Boyd Baker House – Architectural Folly or Vision for the Future?

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Australia is a massive landmass. The truth is we occupy very little of it. What happens when you put a visionary English Mathematician, somewhat eccentric, together with an Architect acclaimed by many as Australia’s most important mid century architect (of the 20th Century) Robyn Boyd. Dr Michael Baker, the mathematician, demanded very particular mathematical and geometric rules. He and Boyd were both visionaries, and the resulting property Boyd Baker House ‘has been called one of Australia’s most important Post War buildings by Melbourne University’s Professor of Architecture – Mr Phillip Goad.

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Dr Baker had made a very simple observation. With the then population of Australia being 12 million people and the Continent had an area determined to be three million square miles, then the land mass to be attributed to each person would be a quarter of a square mile. By constructing a perpendicular bi-sector between Pt Cook and Melbourne University (his places of employment), he measured his maximum commuting distance and travelled out. Long Forest near Bacchus Marsh was the first ‘bit of bush’ he came to.

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The bush was wild and untouched with the only stand of ‘Bulmally’ located south of the Great Dividing Range. The topsoil was barely 1/2 an inch of alkaline soils. As such it was worthless for agriculture and had remained untouched.

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Baker paid $4000 for it around 1964-65 after viewing an advertisement in the Age Newspaper.

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Dr Baker was somewhat before his time in that he demanded an Architect to provide the plan for his new house. It was on the recommendation of a colleague, Alex Craig, that Baker selected Boyd. Craig had indicated that in his opinion Boyd was the right choice when building in or near Melbourne.

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Robyn Boyd, along with Harry Seidler, stood (still does) as one of the foremost proponents of the ‘International Modern Movement’ in Australian Architecture. He wrote the book ‘The Australian Ugliness’ (1960), a critique on Australian Architecture, focusing particularly on Australian Suburbia and its lack of a uniform architectural goal. He was a member of the illustrious Boyd artistic dynasty in Australia, the younger son of painter Penleigh Boyd and first cousin of the renowned Australian painter Arthur Boyd.

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Boyd Baker House was constructed in 1966.

Originally the house was designed to be built of concrete and have plastered ceilings.  This was changed with locally quarried Bacchus Marsh stone used for the internal and external walls, polished concrete floors and a thatched ceiling. The polished concrete was given a jade tinge by the addition of copper sulphate in its mix.

Originally the Bakers wanted a large English garden but after enjoying the bush for a while decided that they would resist the temptation of pulling down the local scrubland and would limit their English style garden to the internal courtyard.

Michael Baker says “The flora and fauna of the bush are tied up together, they cannot be separated and each relies upon the other.  The koalas, possums, bull ants species, many small birds and the wallabies all rely on the delicate, struggling foliage of the mally trees and their under story for survival.  The relationship is age old, delicate and all too important to upset.” The trees obstructing the views were never cleared.

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Robin Boyd describes the house in his book living in Australia as follows:-
 
As well as the usual accommodation for the family the,house was to contain a schoolroom where the children could be taught at home.  No public services were available when the building started, although electricity came soon after.  Rainwater had to be caught and stored and it seemed necessary to supplement the thin shade from the profuse of gums.  A strong brown slate that split into thick chunks was available locally.  Somehow it was like designing a building for Robinson Crusoe.  This would be the only manmade thing to disturb the calm of the bush.  So despite the romantic materials, a classical closed formality seemed called for in the form of the structure.  The roof became a low pyramid, 27.5 metres square over symmetrically curved stone walls linked by straight window walls.  The tanks became stone cylinders supporting the edge of the roof.  Service rooms and children’s sleeping cubicles formed an inner ring around the court.

Dr Baker has said that “For Robin Boyd it was not just another project.  He treated it as a masterpiece”.

In 1968 Rosemary and Michael Baker decided that they needed an additional house.  Their family had grown to 5 children and all of them were being home schooled.  The respective inlaws would come months at a time from England to stay with them at the Boyd Baker House.  They therefore commissioned Robin Boyd to build another house, now called the Boyd Dower House.

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This was commissioned in 1967 and completed in 1968.  By then the local quarry in Bacchus Marsh had closed down.  Dr Baker as resourceful a Geologist as he was a mathematician and Botanist, Poet, Artist, Musician and everything else known to mankind, had started quarrying some sandstone on site.  He found a quarry and he and his family quarried the stone by hand themselves for the Boyd Dower House.

Dr Baker tells a story that he and his family and friends would busily quarry the stone by hand and cart it up the huge hill towards the Dower House ready for the builders to turn up on Monday.  By this time he used a local builder who was a stonemason.

The house is a piece of art as is the Boyd Baker House.

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Changes and Developments

Eventually the only change made to the Boyd Dower House was that the original kitchen was moved to a carport area and the kitchen became a bar area.  Once again a water tank was included on the site.
Michael and Rosemary Baker were prolific readers.  The library area in the Boyd Baker House was insufficient.  The original library was moved to the bedroom next to the kitchen.

Still Dr Baker ran out of space for his books. So he proceeded to commission the design of a library.  He contacted Sir Roy Grounds.  Sir Roy Grounds is famous for design in the National Gallery of Victoria in St. Kilda Road. In coming into the Boyd Baker House Sir Roy asked Michael Baker “what mistakes did Robin make” Dr Baker simply replied “none” .

The library has visions and geometrical images of his NGV in St. Kilda Road.  Once again Dr Baker, family and friends quarried the local stone themselves for the construction.  No electricity was supplied to the library.

