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.


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.


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.


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 $1.4 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.


“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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.

balance logo 20150209a

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s