Over the last year there has been a significant increase in the sale of rural and regional city properties. This has seemingly been in response to the COVID situation whereby many people have felt the need to re-assess their living situation and move to a more relaxed, more comfortable home in places such as Geelong, Ballarat, the region of Gippsland and the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas.
Often the properties purchased enjoy a heritage overlay or a singular heritage listing. Beautiful Victorian terraces, villas and older Georgian style homes offer a whole raft of new and quite difficult impediments to developing a modern living space yet still maintain the period charm and heritage features of some of these wonderful old homes.
There are eclectic purchases that include old churches, former hotels, corner stores and even schools. Locales stretch from central Victoria – Castlemaine, Daylesford, Kyneton, Bendigo, Ballarat and Maryborough through to the Murray Valley, the high country around Bright, Mansfield and Beechworth.
Homes constructed during the late nineteenth century through to the early 1930s often present with unique issues. Electricals, plumbing, lighting and foundations nearly always need assessment and often replacement and renewal.
It is not unusual for such heritage listed properties to have suffered unkind modifications over the years – the removal of or bricking up of fire places and chimneys, tiling, ornate plaster mouldings, fragile stained glass and wrought iron features on verandahs such as lacework, pillars and ornamental features.
To renovate these types of properties can be immensely rewarding and satisfying but it is entirely prudent to arrange for a heritage report from a qualified and experienced Heritage Architect. Andrew Fedorowicz is such an Architect and as the Principal Architect for Balance Architecture Andrew has managed hundreds of such projects from initial assessment through design and planning to completion and lock up stage, supervising the contracted builders to assure complete compliance to both the restoration and design intended as well as ensuring compliance to the heritage listing or heritage overlay requirements.
It’s everyone’s desire to create a comfortable and liveable space, a home that is fitted with modern standards and a vision of space and light. It is possible to achieve true heritage compliance and beauty that is a highly desirable, comfortable residence.
Call Balance Architecture now on 0418 341 443 to arrange an obligation free consultation at a time that is convenient to your schedule. Alternatively leave your details here for a prompt reply.
Vision, Experience and a True Respect for Heritage and its Value – Balance Architecture.
Heritage – the pathway from our past ensuring a rich rewarding and fulfilling future.
The CBD of Melbourne is short on one thing – space. There is a continual battle to achieve useable space by developers, the reason is simple – you can only go up! Going up means one thing – profitability. In this case we are not speaking of a moderate profit, we are looking at mega profits. Now we get to the latest conflict in the CBD – the dispute over the Heritage listed Shell building on the corner of Flinders Street and Spring Street designed by the late Harry Seidler, the famed modernist Architect. The space in question is the two sections of the Shell Plaza opening onto Flinders Lane and Spring Street. The Shell Building and its Plaza are heritage listed. Note it’s not just the Shell Building itself but the adjoining Plaza is also included. The Plaza is an integral part of the overall design and, as such, is covered by the heritage citation of 2017.
For your interest here is a recent article Clay Lucas published in The Age April 5, 2021.
Plonked on a plaza: Skyscraper plan puts spotlight on heritage laws
Marcel Mihulka and his family chose to live near Shell House – the skyscraper on the corner of Flinders and Spring streets – in part because of the heritage listing stopping redevelopment of one of Melbourne’s most decorated pieces of architecture.
The tower’s owners, the Besen and Roth families, want to dig up its rear plaza in Flinders Lane and build a 33-storey tower, standing apart from Shell House but linked via a sky bridge at the 15th level.
“If they can do that to this building, what’s next? Why have heritage laws if they can just plonk this tower here?” said Mr Mihulka, whose property is not overly affected by the plan but who is angered by what he sees as its brazen nature.
Ultimately, Planning Minister Richard Wynne, whose office for a time was in the tower, could decide on the plan.
Two integral parts of Shell House’s design, according to its 2017 heritage citation, are the larger Spring Street plaza and a smaller one in Flinders Lane, about 1200 square metres in size.
The plazas were designed to complement the tower, completed in 1989 by the Shell company. Seen from above, the skyscraper is the shape of a nautilus shell.
In 1994 Shell sold the tower for $135 million to its current owners, the Roth family from Sydney, and a Melbourne company with Daniel Besen among its directors.
The group wants to replace the Flinders Lane plaza, referred to in one of the company’s submissions as “underdeveloped land”, with a tower they argue will complement Shell House.