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During the 1980’s Dr Baker became very concerned about the Urban Sprawl.  He was worried about the reduction of the wilderness and a number of ranch style homes with tidied landscape increasing in the area.  He was also concerned about the poor co-ordination between State Government Departments and thought how magnificent it would be if a national park could be established for the recreation of millions of people who lived in the Western suburbs otherwise the western suburbs would just catch up with and devour Long Forest.  Accordingly, he donated approximately 200 acres to the State Government to start what is now known as the Long Forest Conservation Reserve.

By 2006 Michael Baker had remarried and the only visible changes to the house he made upon remarrying were that he replaced the main bedroom with a library, removed the scullery converting it into a kitchen and converted the kitchen into a dining area.  His children had all grown up by 2006 ranging in age from 47 down to 18 years of age. Finally, he wanted to relocate to inner Melbourne and now lives in Fitzroy.  Some of his children live in England and some live in Melbourne.

Source: boydbakerhouse.com.au

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Is this property an Architectural Folly? Possibly. Or perhaps it is a design for the future, a perfect melding of the Australian landscape with wonderful, serviceable and liveable buildings with purpose designed spaces and rooms.

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The first sight of the property reveals a mortared stone exterior shaded by eucalypts and ringed with what look like mini Martello towers; these are, in fact, cleverly disguised rain tanks to harvest the home’s water supply. Honeyeaters and magpies serenade from the treetops.

Unlike other landmark Australian homes that are privately owned or museums, Boyd Baker House is a holiday rental where guests can indulge their Architectural Digest fantasies. Peter and Mary Mitrakas bought the 14ha property from Baker in late 2006, had it heritage listed shortly afterwards and then furnished its austere spaces with 1960s design statements, such as Eames rosewood lounge chairs and an original Featherstone sofa.

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Mary also brought a decorator’s touch to the process; each of the three bedrooms’ colour themes is dictated by a signature piece of furniture. There’s an orange Arne Jacobsen swan chair, for example, the geometric white-on-black of a Ronnie Tjampitjinpa painting and a Hans Wegner sofa. Peter installed retro luxuries, including original Bang & Olufsen turntables (BYO vinyl), and added contemporary amusements such as DVD players and disc collections in the bedrooms.

Source: theaustralian.com.au

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And here is the most interesting aspect of the property. You can stay there! It’s not cheap – $2300 for 3 nights, but what a delightful opportunity to enjoy the magnificent, eccentric, yet practical vision of two visionaries – Robyn Boyd and Dr Michael Baker.

The property was sold to Melbourne lawyer Mr Peter Mitrakas in 2006. Since then he has opened the doors to over 15,000 visitors including film crews and interest groups.

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The Mitrakases’ art collection – a mix of indigenous and contemporary works – brightens walls throughout the home. The smaller Boyd Dower House was built 200m away to accommodate visiting relatives. It sleeps another four adults. In 1977, a Roy Grounds-designed library completed this trinity of bush originals. Those looking for adventure can go horseriding, hiking or wine-tasting, but there is much to be said for staying put. In the evenings, light the fires, cook up a storm and dine with friends at the Hans Wegner table and Danish wishbone chairs. A thoroughly modernist house party.

Source: theaustralian.com.au

The property was Heritage listed 6 months after it was purchased by Peter Mitrakas.

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

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“It was pure Folly!” Architectural Follies.

In Architectural terms a ‘folly’ is a building primarily constructed for its decorative effect, but through its appearance it gives credence to having some other perhaps higher or more important purpose. It will slip past the range of ‘garden ornaments’ often associated with such ‘follies’, or buildings so classified, and be recognised for what it is in its own right.

In Britain ‘Follies’ have been popularised by their rather unique and often quaint or bizarre appearances. We thought this week we’d take a look at a few more interesting and notable examples of the genre located there (Britain) and then perhaps consider some of our local notable efforts over the next few weeks.

Our first location is a rather different property located within an ‘acre of woodland’ in Stourhead Wiltshire.

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The building is a dwelling known as ‘The Convent’ and it enjoys a Grade 1 Heritage Listing (UK). This ranking is reserved for buildings of exceptional interest. Architect Christopher Bowerbank restored the 18th century home in the 1980s with an award winning renovation.

Nestled in woodlands in one of the most famous estates in the country, an enchanting folly has gone on the market for £850,000.

With a deep thatched roof, turreted chimney stacks, Gothic arched windows and its own natural spring, the Grade I listed building is the epitome of a fairytale cottage.

The 18th century home, called The Convent, sits on the top of a hill overlooking the Wiltshire estate of Stourhead with the nearest neighbour more than two miles away.

Set within an acre of land, the two-bedroom home is entirely off-grid so owner Mike Gibson installed a system of solar panels and a generator to power it as well as a satellite for internet and television.

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Fairytale folly: The Convent, a Grade I listed home set within an acre of woodland in Stourhead, Wiltshire, has gone on the market for £850,000

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Gothic architecture: Boasting Gothic arched windows and domed ceilings, the 18th century building is the epitome of a fairytale cottage

Water supply comes from a nearby natural spring and a wheel pumps this into a holding tank which fills the garden pond when full.

The Convent was built in 1760 by Henry ‘The Magnificent’ Hoare, an English banker who inherited Stourhead from his father and turned it into a ‘masterpiece’ of garden design.

It was originally used as a pavilion to stop at during horse riding trips or carriage rides around the 2,600-acre estate before being turned into accommodation for gamekeepers and gardeners.

By the mid 20th century it had fallen into disrepair but celebrated architect Christopher Bowerbank, who used to escort Marianne Faithfull to parties, restored the building to its former glory in the late Eighties.

