Geelong – City of History, City of the Future.

Geelong has long been a gateway or Port town, now city. In days gone by Tall Ships sailed up Corio Bay laying anchor in Geelong Harbour. The very first of these was the Lady Nelson in 1802. Then Mathew Flinders explored Corio Bay and climbed the You Yangs in that same year. John Batman landed at Indented Head in 1835, and by 1838 the area known as Geelong had been surveyed with land sales commencing in 1839. This was a mere three weeks after Melbourne had also been surveyed.

Geelong is Victoria’s ‘second city’. Rich in history, it sits one hour ‘down the road’ from Melbourne. Currently its outer limit to the east is considered to be Lara and the Avalon Airport. With the Werribee District continuing to extend to the south west, there is now barely 20km between the two cities and it would seem a merger is inevitable eventually.

The City has a fascinating history. By 1838 there was already a church, hotel, wool store, general store and 82 houses. Keep in mind this was pretty well in line time wise with Melbourne’s development further north on the banks of the Yarra River.

It would appear that the area may have been explored in pre-British occupation times. Governor La Trobe was a keen amateur geologist. He ‘discovered’ a set of keys in a layer of shells in a lime kiln shaft (15ft down or 4.6m). The keys were handed to him by a worker on the project. He believed they were between 100 and 150 years old (1700 – 1750 AD) and possibly from earlier Portuguese explorers and their expedition. But in fact this saga may have been idle speculation with little or no evidence. The keys were ultimately lost and the theory discounted by the Royal Society of Victoria who theorised the keys were much older, say 200-300 years old. It’s a fascinating story but somewhat fanciful.

Gold was discovered in Ballarat in 1851. Geelong fought hard to identify its closer proximity to the Goldfields than nearby Melbourne. The Geelong Hospital was built and opened in 1852. The construction of the Geelong Town Hall commenced in 1855. The port of Geelong saw the first ‘shipping channel’ identified in Corio Bay in 1853.

The Geelong to Melbourne Railway Line was built by the ‘Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company’ in 1857. Bright and Hitchcock’s Department Store was established in 1861 and the Geelong Prison was constructed using convict labour, opening in 1864. A Clock Tower had been erected in what was known as ‘Market Square’ in 1856. An Exhibition Building was opened in 1879.

Geelong became known as ‘Sleepy Hollow’ with it being initially outstripped in population by both Ballarat and Bendigo. But Geelong was on a ‘slow burn’ and benefitted greatly from the Gold Rush.

It became the Industrial hub and port for Victoria’s Western District. The town became known as ‘the Pivot’ and its famous AFL football team, established in 1859 was originally called the Pivots.

Between 1886 and 1889, major banks and insurance companies of the time erected solid, ornate buildings. A new shipping channel, the Hopetown Channel was excavated, beginning in 1881 and completed by 1893. The Geelong Post Office was constructed in the mid 1880s – between 1886 and 1889, as was the Gorden Technical College. The famous Geelong Cement Works were also established around this time in 1890. Geelong wasn’t ‘flash’, rather it was a solid and dependable city.

Geelong drew its name from the local indigenous or Aboriginal language, ‘Djillong’, a word used to describe cliffs or land. It was not long before the indigenous occupiers of ‘Djillong’ made way for the European settlers and industries and ‘Geelong’ was declared a ‘city’ in 1910.

Over the next century it became an industrial centre for Victoria. The Ford Motor Company, Pivot Fertilisers, Shell Oil, International Harvester and the famous Geelong Woollen Mills all prospered in the early half of the 20th century.

Geelong had its own Tramway established in 1912. These were independent ‘Electric Trams’. The trams serviced the city from suburban locations until 1956. Port Phillip pleasure cruise steamers were based at Geelong and provided excursions for visitors and townsfolk alike up until the 1950s.

The last 70 years have seen a gradual demise of both Geelong’s industries – due to the removal of tariff protections in the 1970s. Without industry, the city floundered and a number of ‘interesting’ developments occurred. Westfield Plaza springs to mind, constructed in 1988.

More recent developments have been directed or driven in part by Government intervention. Deakin University’s Waterfront Campus is an example. Then there is the new Library and Heritage Centre. Past developments such as the Waterfront Geelong redevelopment of 1994 formed a base for these new projects. The new Library and Heritage Centre was awarded the Zelman Cohen Award for Public Architecture in 2016.