Shell House is Melbourne’s only tower designed by Seidler, a controversial pioneer of modernism in Australia and one of the country’s most influential architects. It won both state and national architecture awards.
The plan for the rear plaza of his Melbourne tower has been supported by Seidler’s firm, now led by his wife, architect Penelope Evatt Seidler. The firm worked on recent renovations to Shell House.
Also in support is architectural historian Philip Goad, from Melbourne University, a leading modernism expert.
In a submission to Heritage Victoria, he argues the larger Spring and Flinders streets plaza is unaffected by the plan, and a new building on the Flinders Lane plaza would be sympathetic to both Shell House’s heritage and another building on the site, the art nouveau Milton House. It was built in 1901. The new tower would project over Milton House.
Other experts, though, have questioned the plan.
Another Melbourne University architecture academic, Rory Hyde, said while the proposed new tower was respectful and “seems to be of high quality and considered”, the entire site was heritage listed, not just the Shell House tower.
Professor Hyde argues the plaza should not be built over.
“We need more of these public spaces, not fewer,” he said.
The National Trust has submitted a strong objection, with Victorian chief executive Simon Ambrose saying the proposed tower will “completely undermine” the integrity of Seidler’s original design.
“The approval of this proposal would set a dangerous precedent for all places provided with the highest level of heritage protection in our state,” Mr Ambrose says.
The building is almost entirely leased to government departments, including the Department of Transport, Public Transport Victoria, the Taxi Service Commission and VicRoads.
Its owners spend $1.3 million a year “maintaining and conserving” the tower and Milton House.
Heritage consultant Rohan Storey made a submission opposing the plan on behalf of lobby group Melbourne Heritage Action. He says the tower is a fantastic example of a free-standing Seidler tower.
“Modernist towers tended to be free-standing and surrounded by open space,” he said, adding the tower’s plaza’s were “landscaped with materials that are Seidler signatures; it’s not just a plaza, it’s a Seidler plaza”.
Melbourne City councillor Rohan Leppert, chair of the city’s heritage committee, says the proposal could not be approved by Mr Wynne even if heritage authorities allow it to proceed. “The lack of setbacks render the proposal prohibited under the Melbourne Planning Scheme,” he said.
If Heritage Victoria approves the plan it will go to the Planning Minister, Mr Wynne, for approval. His spokeswoman said the application was only now being assessed by the heritage body.
Harry Seidler in his own words
The late Harry Seidler talks about his career. From a 2004 documentary, with footage and images of his buildings as they stand today.
Mr Mihulka says Shell House is “a great example of modernist architecture and one Melburnians are rightly proud of”. He says the new tower, designed by architects Ingenhoven and Architectus, “looks world class – but [Shell House] is heritage-listed for a reason”.
The skyscraper’s owners argue the project should be allowed to proceed because it will improve pedestrian access through the city block. “If they want to improve pedestrian flow, you can do that without a tower,” said Mr Mihulka.
Also to clarify the matter further here is the Statement of Significance from the Victorian Heritage database.
Statement of Significance
What is significant?
1 Spring Street, Melbourne comprising an office tower and northern podium, main foyer with Arthur Boyd mural ‘Bathers and Pulpit Rock’ and external plazas including a large external plaza at the Spring Street corner containing the Charles O Perry sculpture ‘Shell Mace’. The building was originally known as Shell House, and is referred to as such below.
Shell House was the third headquarters building erected for the Shell Company of Australia Ltd in Melbourne. Constructed in 1985-89, the building replaced earlier headquarters constructed in 1933 and 1958 and was occupied by Shell until 2003-2004. The company commissioned the highly regarded commercial architect and leading Australian modernist, Harry Seidler, to design Shell House. Seidler was trained by Modernist architects in the United States before arriving in Australia in 1948 and throughout his career his work continued to display the ideals of this movement. This included the use of basic geometric shapes, sculptural and simple form, visual expression of structure and generous civic spaces. Seidler continued to explore skyscraper design from the 1960s to the 1990s, producing a series of office buildings in Australia and overseas. Shell House is the only example of these built in Victoria. Shell House won a number of awards including the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Victoria Merit Award in 1991 and the National RAIA Award in the same year.