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Privacy: The charming thatched property is the ideal bolthole for those seeking seclusion – the nearest neighbour is over two miles away

He planted the entire garden with thousands of bottles, which only two very large lorry loads managed to clear.

The extraordinary drawing room ceiling, built with pebbles from Chesil beach pressed into horsehair plaster, was also restored.

The renovation was such a success that they won an English Heritage prize in 1990 for the best restoration of a historic house.

By the time Mike Gibson and his late wife Lula bought The Convent in 2005 it had slipped back into dereliction but the pair embarked on a ‘labour of love’ to once again renovate the historic property.

Lula tragically died in 2012 from a brain tumour and now Mike has decided to sell up and move to another property nearby.

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Wooden beams: The Convent boasts two bedrooms, a sitting room, dining room, kitchen, study, one bathroom and a dressing room that could be used as a third bedroom

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Charming: The two-bedroom home is entirely off-grid so owner Mike Gibson installed a system of solar panels and a generator to power it as well as a satellite for internet and television

Mr Gibson said: ‘When my late wife Lula and I first saw it 10 years ago it immediately became a ‘have to have’, and so started an amazing adventure that was to define 10 years of our lives.

‘When we came upon The Convent it was in a very dilapidated, sad and unloved state.

‘The roof needed repair and re-thatching, the water supply needed to be re-established and the garden needed a major rescue effort. It really was a labour of love for us.

‘Lula was very keen on the garden – it’s beautiful and well established with a lot of plants from the Stourhead estate.

‘We have satellite broadband because there’s no landline. It operates like any normal house but it’s totally self sufficient.

‘Water comes from a spring and it’s managed by a beautiful system with a water wheel that runs all day every day.’

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Aerial view: When Mr Gibson and his late wife Lula bought The Convent in 2005 it had slipped back into dereliction but the pair embarked on a ‘labour of love’ to once again renovate the historic property

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Unusual garden: Mr Bowerbank planted the entire garden with thousands of bottles, which only two very large lorry loads managed to clear

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Spacious garden: The Convent has a summer house with its own terrace set within the acre grounds in Wiltshire

The Convent boasts two bedrooms, a sitting room, dining room, kitchen, study, one bathroom and a dressing room that could be used as a third bedroom.

It also has a summer house with its own terrace set within the acre grounds.

The Convent, which gets its name from ecclesiastic style, was on the market in 2015 with estate agents Savills for £850,000.

It is being sold leasehold, with the National Trust lease running out in 2131 – but this can be renewed on application.

Mr Gibson said: ‘The Convent is a truly stunning house and I’ve been very lucky to have lived here but now it’s time for someone else to enjoy the magic.

‘To my mind this is one of the most romantic houses in England and the 10 years I have spent here have enriched my spirit and helped me through sad times and provided the happiest times – it is like the end of a love affair.’

Charlie Stone, from Savills, added: ‘The Convent is pretty quirky but rather wonderful property nestled in a stunning woodland setting.

‘It’s got a very romantic and charming feel about it. It is Grade I listed so it’s clearly deemed to be of great architectural importance.

‘You don’t get much more quintessentially English than The Convent.’

Source: dailymail.co.uk

The Broadway Tower in Worcestershire stands 20 metres in height and is all of 312 metres above sea level.

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The ‘Faux’ Saxon Tower was the brainchild of well known 18th Century landscape architect Capability Brown (real name – Lancelot Brown). it was designed by James Wyatt in 1794 in the form of a castle, upon which beacons were lit on special occasions.

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Broadway Tower with its beacon lit

The good ‘Lady Coventry’ of the times sponsored the building of the tower. On a whim she wondered whether a beacon upon the hill where the castle was located could be seen from her house in Worcester – 22 miles (35km) away. As fortune would have it the beacon could indeed be seen!

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Over the years, the tower was home to the printing press of Sir Thomas Phillipps, and served as a country retreat for artists including William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones who rented it together in the 1880s. William Morris was so inspired by Broadway Tower and other ancient buildings that he founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877. Near the tower is a memorial to the crew of an A.W.38 Whitley bomber that crashed there during a training mission in June 1943. In the late 1950s, Broadway Tower monitored nuclear fallout in England; an underground Royal Observer Corps bunker was built 50 yards from the Tower. Manned continuously from 1961 and designated as a master post, the bunker was one of the last such Cold War bunkers constructed and, although officially stood down in 1991, the bunker is now one of the few remaining fully equipped facilities in England.

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(Wikipedia)

Next we visit ‘Triangular Lodge’, a very old folly built between 1593 and 1597 by Sir Thomas Tresham.

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It is located near Rushton, Northamptonshire, England and constructed from alternating bands of dark and light limestone.

aerial photograph of Rushton Triangular Lodge Northamptonshire

RushtonTriangleSymbolsTresham was a Roman Catholic and was imprisoned for a total of fifteen years in the late 16th century for refusing to become a Protestant. On his release in 1593, he designed the Lodge as a protestation of his faith. His belief in the Holy Trinity is represented everywhere in the Lodge by the number three: it has three walls 33 feet long, each with three triangular windows and surmounted by three gargoyles. The building has three floors, upon a basement, and a triangular chimney. Three Latin texts, each 33 letters long, run around the building on each facade.

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(Wikipedia)

Finally life is not complete without a pineapple. We present the ‘Dunmore Pineapple’ located in Dunmore Park near Airth in Stirlingshire Scotland. Considered by many to be the most bizarre building in Scotland.

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Dunmore Park is the ancestral home of the Earls of Dunmore and within the grounds are two large walled gardens used to shelter the plants from the harsh climate and allowing for the cultivation of more tropical plants such as pineapples.