The city skyline is changing. New towers have appeared or will appear in the west on Mercer St. These are 16 and 12 floors respectively. An 11 storey apartment complex has been proposed next to the Deakin Waterfront Campus.


Geelong Regional Plan – What we want to achieve. From

Cities like Geelong offer real opportunities for decentralisation. The G21 Geelong Regional Alliance is an alliance of Local Government and all levels of Government. Launched in 2007 by then Premier Brumby the alliance has produced a plan, ‘The Geelong Regional Plan – a sustainable growth strategy’. According to available information a further 13 priority projects are planned for the Geelong region, most achieving ‘major project’ status. Geelong is a city of the future, inextricably bound to Melbourne.

A city like Geelong needs infrastructure, integration and industry. Next week we look at both past glory and some new and current projects in Geelong. There are many treasures and quite a few secrets – so ’til then from Balance we bid you adieu.

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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.

Flinders St Station – The Heart and Soul of Melbourne and it’s restoration.

Flinders St Station. Melbourne’s main railway station is a ‘grande old dame’. For Melbournians it’s as familiar as a pair of old shoes. For the older generation it was a work destination, Saturday night at the movies, Chinatown or a picnic at the botanical gardens. Life revolved around catching a ‘red rattler’ to Flinders St, or one of these modern blue Harris Trains. There were its gates, its ramps and – its toilets (Oh dear!) And now it is being refurbished, no expense spared “Meet me under the clocks” and I’ll tell you all about it…


A team of Melbourne and Swiss based architects – Hassel, Herzog and de Meuron won the Victorian Government’s competition to redevelop Flinders St Station in 2014. The winners were a unanimous choice from the panel of judges. Demonstrating respectful treatment of the existing Heritage Building, the team melds a vision of new and additions to this iconic and loved Melbourne landmark.

Flinders St Station, located on the south western corner of Flinders and Swanston St is the busiest railway station in Australia with over 92,000 daily entries recorded back in the 2011/12 fiscal year. It was Australia’s first major capital city railway station and back in the 1920s was rated the world’s busiest passenger station towards the end of that decade.


The main station building is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. It features a prominent dome, towers, an arched entry and its world famous ‘clocks’. Adorning the entrance facure. The main station buildings were completed in 1909. The famous clocks indicate the next departure on all lines serviced by the station and its many platforms.

Originally Flinders St Station was but a collection of weatherboard train sheds. Lt Governor Sir Charles Hotham opened the station on Sept 12 1854. On that day a steam train travelled to Sandridge (Pt Melbourne) ‘in the country’. The trip required a Yarra Crossing via the Sandridge bridge which is still there but now redeveloped simply as a tourist feature. Made from wrought iron it stands in testament to those early days with both fine features and heavy unmoving engineering; seeing it survive many floods and incidents. Spencer St and Princes Bridge both opened in 1859. Spencer St serviced the North and West of Melbourne. It was eventually joined to Flinders St Station by a ground level railway line in 1879 and then eventually the Flinders St Viaduct in 1889. Princes Bridge ultimately became part of the Flinders St complex but its station platforms and vista have been usurped by Federation Square.

The original ‘Design Competition’ to create a new central station was held in 1899. This was in response to the Government decision of 1882 to build a new central passenger station to replace the ad hoc original railway sheds and platforms.

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First prize was awarded to two railway employees Mr James Fawcett and HPC Ashworth of Fawcett and Ashworth. Their design was named ‘Green Light’ and featured a grand building of French Renaissance style which included the large dome and a tall clock tower. With arched roofs over each platform it was an impressive and ornate design.

Work commenced in 1901. Construction on the main building itself commenced in 1905. By this time there were 13 platforms. It was constructed from red brick with cement render featuring Harcourt granite on the Flinders St External view. The building faced many obstacles whilst under construction, with the original builders being suspended and the Railways ‘Ways and Works Branch’ completing the construction in time for the official opening in 1910.

The top floor used by the Railways Institute featured a gymnasium, a library and a lecture hall – which ultimately became the Victorian Railways Ballroom. In the 19030s and 40s a creche operated adjacent to the main dome and there was also an outdoor playground for children on a roof abutting this area.