Located on a sloping L-shaped site at the south-eastern corner of the Melbourne city grid, Shell House is a late twentieth century International style office tower with side podium, basement carpark and external plazas. The building is a concrete structure with granite-faced lower facades and a repetitive floor construction system of clear span beams of equal length. With an interest in geometry, simplicity of form and clear expression of structure, Harry Seidler designed the building using two counterpoint curved sections to maximise views to the south and east, to accommodate existing underground railway tunnels and to present a commanding entry point to the city. The core of the building, containing lifts and amenities, is located on the off-view north side and the office floors wrap around this core.
The building integrates dramatic level changes for public access from the south, south east and north through a central control point located in the main Spring Street foyer. This foyer is accessed via stairs from Flinders Street or directly from the primary external entry plaza at the corner of Flinders and Spring Streets. The main entry plaza contains a dominant structural and sculptural building pier and a specially commissioned sculpture, ‘Shell Mace’ by American sculptor and architect, Charles O Perry (1989). The foyer has soaring ceilings, with a mural, ‘Bathers and Pulpit Rock’ by Arthur Boyd (1988) and sets of escalators which lead to the mezzanine and conference centre level. The conference centre provides access to meeting rooms arranged around a circular light well, an auditorium and a narrow secondary pedestrian plaza entry from Flinders Lane. The mezzanine level provides access to a former cafeteria space, with built in seating arranged around the base of the light well, a servery and adjoining commercial kitchen.
The office tower uses a repetitive floor construction system of clear span beams of equal length, resulting in a uniform 15 metre wide column-free space from the services core to the external windows. This, along with the concealment of computer cabling and electrical wiring under a 250 mm access floor, creates an interior aesthetic which is open, light and spacious. All office floors have expansive views to the south and east of the city. The top two floors of the office tower contain an executive suite with external terrace garden, garden court and spiral granite staircase between levels. A variety of quality finishes have been used throughout the building for paving, floor and wall cladding, including Italian granite and travertine, and much of this has been retained.
Some changes have been made to the office floor configurations and fittings, including the executive suite.
This site is part of the traditional land of the people of the Kulin Nation.How is it significant?
Shell House is of architectural and aesthetic significance to the State of Victoria. It satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects.
Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics.Why is it significant?
Shell House is significant at the State level for the following reasons:
Shell House is architecturally significant as an outstanding example of a late modernist office building in Victoria, designed by one of the style’s most accomplished proponents, the renowned Australian architect, Harry Seidler. Late modernism, as expressed in Shell House is demonstrated principally through sculptural form, use of solid concrete and other massive materials, and a variety of textural finishes. Shell House is also significant for the clarity with which it expresses particular themes and motifs characteristic of Seidler’s work. These include the use of opposing curvilinear forms and the generous planning of public areas, both externally an internally.
Shell House is one of an important series of high rise tower projects designed by Harry Seidler both nationally and internationally from the 1960s to the 1990s, and is the only one located in Victoria. Shell House is of architectural significance for its innovative design response to a difficult site and for its integration of dramatic level changes for public access from surrounding streets through a central lower foyer control point. Shell House won a number of awards including the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Victoria Merit Award in 1991 and the National RAIA Award in the same year. Seidler is considered to be one of the major talents in Australian architectural history who made a substantial contribution to Australian architecture. [Criterion D]
Shell House is aesthetically significant for the sculptural effect created by the interlocking curvilinear form of the building that is reflected in the interior planning. The quality of the interior spaces and their relationship to the extensive outdoor terraces at several levels of the building is of high aesthetic value, both visually and experientially. The location at the south-east corner of the Hoddle Grid is highlighted by elements such as the large tapered pier at the Spring Street/Flinders Street entrance.
The aesthetic qualities of the place are enhanced by the incorporation of large scale artworks which complement the architecture and were selected by Seidler for the building. Significant pieces include the foyer mural ‘Bathers and Pulpit Rock’ by Arthur Boyd (1988) and the external plaza sculpture ‘Shell Mace’ by Charles O Perry (1989). [Criterion E]
The ability to appreciate the relevant aesthetic characteristics is enhanced by the high degree of intactness and integrity of the Place, both internally and externally.
Let’s get to the nub of the problem. Developers are prepared to take great financial risks to overcome heritage listing and overlays. The Corkman Cowboys stood to make a huge profit on the twelve-storey apartment block they proposed to build. The promoters of the Metro Nightclub development which saw irreplaceable decorative mouldings and a Melbourne icon destroyed were motivated purely by profit. In the case of many such CBD developments the aim to create apartment complexes is at odds with the current glut of unoccupied apartment buildings within the area. But development is often a long term strategy so when the market turns? – it’s profit all the way.