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The building at Dunmore, used originally as a garden hothouse and summerhouse, had its iconic giant pineapple added as something of an afterthought. The original Palladian-style lower story was built around 1761, and did not acquire the enormous fruit hat – which housed a modest pavilion inside – until 1777 after Lord Dunmore’s return from the Colony of Virginia. Returning sailors of the time often placed a pineapple, the exotic proof of distant travels, on a gatepost to announce their return from abroad. This, then, is Dunmore’s announcement. The architect is unknown.

(atlasobscura.com)

Architectural follies yes, but all have stood the test of time. No doubt right here in Victoria there are such oddities, extravagances and visual delights ready for restoration and renovation.

At Balance we would be more than pleased to assist in such works that preserve and demonstrate respect and understanding of our past and our cultural assets.

Heritage, it’s worth preserving. Even the follies.

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

It’s Spring Racing and the NEW Flemington Grandstand is now open.

For most people, the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne means that about 3pm on the first Tuesday of November, the Television is focussed on 22 horses racing over 2 miles in 2 minutes. Win, lose or draw, that’s it. But for over 60,000 members of the VRC, it’s just part of the extravagance that is the Spring Racing Carnival at Flemington. And now it has a new home, a new flagship – the Flemington members new Grandstand.

This is no ordinary building. Like a giant layer cake, the Grandstand houses viewing platforms, seating restaurants and bars, the likes of which have never been seen before in Australia.

Designed by leading architect and interior design practice Bates Smart, the 5 level Club stand was completed on schedule by builders Multiplex.

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Illustration of the original Flemington Grandstand

Flemington has a long and interesting history. The first grandstand was built on the course in 1865. This structure is the 10th such Grandstand constructed over the last 150 years.

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Former members grandstand, now demolished

The Grandstand features ‘petal projections’ along the perimeter of the stand on each floor. This has been achieved using 90 pre-cast panels each weighing up to 30 tonnes.

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Bates Smart-designed $128M Flemington Racecourse stand complete

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Bates Smart director of Interior Design Jeff Copolov says the Club Stand celebrates the rich history and character of Flemington Racecourse with sweeping 360-degree views of the Mounting Yard, Race Track, Members Lawn, Parade Ring, Betting Ring and Winning Post.

VRC Chairman Amanda Elliott added that the Club was delighted to reach this significant milestone ahead of its hallmark events in the spring racing season.

Some of the design highlights of the Club Stand include ‘petal’ projections along the perimeter of the stand on each floor constructed using 90 precast panels, each weighing up to 30 tonnes; external walkway on the first floor wrapping around the Club Stand and connected to the existing Members Grandstand and Parade Ring; a new north-south corridor at the heart of the stand linking the Betting Ring with the Members Lawn and Mounting Yard; and the Roof Garden on Level Four offering landscaped open and enclosed spaces beneath canopies.

Source: architectureanddesign.com.au

For further information on the Flemington Racecourse, its history, its development and the Grandstand project, please refer here to our blog of June 23rd, 2017.

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Over 100,000 people have attended each day of the carnival at Flemington over the years. Here are the figures. Over the last few years with construction occurring, the crowd numbers have been lower, but with the new facility, this year the numbers are likely to be much higher.

Here are the figures since 2004.

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Source: austadiums.com

No doubt there will be critics of the ‘Sport of kings’ but for the most part, the Carnival is immensely popular. The horses involved are pampered animals – lavished attention with no expense spared.

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RVL Victoria and Racing NSW have introduced major programs to ensure horses enjoy retirement from the track. Many become dressage or showjumping competitors whilst other simply become riding hacks. No jumps racing occurs at Flemington.Whatever your opinions, the race that stops a nation will be run again this year at 3pm on Tuesday the 6th of November. Good luck if you’re in a sweep or having a flutter. Meanwhile enjoy the slideshow and pictures of the new Grandstand – it’s not called a ‘Grand’ stand for nothing.

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

Update on the Ballarat Botanical Gardens Fernery and its Full Restoration

The Ballarat City Council have now placed signage at the site of the proposed redevelopment of the Botanical Gardens Fernery scheduled to be completed in 2019. Balance Architecture is proud to be involved in this wonderful restoration program with Principal Andrew Fedorowicz FAIA designing the Fernery’s structure and supervising its construction.

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The Fernery in its time was considered one of the gothic highlights of Victorian and Edwardian Ballarat. The planned reconstruction will in fact be a replica of this ornate 1887 fernery.

To refresh your memories, here is a reprint of our July 2nd blog on the project.

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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 2019, pending Heritage Victoria approval

The building, designed by Balance Architecture, 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.

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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.”

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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.

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The City of Ballarat has issued a statement saying the projected reconstruction is ‘shovel ready’ and makes a commitment of $1.4 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.

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“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.”

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Heritage Architecture requires a refined and practiced consideration. Rather than just developing heritage ‘reports’, it requires an architect with the ability to transfer today’s methodologies and materials in refurbishing the buildings or structures of yesteryear without losing either the integrity, antiquity or charm of a property and its buildings. Most importantly, the finished refurbishment or renovation must maintain the authenticity of the original building and construction. To do so requires the services of a Heritage Architect – an architect knowledgable and skilled in their understanding of heritage values, styles, and the building and construction methods of the times, those periods when the properties were in fact built and constructed.

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Andrew Fedorowicz is such an Architect with real experience in Heritage projects.

For many people purchasing, managing or refurbishing a Heritage listed or Heritage style property is a conundrum. Yes the building is simply beautiful, it resonates with reflections of glorious bygone days, it is quite likely a very valuable asset, but the big question is what can be done, what can be achieved and what restriction does a heritage listing and overlay impose on the building’s owners and their contractors.

