demolished, but postcards of the period show a finely-detailed peaked structure surrounded by the Stoddart statues.


Architect Andrew Fedorowicz says working on a unique building such as the fernery is a joy as much as it is a challenge.

“It’s a big building, 11 metres to the pinnacle”
Andrew Fedorowicz, Balance Architects

“What looks like something straightforward in one picture becomes a more complex corner detail in the next,” he says. “It’s a big building, 11 metres to the pinnacle.”


Mr Fedorowicz used photographs as they came to light to gradually reconstruct the many angles of the wooden fern house. The transparent roof of the fernery is composed of strips of timber which gave the building the name Batten Fernery.

“It’s important that those battens go back, to give it that transparency. There will be gaps between each 90mm board for that reason.”

The current fernery, labelled as being in ‘a disgraceful state’ by support group Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens (FBBG), has been assessed as having engineering problems that may ‘compromise the structure’s integrity and safety’ if continued deterioration is allowed.


The City of Ballarat has issued a statement saying the projected reconstruction is ‘shovel ready’ and makes a commitment of $1.2 million to the first stage, with another $200,000 coming from the FBBG and a planned further $200,000 grant from the Living Heritage Grants program .

Elizabeth Gilfillan of the FBBG says while the group hasn’t seen the final plans for the building, it’s an exciting development after years of lobbying. The group has spent over 20 years raising funds for the project.


“We proposed the reconstruction of this building 10 years ago,” said Ms Gilfillan. “The buildings that currently house the fernery were originally temporary and were built in the 1950s.”

Source: thecourier.com.au


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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.


Balance Architecture to restore Ballarat’s original Botanical Gardens Fernery.

Victoria has a fine heritage of Botanical Gardens established in the Nineteenth Century under the stewardship of Baron Von Mueller of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.

Aug 20, 2017 10:17:18 AM

The Ballarat Botanical Gardens were gazetted by the then Government in 1857 and developed from 1858 onwards. The land was originally known as the ‘Old Police Paddock’ site and was some 40 hectares. Balance Architecture have now been engaged to assist in restoring the original Fernery, a substantial and important feature of the Gardens first constructed in 1887. The building featured extensive ornate timber mouldings, gothic in style, and was attended by several striking marble statues of Italian origin at its entrance. [A gift of 12 such statues was originally provided in 1884 by local stockbroker Mr Thomas Stoddart.]


Ballarat was in fact ‘the city of Gold’ and the largesse from mining created many extraordinary buildings and edifices in old Ballarat. The Botanical Gardens adjoined Lake Wendouree (formerly Yuilles Swamp) and, as the 19th Century progressed, provided an elegant and well tended public park where couples and families would stroll its promenades on weekends to ‘take in the airs’. Of the buildings of that time, the most significant original building remaining in the gardens is the Statutory Pavilion housing the ‘Flight from Pompeii’ collection of sculptures.

The site was developed in three distinct sections – the Central ‘Botanic’ Gardens and two areas known as the North and South Gardens. With a strong linear design, the Central Gardens were designed with four north south promenades or walkways enabling a leisurely stroll for Victorian era families on a Sunday in their finery. The Fernery provided a lush green oasis to retreat to from the heat of the day. Once time to return home, a tramway through the park serviced visitors who could then return home in comfort.

The Ballarat Botanical Gardens received original plantings from Baron Von Mueller of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens and from Mr David Bunce of the Geelong Botanical Gardens. The Gardens were the recipient of many personal bequests in its formative days. Mr George Longley, the original curator, put such materials and bequests to good use. The Giant Redwood Avenue (Sequoiadendron Giganteum) on Wendouree Ave, planted between 1863 and 1874, as well as the avenue of ‘Horse Chestnuts’, now accommodating the ‘Prime Ministers’ Avenue, bear testament to this.

Aug 20, 2017 10:05:57 AM

From the Victorian Heritage Register…

By 1862 the first maze was built, but later removed, close to the site of the first fernery (1887), which after several alterations and additions, is still an outstanding feature of the gardens and enhanced by an adjacent water lily pond (1916). With the donation in 1884 by local stockbroker Thomas Stoddart of twelve Italian marble statues located throughout the gardens, and the construction in 1887 of the Statuary Pavilion to house the ‘Flight from Pompeii’ and four accompanying statues donated by James Thompson, the Botanical Gardens became a centrepiece of civic pride for Ballarat. From 1889 tuberose begonias were introduced into displays, beginning a tradition highlighted by the annual begonia festival from 1953 until the present.

Developments catering for increasing tourism adjacent to the lake shore included the Lake Lodge (1891) for refreshments, adjacent cannons, Almeida Pavilion (1907) housing amusement machines and shelters such as the Picnic shelter (c1910) and replacement bandstand (1921). ‘Fairyland’ a wooded grove with bridges, ponds and walks on the western shore of Lake Wendouree, became a popular feature and a zoological section (1915-1959), replacing an earlier menagerie, was established in the northern gardens with the Adam Lindsay Gordon Cottage relocated nearby in 1934. Large and small bequests continued to enhance the gardens in the twentieth century such as the sundial (1912), avenue of Prime Ministers’ busts (1940- ), and the Robert Clark Conservatory and Horticultural Centre (1995). The Ballarat Botanical Gardens retain an exceptional collection of conifer and exotic deciduous trees and a tradition of bedding and floral displays, a fernery and potted plants.

Other additions to the northern gardens included a Pavilion (1904), Sound Shell (1962), and a Wetland (2001). The boundary between the southern gardens and the main botanical gardens is marked by the old display glass house (1972), the Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society’s trout hatchery (1873) and the Ballarat Vintage Tramway Museum. The extensive Australian Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial to honour 35,000 soldiers was constructed in 2004 adjacent to Carlton Street.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

The restoration of the original 19th Century Fernery is the latest project initiated by the Ballarat City Council to restore these magnificent gardens to their original glory. It should not go unnoticed that the gardens currently maintain one of the world’s (and Australia’s) rarest collections of Elm species and cultivars.

Elm trees have all but disappeared in the Northern Hemisphere due to the devastating Dutch Elm Disease virus. With great care, expertise and expense, these trees are being replaced slowly in the Northern Hemisphere with cross bred varieties that utilise a Siberian Elm Tree, but it is a very slow process. The importance of the Botanical Gardens of Ballarat’s Elm tree gene pool cannot be underestimated.

The restoration of the original 19th Century Fernery will occur in two stages. once completed the site will enhance the annual Begonia festival with another opportunity to display these unique florals complemented by the year round collection of ferns, epiphytes and orchids. It is an exciting project, one that Balance Architecture’s principal Architect Mr Andrew Fedorowicz is proud to be associated with. As the works progress, Balance will provide our readers with regular updates. Heritage is so important to our character, our identity. Ballarat was the real epicentre of the state’s development last century almost entirely funded by Gold. In summer whilst sitting adjacent to Lake Wendouree enjoying the cool zephyrs of an afternoon breeze, you may just make out the soft images of our forbears and their children sitting on the grass, playing amongst the flowerbeds, cooling off in the fernery. It was a beautiful place, an idyll and it will be again – very soon.

balance logo 20150209a

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