It comes down to what we value as a community and as a society. Do we want to become another Shanghai or Kowloon with not a millimetre of open space available for recreation, for trees, for greenery?
Why is this happening? Quite simply it’s made possible by the impotence of the current heritage system. Heritage Victoria is somewhat underfunded by the Victorian government and complicating this is its reliance on local government maintaining both local heritage overlays and to some extent policing heritage laws. In a number of municipal areas it would seem the preference would be for increased rates and planning fees from developers. There is little public understanding of what heritage values are and why there is a value placed on heritage. Only a few weeks ago on the Balance Facebook page we have had comments from people decrying the Eastern Freeway heritage listing and more recently the difficulty of owning heritage properties in Brunswick.
There is little or no knowledge of the heritage grants available in various locations and little appreciation of some of the magnificent architecture that has been and is still retained via the Heritage system.
Now is the time for genuine action and response. We feel for the Besen and Roth families and their dire need for more profit, but frankly, we would like to see a plan brought forward to bring the Shell Plazas to life for public usage. The last thing Melbourne’s CBD needs is another multi storey tower adjacent to parklands. It really is time for a heritage summit, bringing together local government, State government, the National Trust, Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Council of Victoria as well as developers and property owners. There must be an acknowledged and accepted recognition of what heritage values are and why heritage preservation is so very important. In the UK heritage protection is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This funding is substantial and guarantees heritage action where and when required.
We would like to see some of Britain’s laws on heritage introduced here. For instance, if you demolish a heritage building in Britain you are forced to rebuild it to the exact specifications of the original building and, at the same time, suffer heavy fines for having demolished the building.
In Australia, it seems that heritage listing is seen as a challenge (to overcome) by developers and their advisors.
Well, no more – heritage is who we are, where we have come from and what we hold in true high esteem. It’s time for a change. Right about NOW
Work on the Ballarat Botanical Gardens Heritage Fernery is now well underway. This time we feature some of the more up to date and finalised drawings for your interest. Yes, this will be in fact the entrance to the overall Fernery precinct in the gardens. When complete with Stage 2, the curators of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens will be furnishing the growing space and habitat with exotic ferns from around the world as well as the more familiar native species and epiphytes such as Birdsnest, Staghorn and Elkhorn ferns.
The Fernery will add an immensely exciting visage to these popular gardens. The new design from Andrew Fedorowicz of Balance Architecture, is faithful to the original Fernery design providing a beautiful heritage perspective, in keeping with its surrounds and those of old Ballarat town.
The ‘New’ Fernery is a reproduction of the older original fernery that was so much a part of the older Ballarat Gardens of the 19th Century. It is faithful in its homage to the Gothic lines and stunning vista of the older fernery and has been designed with the cooperation and assistance of the Heritage Council of Victoria.
The new Fernery Design is in keeping with the original fernery and its heritage values.
With the lockdown restrictions now spreading to rural Victoria, many more people will be spending a lot more time at home. Out of adversity comes opportunity. Why not use the time wisely and prepare a plan to re-develop your home, to create the space you desire and need, and to reshape the basics in your living areas to meet the demands of modern living.
For many this is the ideal time to consult with an architect. Discover the art of the possible. Make sure you have covered all the contingencies. This is doubly important if you live in a property that is heritage listed or part of an area covered by a heritage overlay.
It’s entirely appropriate to seek a highly experienced and qualified architect, one with a successful track record in both large scale heritage renovations as well as modern makeovers that harmonise with the architecture of the past.
Andrew Fedorowicz is one such Architect. Andrew is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects. He is innovative, practical and makes brilliant use of space. Today, the demand is to extend your living areas outwards into external entertainment areas – outdoor kitchens, dining areas, yet with the ability to close off the bifold doors and maintain an even temperature within. Solar power, water reticulation, data systems – it’s the art of the possible.
But at the same time, it’s also possible to restore that ironwork, the decorative tiling, the corinthian arches, the decorative plaster mouldings, the slate roofs and much more. Restore the verandahs, add stained glass to add authenticity.
Create a beautiful garden and interior to match the architecture. But most important, do it with a professional plan; proper architectural drawings, appropriate permits and a costed budget.
Call Andrew Fedorowicz now. Arrange for a Zoom, Skype, Messenger or Whatsapp meeting – or if permitted a site meeting and inspection.