Many attempts were made to re-develop the station but until recently none, thankfully, were successful.

Modifications to the concourse carried out in the early 1980s were severely criticised by both the National Trust and sections of the Melbourne City Council. The renovations were described as being akin to ‘a modern shopping centre’.

Fast forward to 2017

According to winning designers, the Architects Hassell, Herzog and de Meuron, the aim of the excercise was to transform the station into a ‘modern transport hub’ and at the same time ‘re-engage with the city, the Yarra River and Federation Square’.


A central feature of the design is a vaulted roof covering the railway tracks, a collection of arches in the form of woven lattice like structures, running adjacent to the heritage building. It is an acknowledgement of the original design and a device to disperse far more natural light on the area than previously experienced.


The original building remains intact with original features such as the Ballroom and the gymnasium being enhanced. It will be serviced with new cafés, bars, retail spaces and an administrative area.


Also included will be a new civic precinct comprising of a public art gallery, plaza and marketplace featuring an amphitheatre stepping down to the river’s edge and a floating stage.


Principal architect Mark Loughman was quoted as saying “We want to turn Flinders St Station into a destination to be enjoyed rather than a place to hurry through.”

Works commenced on the initial refurbishment in 2016 with an estimated cost of $100 million.

This is the first stage of refurbishment and it includes repainting, repairs to the roofing, refurbishment of the toilet blocks on the concourse and on the Elizabeth St subway. It will be completed in 2018.

Will the complete plan as per the 2014 competition winners vision be implemented after this stage is completed? 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.

The Caulfield Racecourse Precinct Re-Development

The Caulfield Racecourse has recently embarked upon a major development program that incorporates a new precinct to be called ‘Caulfield Village’ to be created in two stages. The Melbourne Racing Club Chairman, Mr Mike Symons, has said the development will bring new vitality to the area. Consortium Director for the project Sam Beck of Beck Property Group has said ‘the project would deliver a world class new suburb for Melbourne’. The project is now well underway, being greenlighted in 2012. However there was and still is opposition to the club’s plans, usage and occupation of the crown land site by the Glen Eira Council and local residents.


The site was active in the running of ‘races’ from 1830 onwards when the first trustees of the ‘Caulfield Racetrack’ were appointed. Meetings were held twice a year on what was considered a very neglected track.

Regular race meetings have been held on the present racecourse site at least since 1859. The quality of animal racing was dubious and the setting aside of the land and an additional two acres was considered more of a ‘future view’. The Crown Land allocation was reserved for racing and other purposes on March 28th, 1859. There were no grandstands or viewing platforms. It was very basic.

The VATC, the Victorian Amateur Turf Club and forerunner of today’s Melbourne Racing Club had formed at Dowling Forest Ballarat in 1875. It held its first meeting in 1876 at this Ballarat Course, with its second being held at Caulfield on August 5 1876, on the Caulfield Crown Land Reserve. The club have occupied the reserve ever since.

The Crown Land was officially deemed a racetrack exclusively in 1888 (after significant opposition) ‘for racing, recreation and public park purposes’. The Club had added grandstands, developed the actual track and the Racecourse was managed by a committee of management made up of members from the VATC, the Board of Lands and Works and the Shire Council.

The course has long been known as the Heath. The famous Caulfield Cup, the Toorak Handicap and other iconic races have been held at the tack since 1879. This is the race, the Caulfield Cup of 1879, won at the time by the Thomas Chirnside of Point Cook and Werribee Mansions.

The VATC merged with the financially strapped Melbourne Racing Club in 1963 when it ran into serious financial difficulties at the time in developing the Sandown Racetrack, which eventually opened in 1965. The Club reverted to the Melbourne Racing Club name in 2002.

Of interest is the Club’s plan to sell Sandown Racetrack to developers as part of its 20 year plan.

The Caulfield Racetrack precinct includes land purchased by the Club both adjacent and nearby. Stage One of the development program utilised the former grassed car parks opposite the western wall of the track entrance across the road. The full project encompasses 5 hectares of land adjacent to the racecourse, Caulfield Railway Station and Monash University.