Buildings constructed over a century ago were built using quite different methods and engaging very different practices seen as acceptable in today’s building regulations. For instance many Victorian Terraces are built on floating bluestone lintel foundations, which after a hundred years often cause internal cracking in solid plaster walls and contribute to issues such as rising damp.

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Rooms were part of the structural support of the entire building. Internal walls in many cases cannot be removed without affecting the structural integrity of the building as a whole. Roofing, drainage and electricals can be major issues. In many cases, large mansions were built as stand alone buildings surrounded by acres of gardens. When the property was subdivided, the ornamental lake filled in and original run-offs curtailed, simply plumbing the excess into stormwater drainage often was fraught with unforeseen problems that were not acknowledged by those making such modifications. Often the buildings by then were neglected and had fallen into disrepair. Many of these stop-gap measures were never rectified.

Many Heritage listed buildings are bound by major restrictions on modifications, particularly of the street façade. Add to this the requirements of maintaining heritage colour schemes for painting, ornamental masonry, ironwork and internal fittings and there is obviously a strong requirement for expert advice.

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A modern lifestyle with spacious living is entirely possible. But it is imperative that proper planning and presentation is available – for statutory authorities (Planning, City Councils), the National Trust and the heritage Council of Victoria. For this you require an experienced and competent Heritage Architect. Principal Architect for Balance Architecture, Andrew Fedorowicz is such an Architect with real experience and genuine expertise.

Should you require a consultation for your property, for its refined development or restoration please do not hesitate to call Andrew on 0418 341 443 or if you prefer, leave your contact details here and we will ensure a timely response to your enquiry.

As the Ballarat project progresses we will provide you with visual updates and interviews.

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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.

Federation Square recommended to be added to the Victorian Heritage Register.

The current plan to remove part of the Federation Square, demolish it to provide space for a new Apple Mega Store has met with, to put it mildly, a mixed reaction. Already many people have expressed their dismay and disappointment in what may well be described as vandalism of the public space we have come to know as ‘Federation Square’.

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It is not about the architectural merit of the proposed Apple building, nor is it about the fact that there are already commercial activities in the precinct.

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It is purely about the functional and visual integrity of Federation Square which is now widely accepted as an iconic, world class public space. And it would appear that Heritage Victoria is in broad agreement with this proposition. It has now recommended that the square be protected by adding it to the Victorian Heritage Register.

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For those who do not appreciate the precinct or its features, please recognise that a great number of people actually do appreciate and value it and what’s more enjoy it in its entirety. This discussion is not about whether it ‘should have been built’ rather it is in recognition of its unique and highly regarded design and unique features, and whether its integrity should be protected from random partial demolition.

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Here is a report from The Age 17/10/2018

Heritage tick for Fed Square jeopardises Apple store plans

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The Apple store proposed for Federation Square

Apple’s plan to raze part of Federation Square to build a mega-store has been thrown into disarray by a heritage recommendation for the landmark.

Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery will on Thursday recommend the square be protected by adding it to the Victorian Heritage Register.

Federation Square, completed in 2002, should get heritage protection because of its “historical, architectural, aesthetic, cultural and technical significance to the state”, Mr Avery found.

Premier Daniel Andrews in December gave the nod to plans to demolish Federation Square’s Yarra building so the tech giant could construct a “global flagship store” – one of only five in the world.

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The Yarra building was to be demolished to make way for a new Apple Store at Federation Square

Current tenant the Koorie Heritage Trust would be moved elsewhere within Federation Square so that Apple could take the prime Yarra River frontage.

While Thursday’s recommendation will deal a body blow to the Andrews government’s plans for Federation Square, it does not automatically stop the project.

The heritage recommendation by Mr Avery will now be advertised for 60 days, during which time objections and offers of support can be made.

Federation Square’s board, which has thrown its full support behind the Apple plan, may formally oppose Heritage Victoria’s decision.

After the 60 days, a final decision about the square’s inclusion will be made by the Heritage Council of Victoria – an independent statutory body.

The Age understands the Heritage Council is highly likely to support Federation Square’s inclusion on the heritage register.

The application to protect the square was made by the National Trust in July.

After making the nomination, National Trust chief executive Simon Ambrose said the square was one of Australia’s “finest examples of 21st-century architecture” that had “become a place where the people of Victoria and visitors can celebrate our history, diversity, identity and culture”.

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Thursday’s recommendation by Mr Avery will not prevent Federation Square’s future redevelopment – but if approved will add a layer of political difficulty that may ultimately scuttle the Apple plan.

The Age revealed in January that a battle had erupted within Mr Andrews’ cabinet over Apple’s demand to be handed the prime location within Melbourne’s chief civic square.

Three senior ministers, including Planning Minister Richard Wynne and Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley, argued against approving the store.

Both are in marginal seats where, while Apple products are extremely popular, support for the multinational might not be seen as a political positive.

The Apple deal was spruiked within government by Tourism Minister John Eren and Digital Economy Minister Philip Dalidakis.

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In a statement issued to The Age about the decision to be announced on Thursday, the planning department noted that Federation Square would not be unusual in getting heritage protection despite its completion only 16 years ago.

“There are a number are examples of places recognised as having state level heritage significance soon after their completion, including the National Gallery of Victoria and the Victorian Arts Centre,” the statement said.

While there has been a theoretical freeze put on works at Federation Square since the National Trust’s heritage protection application, a permit was issued last month to demolish the Melbourne Information Centre.

It will go to make way for a new underground railway station being built as part of the Metro Tunnel project.