Call now on 0418 341 443 or alternatively 03 8696 9700 during business hours (mention Balance Architecture please). You can leave your contact details here if you prefer and you will receive a prompt reply to your enquiry.
Victoria is fortunate in that State Government politicians have a bipartisan approach to heritage protection. To a major extent political parties, Local Government and the public agree on the majority of established Heritage listed properties being protected. The issue here is the updating and strengthening of protections for those buildings and properties either undergoing Heritage inspection and/or those not currently heritage listed.
In Tasmania there is a different problem. Capital is scarce in Tasmania and the value put upon Heritage classification is definitely not uniform. The current Government, as can be seen by its pro-development stance on the Treasury Buildings in Hobart is less than enthusiastic in truly protecting Heritage buildings in the State. Add to that Local Government Councils that seemingly have little or no understanding of Heritage values and you have a disaster in the offing.
From the ABC…
Tasmania is full of heritage-listed sites, but are they worth saving?
The Hunters Hotel in Tasmania has seen better days
In the heart of Queenstown on Tasmania’s remote west coast stands a forest green hotel, framed with gold trimmings and a grand wooden balcony that overlooks the township.
The Hunters Hotel has a historic past, with its balcony serving as a stage for many speeches throughout its life.
In the early 1900s, workers’ rights advocate and Labor MP King O’Malley spoke from the balcony to the people in the street below.
Then in 1912, amidst the tragedy of the North Lyell mine fire where 42 men lost their lives, the community was given updates from the balcony.
But now this piece of history is facing the possibility of destruction.
The West Coast Council has issued an emergency order for the owners to dismantle the sagging balcony due to safety concerns.
West Coast Mayor, Phil Vickers said the owners have 28 days to make a decision.
“It’s a private property that has a verandah that is built over the top of a council footpath,” he said.
“It’s heritage-listed and we’ve had an engineers report that demonstrates that it needs to be either re-engineered and fixed up or dismantled.”
The owners and concerned members of the community are desperately trying to save the balcony.
One resident has started a crowdfunding page, but only $1,800 of the required $35,000 has been raised so far.
Ralph Wildenauer says he has tried to do work himself, but health setbacks mean he needs to hire labour
Hotel owner Ralph Wildenauer said he was planning to fix the balcony next year after the rest of the hotel had been opened for business to raise the necessary funds.
“I was doing most of the work and last year I had a major stroke, so I’m not able to do work anymore and it means we have to employ people to finish everything off, which is very expensive,” Mr Wildenauer said.
Heritage sites held together with ‘sticky tape and glue’
Tasmania has the highest concentration of heritage sites of anywhere in Australia.
“Anyone that owns a heritage site knows that you just keep throwing buckets of money at it and that’s just the nature of the beast,” Matthew Smithies of the National Trust said.
Clarendon House looks good on the surface
Heritage sites held together with ‘sticky tape and glue’
Tasmania has the highest concentration of heritage sites of anywhere in Australia.
“Anyone that owns a heritage site knows that you just keep throwing buckets of money at it and that’s just the nature of the beast,” Matthew Smithies of the National Trust said.
In Tasmania, the National Trust has eight sites ranging from Home Hill, the family home of former Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, to Hobart’s Convict Penitentiary.
However, the cost to maintain and preserve these heritage assets is huge.
Mr Smithies said the National Trust has a bit of a legacy at the moment of maintenance and conservation works that are well overdue.
“We’ve got about $3.5 million worth of conservation works that we need to carry out immediately, and raising that funding is difficult,” he said.
Clarendon House, in the north of the state, is in desperate need of maintenance and restoration — some of the building’s walls being reduced to rubble, issues with the staircase that is no longer straight and a basement that is cracked from a flood that occurred five years ago.
“From an engineers report that we’ve received, we’re actually going to lose the front face of Clarendon in the not-too-distant future,” Mr Smithies said.
The Tasmanian Branch of the National Trust has found its priority list is constantly changing due to the rapid rate their heritage sites have been deteriorating.
A floor is in ruins inside Clarendon House, a heritage-listed site in Tasmania’s north
Last year, the Launceston City Council told them to close the Franklin House site to the public due to safety issues with a wall.
“The convict-built, brick boundary wall at Franklin House was at the brink of toppling over, causing a lot of occupational health and safety concerns as it was a boundary wall with our neighbours and at the eleventh hour we did manage to get some funding from both Launceston Council and the State Government,” Mr Smithies said.