The development will take up to 15 years to complete. It will include 1500 dwellings of medium to low density, with office space and retail space included. A supermarket, pharmacy, cafés, restaurants and other health and recreational outlets are planned and included. A new street – The Boulevard – will be the heart of the project.

Precinct 1, now completed, is specifically a low/medium density residential one.

Precinct 2, the second stage of construction will be the mixed use precinct described above. Tree lined laneways will see this as a significant commercial development. Residential buildings are limited to 3–6 storeys

Precinct 3 will encompass the Smith St precinct based on the eastern section of the site next to Caulfield Station. It is planned as a mix of commercial and retirement accommodation.

As part of the project, the Caulfield Racetrack itself will be significantly redeveloped with the remaining older Grandstand demolished and the Winning Post being moved further south signalling a longer straight.

A component of the proposed Village included a 5% social housing quota but on appeal to VCAT this clause has now been dropped. Local Councillor Joel Silver sided with the developers whilst the remainder of Councillors called for inclusion of social housing.


Stage 1 has seen a maximum height of 10 storeys. Club promotions to members demonstrated much taller towers, but a precinct overlay by the State Government stipulates height limits.

The key issue is the melding of a new community, infrastructure, visual impressions and visitors with an older established suburb. Put Monash University and its Caulfield complex in the mix where it has major expansion plans, this precinct is about to experience substantial and significant change over a 15 year period that will alter the character of the area completely. Take into account that Monash University currently has 17,000 students of which 9,000 are oversees students who require accommodation. Again this may be a good thing or you may not agree. It probably depends a lot on whether you live in the area or adopt a completely objective viewpoint. Whichever way you view it, in the future this precinct will be a very different one.

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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 New Development of Moonee Valley Racetrack – From History to the Future

In Australia, Thoroughbred Horseracing has always held a huge fascination for people of all backgrounds and social standing. The sport of the rich, of Kings in the UK and Europe became the people’s sport in Australia. It has always required very large tracts of land as races are run over distances up to 4000m or 2 1/2 miles. Moonee Valley Racetrack was one of the first race-courses in Melbourne. It is now undergoing a massive redevelopment – as are the surrounding suburbs and the total environ. Racetracks represent the last major tracts of open space in such suburban landscapes.


In earlier times there were many forms of Horseracing. The wealthier classes raced Thoroughbred Horses. The working class followed ‘the Pony Races’ , ‘the Trots’, Steeplechasing ‘the Jumps’ and Greyhound Racing or ‘Coursing’. Moonee Valley was unique in that in its long slow development to become a ‘principle’ club, as it is now, it fostered all of these pursuits. John Wren, the somewhat notorious Melbourne Gambling King of ‘Power without Glory’ fame, bought into the track and for some time it was a ‘Proprietary Track’ – not a club but a profit making venue owned by private individuals.


Named after one of its original investors, a Mr Mooney, it was originally a farming and grazing property of some 98 acres. The crown land was first secured in 1847. The adjoining property was the Travancore Estate. Both properties were located on the banks of the Moonee Ponds Creek. The land was somewhat flood prone, and so the most risky sections were leased to Chinese Market Gardeners. There was a parcel of land at the top of the hill on McPherson St, as well as land on the banks of the Moonee Ponds Creek the Chinese used. By 1900 over 100 ethnic Chinese people lived there, many being market gardeners or laundrymen and women. There is no record of these people other than occasionally in Court Records or in the local press where people complained about the odours emanating from the Market Gardens. Local cemeteries do not hold Chinese graves. The property had long become known as Feehan’s Farm.


In 1874, Mr William Samuel Cox, a noted sportsman and amateur jockey, leased the property with an option to purchase which he subsequently effected after the lease period of seven years. The most famous race at Moonee Valley is named after Cox – the Cox Plate. However during these times the market gardens continued until 1911 when the executors of the Feehan family ‘removed’ the Chinese from the property. One wonders what that may have meant.

The Proprietary tracks, the Richmond, Fitzroy and Ascot ‘Pony Tracks’ being the most well known and heavily patronised of these continued to operate up until 1920 with Ascot lasting through until 1946 under John Wren’s guidance. Such tracks also existed at Thornbury and Oakleigh.

Richmond, Fitzroy and eventually Ascot were assumed by the Ministry of Housing – Richmond in 1941, with the track known as ‘John Wren’s Racetrack’ closing in 1931.