Source: theage.com.au

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It is an extraordinary set of buildings with a truly unique and interesting design that is in fact world renowned. Destroying a section of it for the benefit of a multi-national corporation simply doesn’t make sense. It is after all a public space owned and operated by and for all Victorians. Let’s hope sanity prevails and it remains structurally intact for future generations to enjoy.

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

Iconic Burnham Beeches beech trees saved. Project to proceed.

Burnham Beeches is a well known 22.5 hectare property located in Sherbrooke, adjacent to Sherbrooke Forest. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Yarra Ranges Council. A magnificent Art Deco mansion, it was built between 1931-33 for the Nicholas family. It was designed by Harry Norris.

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The Art Deco mansion at Burnham Beeches was built between 1931-33 for the Nicholas family. The design by Harry Norris sits uniquely at the midpoint between the decorative zigzag Moderne of the 1920s. The vast three storey house, built in reinforced concrete, is a rare, elaborate example of its type in Australia and comparable with works in Britain and the United States. Built for a wealthy industrialist Alfred Nicholas, Burnham Beeches is a period exemplar of the up-to-the-minute high style living and entertaining of the 1930s in Australia. The site is surrounded by significant gardens containing a mix of indigenous and exotic plantings, intact rockeries and extensive terraces as envisaged by the owner Alfred Nicholas, his designer Hugh Linaker, and gardener Percy Trevaskis. A large extent of the garden is now known as the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens and is managed by Parks Victoria. The site also contains a number of outbuildings, reflecting the self-sufficiency of the Nicholas family when in residence.

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The property is classified by the National Trust and is Heritage listed. As noted, the well known Hugh Linaker was the garden’s designer. Linaker was a renowned Landscape Designer laying out the grounds at Sunbury and Kew Asylums, the Domain Parklands and other notable projects. Architect Harry Norris was a prominent Melbourne Architect responsible for many iconic buildings. These included the Kellow Faulkner Showrooms on St Kilda Rd, Melford Motors on Elizabeth St, the David Jones store (formerly Coles) on Bourke St and other well known Melbourne edifaces.

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The property was featured in Australian Home Beautiful in March of 1934 and 1935.

Alfred Nicholas had only lived for a few years at the property when he died in 1937 and the family offered up the home for use as a 50 bed children’s hospital between the years of 1941 and 1944, seeing some alterations undertaken to the building. The house was vacant between 1944 and 1948 before Alfred Nicholas’s widow returned to residence in 1949 following renovations and refurbishment. In 1955 the house was leased to the Nicholas Institute (part of Alfred Nicholas’s business run by his son, Maurice) who operated their medical and veterinary research at the site until 1981. Alterations were made to the house to accommodate the required laboratories. By 1965 the large extent of the landscaped gardens proved difficult to maintain, and the lake with 32 acres of garden was donated to the Shire of Sherbrooke (now the Yarra Ranges Shire Council). Renamed the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens and opened to the public, the condition of the garden deteriorated during this time, including the controversial removal of almost 100 mature Mountain Ash trees from the entry to the gardens. Three acres of the garden were leased during 1971-73 to the Robson and Koslowski families who ran a miniature village known as ‘Kindyville’ on the lawn beside the front driveway. In August 1973 this part of the property was transferred to the Forests Commission of Victoria (now Parks Victoria) who maintain the garden to the high standards evident there today.

In November 1981 the property was put up for auction. Restaurateur John Guy bought the property, subsequently holding a clearance auction of furniture and equipment in 1982. His $3 million development of the site into a luxury hotel has been the blueprint for a number of proposals for the site since then. Works undertaken at the property at this time are the most substantial alterations to the Norris building to date, largely through construction of a luxury wing of guest rooms, known as the Forest and Garden Wing (or Annexes). The extension saw the demolition of the original pool and the tennis court. Constructed in a “sympathetic” Art Deco style imitating the mansion, to the untrained eye this wing may appear to be part of the original extent of the property.

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The Norris Building on the day of the public auction, 27 November 1981

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The Norris Building shortly after completion, pictured here in the 1934 feature on Burnham Beeches in The Australian Home Beautiful

While this imitation of the Art Deco style may not be seen as best practice in heritage extensions today, there appeared to be little objection to these works being undertaken at the time and the subsequent offerings of the hotel were praised in the contemporary press. Between 1983 and 1990 it is understood that the property changed hands two more times, once to Aman Resorts operated by Adrian Zencha (a Hong Kong company) and subsequently to Raymond Hall and Michael Wilson in 1989, whose management of the property continued to be praised by the local press. The National Trust classified the property in 1987. In October 1990, the Historic Buildings Council (now Heritage Victoria) examined the property, resolving to hold a hearing into the architectural and historic significance of the place in December 1990, placing an Interim Preservation Order on the property in November of that year. The property was formerly added to the Victoria Heritage Register on 27 March 1991.

Source: trustadvocate.org.au

Over the next twenty years, the building was subject to plans varying from a retirement village to a resort hotel.

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Fortunately none of these projects came to fruition with the property being purchased by its current owners Adam Garrison (a developer with considerable Heritage experience – the GPO in the city and ‘Redcourt’ mansion in Armadale) and well known restaurateur Shannon Bennett. Their company is known as Burnham Beeches Pty ltd.

A long drawn out process has since focussed on the Masterplan proposed by the owners for the future of Burnham Beeches, one that claimed with multiple ‘owners’ of the sub-divided site there would be a capacity to maintaining an overall heritage perspective for the various subdivisions of the original titled property.