To minimise the loss of heritage during the wall dismantlement, each brick was numbered, catalogued and photographed as it was removed.
Contemporary foundations were then laid before the wall was rebuilt, with each brick placed in its original spot.
‘Mould everywhere, mushrooms growing on the floors’
The owners of the Hunters Hotel have faced the same problem when it came to the maintenance and preservation of their heritage-listed building.
The balcony of Hunters Hotel is in desperate need of repair
Mr Wildenauer and his wife took over the hotel more than two years ago, but before that, it had been abandoned for almost 20 years.
“You know, twenty years of leaking roofs and missing windows, there was mould growing everywhere, there were mushrooms growing on the floors, it was really, really bad,” he said.
“If we hadn’t started working on it, by now huge sections would have collapsed, you know ceilings would have come down, roofs would have come down.”
Mr Wildenauer believes if he had used professionals to work on the structure, it would have cost close to $1 million.
He tried to obtain multiple grants to help fund the needed work restorations but has been unsuccessful so far.
Cr Vickers said that small councils could not afford to help everyone, especially when the building is private property.
“It’s a historic building and we have lots of historic buildings that are in private ownership within our district, we can’t help everyone,” he said.
But the National Trust said it was a challenge for people who were custodians of heritage in both the private and public sectors.
“There is a bigger discussion that needs to be had around how we can keep our heritage assets standing,” Mr Smithies said.
What’s worth saving?
Due to limited funding, maintainers of heritage sites within the state have to decide which assets should be maintained.
Mr Smithies said it was hard to put a price on heritage.
“It’s what makes towns and cities and villages different from one another,” he said.
“I’m from Sydney, so the greater western suburbs, where they’ve just built these matchbox houses side by side, they’re absolutely soulless and I don’t think people particularly want to live like that.”
A staircase at historic Clarendon House near Launceston has visible cracks and mould
Those within heritage management asses value by looking at what stories are linked to the asset.
Mr Smithies said there were some wonderful collections at the National Trust that would fetch a high price at auction, with some even gaining international interest.
But his favourite heritage asset is a 120-year-old kerosene tin that he believes is worth about 50 cents.
“Someone’s cut the front out and put a candle in … it comes from a farm of a well-known agricultural family and it was the kerosene tin that they used to go down to the dairy when there was calving,” he said.
“How do you measure significance? Is it the stories behind it or is it the bean counter? What is its commercial value?”
For Mr Wildenauer, although the Hunters Hotel is expensive to maintain, its history is priceless.
“Once that balcony is gone, it will be gone forever, the history will be gone with it,” he said.
“OK, they might have saved a few beams and a few bits and pieces, but it’s not going to be the same balcony if they rebuild it and the cost of rebuilding is going to be way, way more than the cost of repairing it.
“It’s not always a viable thing to restore these buildings, but to let them collapse is even worse.”
Heritage protection and Heritage values should not vary from State to State. In Melbourne when one of the oldest remaining buildings in the CBD was in imminent danger of collapse, its inhabitants too old and infirm to take action, the City of Melbourne stepped in and provided reinforcing whilst funding and plans for its restoration was determined. It’s still braced, located at the corner of King St and Latrobe St.
It’s time to evolve a national approach to our Heritage buildings and properties, create a funding model and provide significant education from an early age to enable people to realise the true value of such neglected buildings.
Originally a theatre, now known as the Metro Nightclub, the building was constructed in 1911 replacing the original ‘Queen’s Hall’ attached to the Hotel Douglas.
To refresh your memories or to provide the basis for discussion, here is a reprint of our blog dated Sept 27th 2017.
The Palace Theatre Melbourne – perhaps you remember it as the Metro Nightclub. Demolition of this well known Melbourne icon was approved in 2016 at VCAT. The interior was illegally demolished without permits in 2014. It is now owned by the Jinshan Investment Group. The group planned to build a 30 storey W Hotel on the site but are now restricted to a 7 storey site after the intervention of the City of Melbourne. Located at 20-30 Bourke St, the venue has a long history in the Entertainment Industry. As it stands, it is slated for demolition at any time.
The Palace Theatre is somewhat of an enigma. Its scenario is not that dissimilar to the Corkman Hotel of Carlton illegally destroyed by developers recently. The building is in fact a large, high roofed theatre. What was significant about it were its internal fittings. In 2014 a contracted demolition company removed the ornate plaster features, facades and balcony decorations, rendering the interior somewhat featureless and undermining any claims of heritage value. One could consider it a ‘tactic’ to enable a party to proceed with a demolition that might otherwise be opposed.