Wren had purchased Ascot in 1906. Again he ran pony races here for the working classes. Wren saw the writing on the wall when the well heeled thoroughbred racing club fraternity tried to close down Ascot and all proprietary clubs during World War I through Government decree. Wren sold his Victorian interests to the Victorian Racing and Trotting Association in 1920, thus permitting Ascot to remain open when the Government closed down Sandown Park (Oakleigh), Fitzroy, Aspendale and Richmond Proprietary courses in 1931. By 1945 his ruse was exposed (he maintained ownership of the land), with the club having to acquiesce to Government in its decision to close the site, even though it had a long term lease from John Wren. Wren picked up a tidy sum of £142,618 in 1946 and the land was developed into the Ascot Vale Housing Commission Estate. Remember this had already occurred at Richmond, Fitzroy, Williamstown and now Ascot. (Now you may understand the name of the suburb ‘Ascot Vale’.)

Fast forward to today. Flemington, Moonee Valley and Caulfield have massive profitable land developments occurring on or adjacent to the Crown land or club owned holdings. Each club has the largest remaining holdings of open space within its immediate suburban precinct.


Let’s take a look at Moonee Valley. The club is building 2000 new dwellings including apartment towers.

looking east

In the Northwest corner, the members old carpark will see the construction of 28 townhouses and up to 400 apartments. Over 4000 new residents will move onto the site – and pay a premium. There will be no Housing Commission style development this time!


At this point in time the Moonee Valley Racing Club must now submit to a traffic management plan to cope with these new residents, now being undertaken by the State Government before any works may proceed.

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The biggest bone of contention is the re-configuration of the racetrack. It requires the demolition of the current Grandstands backing onto McPherson St and the Winning Post, Finish Line and Grandstand being relocated to the Wilson St side of the track. Couple with this the apartment towers replacing the original Grandstands being up to 20 storeys high with 6 storeys minimum surrounded by commercial malls and parklands. The new track will hug the perimeter of the property and feature a longer home straight. Many of the current facilities for racing – horse stalls, maintenance facilities, marquee area and car parking will be located in the centre of the track.

The Grandstand is to be spectacular.

In the masterplan, the devil is in the detail.

See sub precinct C, D, E, G and H. All those areas are designated for residential development – high density and medium density. Note the current Racecourse Secretary’s residence with its Edna Walling Garden simply ‘disappears’ in some drawings yet is retained in others – Take a look at 4.7 and its Landscape Masterplan. So assess whether according to the masterplan there is more or less open space?

It would be accurate to say that a fair proportion of the planning proposition in the masterplan is future vision and quite possibly ‘pie in the sky’. It may or may not be actualised.

In October 2016 MVRC Chief Executive Michael Browell acknowledged “There are few boxes left to be ticked re traffic management ‘and issues of heritage’ but its onwards and upwards”

The Essendon Historical Society agrees. It lists:

  1. The Manikato site – a famous horse’s grave and memorial adjacent to the current admin buildings
  2. Club Secretary’s House and Edna Walling Garden – built in 1937 – definitely a priority
  3. The SR Burston Stand – visually a huge imprint on the district’s vista
  4. The Alister Clark Rose Garden – should it be restored?
  5. The Horse Stalls – built early, it features mature trees and an early style ‘birdcage’ the nickname for the horse’s walking area – these are quite unique and of great historical value.


Take a look at the scale of the development and the surrounding environs. The former grassed ‘Jockey and Trainers’ car park on McPherson St opposite the Club’s administration buildings now features a Quest Apartments complex of 4 storeys. The real question is – does the overall development harmonise or dominate the local landscape and environment? It is a question our Architect Andrew Fedorowicz had to deal with as the project Architect on the Legends Trackside Gaming and Bistro facility construction in the 1990s, a building that gracefully overlooks the final turn to the finish line on the current Moonee Valley track layout, featuring a singular glass window extending the length of the building providing a perfect panoramic view for all race meetings. This meant that at Balance we were and still are somewhat familiar with the overall track layout and local environment.

Again, you be the judge. Next week let’s drop in on the Melbourne Racing Club at Caulfield – its even bigger.

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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.