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Eventually the National Trust in its Statement of Significance commented as follows…

The National Trust statement of significance for Burnham Beeches highlights integrity of the place: “a property renowned for its completeness and attention to detail: Burnham Beeches comprised extensive residential accommodation, large garden, sufficient rural land to enable self-sufficiency and a complete range of complementary outbuildings.” The proposed adaptive re-use of these heritage outbuildings features a provedore retail space, and the focus on produce throughout the proposed uses for the outbuildings provides an interesting link to the self-sufficiency model Alfred Nicholas had in mind when he established the estate in the 1930s. The current owners have experience working with heritage properties with sensitive outcomes, and on balance, their proposal, as currently exhibited, presents an opportunity to celebrate the cultural heritage of the property in a form that will allow ongoing public access into the future. Based on the advertised plans for the joint C142 Amendment and planning permit we are generally comfortable with the heritage outcomes proposed for the place with any issues expected to be resolved in the detailed design process required as part of any Heritage Victoria permit.

Source: trustadvocate.org.au

Not surprisingly the plans for ’80 Villa Units’ had been dropped by 2016. The planned number of patrons on site at any time dropped back from 1700 to 574.

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And yesterday, as part of the planning approval permit from the Victorian State Government, the Historic Burnham Beech Trees, from which the property takes its name, have been saved. From the local newspaper, here is the report…

Shannon Bennett’s plans for Burnham Beeches approved

HISTORIC Burnham Beeches trees have been saved as part of a planning permit approval by the State Government.

The sign-off has been four years in the making after celebrity chef Shannon Bennett and developer Adam Garrison first applied to redevelop the estate.

But mystery still surrounds the exact conditions of the planning permit, which have not been publicly released.

Lilydale & Yarra Valley Leader previously reported almost 100 protesters staged a peaceful rally outside the estate to demonstrate against plans to cut down about 13 beech trees — synonymous with the estate —— to allow traffic to flow to the property.

State Planning Minister Richard Wynne approved the plans, but has made sure historic beech trees at the entrance to the property are preserved.

Plans for the site included removing a cap on patron numbers, turning the Norris building — built in the 1930s and now in state of disrepair — into a six-star hotel, and adding a microbrewery, shop and new restaurant inside the existing Piggery Cafe.

Monbulk MP James Merlino said the estate had State heritage significance and was protected. “We’re preserving these beautiful trees and the property’s heritage while bringing jobs and a great new development to the area,” Mr Merlino said.

Burnham Beeches Development Community Watch member Peta Freeman said while it appeared the community’s voice had been heard, the devil was in the detail.
“It sounds positive and if that’s the case then it’s fantastic,” Ms Freeman said.

“But until it’s released publicly, it’s difficult to know.”

In a statement by Mr Bennett and Mr Garrison, the pair said they were excited to be able to bring the historic estate back to life with an environmentally sensitive development.

“Now we look forward to delivering exciting new opportunities in tourism and hospitality to the Dandenong Ranges,” they said.

Source: heraldsun.com.au

Burnham Beeches perfectly illustrates the difficulties in both maintaining heritage values yet ensuring financial viability. With a battle that ensued over 30 years, it now appears that a viable pathway forward has been resolved.

The property is unique, the location spectacular in its peace and solitude. Sometimes to protect and nurture the things of beauty and sensitivity, the whole project needs one thing. And the old adage is? Time is money.

Thus we arrive at it – the age old dilemma. How to protect those things that denote our character, our history, our very being? It’s the very essence of what we must put a value on and not deviate.

in any case, finally the vision of Alfred Nicholas will come to fruition. Exciting times. Let’s await the completion of what promises to be a most interesting destination in the old Dandenong Ranges.

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

 

Melbourne – Colonised by Tasmanians. Real Heritage in Tasmania

Australian History is a bit of a mystery to many people. So it may come as a bit of a surprise to hear that Melbourne was founded by Tasmanians. John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner hailed from the districts around Launceston. By 1835, when Melbourne was first established, both Hobart and Launceston were thriving colonies with established buildings constructed of stone or brick. In the early days the preferred style of building was known as Georgian, a rendition of a ‘Greek Revival’ style (or so they thought). This week we visit several of these early mansions – one 50km from Launceston, Lake House (A Georgian Mansion), the others in Hobart itself, including Lenna, an Italianate Mansion of grand proportions.

Georgian Architecture is characterised by Symmetrical form and Fenestration (window placement) with multi-paned windows (6-20 panes in each sash), a side gabled or hipped roof, stone or brick walls, a transomed window over a panelled front door, a pediment or crown and pilasters at the front entry, cornices with dentils, a water table or belt course and corner quoins. The style was popular from 1700 to 1800, so as such in Australia it really was only prominent in Tasmania and early Sydney.

Lake House

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The first property is called Lake House, located at Cressy south of Launceston between two rivers on over 490 hectares. As mentioned, Georgian was the style of these earliest colonial buildings in Tasmania, and Lake House is an excellent example of the genre.

 

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Elegant, symmetrical, with few embellishments, Lake House could easily be mistaken for a grand mansion of the English countryside. With its new French style Conservatory, its Myles Baldwin designed terraced garden and recent plantings of Oaks, elms, horse chestnuts and conifers, it conjures up visions straight from the pages of a Jane Austen novel.

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The property is valued at $15 million Aust.

Featuring seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms, plus numerous outbuildings and cottages, Lake House comes with 490 hectares and quite a story, says heritage specialist and Unique Estates agent Dominic Romeo.

It also comes in a perfect state of restoration, courtesy of owner Rob Sherrard who took it on 14 years ago and lavished such care on bringing it back to life. Romeo says when he first walked through it, “I was in awe. It’s one of the best renovations I’ve ever seen”.