It this case, the venue represents a very valid principle in both planning and preservation. In the view of many – including the City of Melbourne’s representatives, it should be incumbent on the properties owners – Jinshan Investment Group – to restore the interior to its previous state.
Originally the site was occupied from the late 1850s by the Excelsior Hotel. Hotels at the time were close relations to the Theatre and Theatre companies of the time. The Excelsior had a ‘hall’ attached known as ‘Queen’s Hall’. Vaudeville, boxing and wrestling events were staged there regularly. Name changes occurred in 1875 (Stutt’s Hotel) and 1900 (Hotel Douglas). The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1911 and the land was sold for 32,000 pounds.
In 1911, a new theatre was commissioned by the new owners, to occupy the site. Queensland Architects Eaton and Bates in association with Melbourne Architect Naham Barnet were tasked with designing the new theatre. It featured seating on 3 levels with a large proscenium and very grand ‘curtains of gold’. The theatre incorporated a hotel, the Pastorial, with bedrooms on the first floor.
The theatre was modified in 1916 with a complete refitting of the lobby and auditorium under the instruction of Architect Henry E White. This involved the addition of ornate plaster mouldings decorating the theatre in a style recognised as ‘Louis Seize’.
Auditorium – Ceiling
Further additions to the decorative style occurred in 1923 when the theatre auditorium was extensively remodelled , retaining the Louis Seize style yet overlaying it with a further Adamesque decoration. Upon completion it reopened as the ‘New Palace’.
In 1934 a further new renovation occurred and the theatre became known as the Apollo. It was renamed again in 1940 – The St James Theatre. 1951 saw it renamed ‘The St James Theatre and Metro’. Now an MGM theatre it became a cinema and showed films exclusively from that studio.
The street frontage and facade was remodelled in an Art Deco style – designed by a H Vivian Taylor, and to this day the design remains. The Proscenium and side boxes were removed to allow for the installation of a ‘CinemaScope’ screen.
In 1971 it reverted to live theatre with the production ‘Hair’ running for 39 weeks. By 1974 it had reverted to its original name and was a working Cinema – again. 1980-1987 saw it as a Christian Revival Centre run by the Pentecostal Church.
A major refurbishment was undertaken in 1987 by Melbourne Architects ‘Biltmoderne’. From then on it was known as the Metro Nightclub. The Nightclub was sold in 2007. The new owners were the former owners of the Palace live music venue in St Kilda.
They renamed the venue ‘The Palace’. Holding 1850 people, the venue hosted many well known touring groups and musicians over the next 7 years. It was sold to the Chinese Development Group Jinshan in late 2012.
In 2016 opponents to the demolition of the venue finally lost the fight and VCAT ruled that the Demolition should proceed and the redevelopment works go ahead.
This is a rather interesting case study. From an architectural viewpoint, much of the original charm of the foyer and auditorium were removed over the years but the very ornate plasterwork remained up until 2014. Additions made in 1987 including stainless steel staircases and galleries could easily have been reverted.
Its claim for heritage value was not on architectural grounds but on cultural grounds. The Bourke St Precinct has strict heritage overlays yet the Developer was prepared to challenge these, even in view of the Windsor result and the location of the Victorian Parliament, with a 30 storey tower – until challenged by Council as to its height.
According to Professor Graeme Davidson, the Heritage listing (not ratified) for cultural importance was and is well justified.
“This is likely the last surviving expressly built Vaudeville Theatre (Variety Show) in Melbourne.”
After internal demolition
The destruction is breathtaking when considering the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots. In our view this is a glaring example of manipulation of regulations by third parties to gain an outcome that provides little recognition of heritage values. Under the Bourke Hill precinct overlay, the theatre’s internal fitout was protected as was the building’s facade. When the theatre was gutted and the interior demolished – no authority intervened.
Heritage is often more than just the value of the individual aspects of a building. It is the sum total of the history, the usage, the architecture and the decorations of a building. And as with the Corkman in Carlton and the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda, this time VCAT, you got it wrong.
What’s your opinion? Should the developers be forced to restore unauthorised demolitions? As it stands we have precious little left to preserve.
Its time Council started to respond and intervene when required. Our city has great character and we must do whatever it takes to retain what is quintessentially Melbourne.