Coming from a former Victorian National Trust officer and a man who himself has refurbished a dozen near-derelict heritage homes, including one of Australia’s biggest, Rupertswood at Sunbury, that is real praise. “It still has its red cedar fireplaces and doors.” Indeed, Romeo reckons that because the house was once used as a barn, and occasionally occupied by sheep, “it just sat there rather than being destroyed”.

Since it was built in 1830 by Robert Corney, who came to Van Diemen’s Land rather well-funded, Lake House’s provenance has been entirely colourful. As soon as he had finished the house, Corney promptly drowned in one of the rivers skirting his property. His widow remained in residence until the 1860s when a neighbouring farmer bought the land and used the house for staff accommodation. When that became unnecessary, he put his stock and fodder inside it.

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Featuring seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms, plus numerous outbuildings and cottages, Lake House comes with 490 hectares and quite a story

After World War II, Lake House, plus more than 300 hectares, was designated for soldier settlement and went to Bruce Wall on condition that he pulled the building down. Fortunately, says Romeo, Wall ignored the government order.

Fortunately too, Wall became a prominent member of Tasmania’s National Trust council, and like the most recent owner, Sherrard, had a passion for heritage. One of the original co-founders – with Richard Branson – of Virgin Blue, Sherrard has more recently been a major-scale tourism operator in Australia with multiple interests in Tasmania, Victoria and soon, in the Northern Territory.

He says he bought Lake House with a view to making it into a hospitality and perhaps wedding venue. But “after removing everything back to the shell, and restoring and rebuilding – everything – while trying to keep the property as authentic as possible”, he decided to live in it and raise two daughters there.

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Lake House was built in 1830 by Robert Corney

Apart from hosting one wedding, “I never let anyone stay here,” he says.

The girls have relocated to the mainland and Sherrard probably will too. Behind him he leaves this spectacularly well-restored mansion set in a park-like garden that is surrounded by a mixed-use working farm and that because of river rights is virtually drought-proof. “It’s totally irrigated,” Sherrard says. “We’ve got everything; potatoes, wheat, broccoli, cattle and sheep.”

Source: www.domain.com.au

Victorian Italianate home, Swan St North Hobart

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Other privately owned properties changing hands on the Apple Isle include this beautiful 1890s Italianate home located in Swan St North Hobart.

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With 6 bedrooms and three bathrooms, this is a truly luxurious abode. The front façade is subject to a heritage order, preserving its bay windows and iron lacework. The interior still includes many historic features including ornate parapets, mouldings, intricate ironwork and detailed mantle pieces, fully restored within the many formal rooms.

This property has been owned (and refurbished) by its current owners for over 21 years.

Stoke House

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Stoke House is a spectacular Gothic Revival Sandstone Mansion located in Newtown. It is constructed from Sandstone imported from England and Scotland. A truly stately manor, this building has over 1000 square metres of internal space spread over 20 rooms. It has undergone a very high level restoration. The property enjoys fully landscaped extensive grounds and was originally built by the then Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania Sir John Dodd.

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It features hand crafted timber fireplaces, Waterford Crystal Chandelier and a ‘cathedral like entrance’. Italian mosaic tiling is featured throughout the building and its verandahs. There are nine bedrooms, six bathrooms and a large opulent ballroom.

The property remains in private ownership, its most recent change of ownership occurring this year when it was sold for $3.55 million. There is little doubt such a property on mainland Australia would sell for 5 times this amount.

Lenna

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One of Hobart’s more prominent landmarks is the historic building ‘Lenna’, originally the home of Captain James Bayley, a ‘whaling merchant’. Whaling and Sealing were big business in those early days – whale oil was used to light English homes at the time. Whale bones were used in women’s corsetry

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Hobart was a functioning Whaling town. Battery Point is its oldest area and is still relatively intact today. Large Artillery batteries were established on the hill in 1818. The village sprung up around these in the next twenty years. The wealthiest denizens of the time were the Whaling captains and merchants. Battery Point and the Lenna overlooked the functioning Hobart Wharves and Harbour, perfect for the owners and builders of ships and commercial fleets.

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Lenna’s first iteration was built in these early days, a modest if somewhat well placed home. By 1860 it had been purchased by Bayley’s business partner Alexander McGregor, who had married Bayley’s sister Harriet. McGregor was a very successful shipbuilder and merchant. McGregor incorporated the old original house into his new grand stately home. McGregor would eventually become the principal of the largest privately and individually owned sailing fleet in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Sandstone for the home was cut from a quarry in what is now nearby Princes Park. The foundations were commenced n 1860 and the building completed in 1870. With a conservatory and extensive gardens, the grounds were open to the public for Sunday strolls.

The workmanship and intricacy of the building with its broad verandahs, Italianate colonnades and tiling is exceptional. With detailed ceiling roses, stained glass and an attic lookout to view down the Derwent – it is an extraordinary building. Now a Hotel (5 star) it still retains most of its features. The new Hotel accomodation block built in the 1970s completely blocks the original harbour views, but in Hobart things fortunately move at a slower pace – the original building remains – fairly untouched.

And so as well many of Hobart’s grand historic buildings still remain, as do the original worker’s cottages and streetscapes of the time at Battery Point. Once whaling finished to a large extent so did the super prosperity. Without major capital to ‘renew’ and ‘replace’ it, the picturesque old Hobart Town has remained mainly intact. Wonderful old buildings, beautiful architecture, true heritage. It’s well worth a visit and wander around Battery Point, North Hobart and other locations. It is after all where it really started in Southern Australia and fortunately you can still see it, feel it and reminisce. Enjoy.

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