So in this instance the application for Heritage Listing was based entirely on the Cultural Heritage of the venue, but as can be seen, the history of the venue is much older and far more impressive that just the cultural heritage. It would appear that under Heritage Victoria’s direction Art Deco is not valued, unless it is specifically mentioned in the Heritage application. Surely the umpire should have stepped in here!
Take a look at the architectural mouldings, the plasterwork, the murals – simply irreplaceable!
Melbourne’s old vaudeville theatres have all but disappeared. The Tivoli, the Theatre Royal, Sol De Val, the Gaiety and St George’s Hall to name but a few. Bourke St East was the heart of theatre and vaudeville in old Melbourne town. Sadly it’s now lost.
From The Age…
‘Morally outrageous’: After 108 years, demolition of The Metro begins
Demolition of one of Melbourne’s best-loved music venues, The Palace Theatre on Bourke Street, began this week, ending a seven-year public battle to save the venue.
The 108-year old theatre, venue of The Metro nightclub for over 20 years from 1987 as well as a live music hall, played host to artists including James Brown, The Prodigy, Slash, Jane’s Addiction, Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age until its doors shut in 2014.
Demolition of the Palace Theatre in Melbourne commenced this week.
With the site to be converted into a Marriott hotel after years of conjecture, councillors and music industry figures have lamented the demolition as an indictment on Victoria’s heritage laws, which they say fail to properly recognise the cultural value of the state’s venues.The Palace was sold in 2012 to Chinese developer Jinshan Investment Group for $11.2 million.
Melbourne City Council approved plans to build a hotel in 2013, which objectors unsuccessfully opposed in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in 2016, however the site was dormant until the roof was removed in the past fortnight.
Known for its marble staircase and sweeping viewing balconies, photos emerged this week of excavator trucks in the venue, the stage area in rubble and a hole in the roof where a chandelier once hung.
The Metro Nightclub at midnight in January 1992
Melbourne City councillor Rohan Leppert, who leads the council’s heritage division, said the 3000-capacity Palace was not previously granted heritage status because renovations had created a “mish-mash of architectural eras”.
“Even though the demolition that’s happening inside the theatre is perfectly legal, it’s still morally outrageous,” Cr Leppert said.
“Our heritage regime still rewards architectural purity above everything else, but the thing that makes The Palace special is the social history of the place, which is so extraordinary. I hope we are never in a situation like this again.”
The Metro nightclub in its heyday
Music Victoria chief executive Patrick Donovan said The Palace closure left a “massive gap” in Melbourne for a medium-sized venue with a late-night licence.
“It was an absolutely pivotal venue in the Melbourne music scene,” he said.
“It was a popular weekly alternative music nightclub called Goo for university students, then they had live music shows up to five days a week. I really do believe our heritage laws need a good look at.”
Heavy heart: You Am I’s Tim Rogers performs at The Metro in 1996
The Palace was also used as a cinema, Pentecostal church venue and theatre in its 108-year history. It’s understood the developers will be required to retain its historic facade.
The Palace Theatre is being demolished
Mr Donovan said cities such as Vancouver and Toronto in Canada recognised cultural value more than Victoria and said The Palace should be used as a cautionary tale to protect venues such as St Kilda’s The Esplanade and Festival Hall, which survived an initial push for demolition in 2018.
“We don’t need any more apartments in this city, but we do need venues like the Espy and the Palace.”
Rebecca Leslie, spokeswoman for the Save the Palace campaign that has fought the development since 2013, said the demolition’s timing had taken the group by surprise.
“The experience of attending a live band there was incredible. No matter where you stood, you got the most incredible view, with this beautiful 100-year-old building, with all the pictures and fittings around it still intact.”
In Melbourne nothing stimulates discussion on the relative merit of the architecture of new landmark sites as does the mention of Federation Square or Southern Cross Station. People either love them or hate them.
In the case of Federation Square we are definitely admirers… Let me give you our reasons.
Over the last 200 years the site has had a range of somewhat unpleasant uses. It hosted the City Morgue and the trains that transported the dead to the Kew Cemetery, the original Fish Market, Corporate offices of the most unsightly building that ever graced Melbourne and massive Railway Yards, rolling stock and workshops, an atmosphere of dust, metal noise, smoke exhaust and oil.
With many planners keen to link the Melbourne CBD with its river the Yarra, these plans were always undermined by the conundrum of what to do with the then required extensive and extremely busy Railway yards and facilities.
Perhaps one of the biggest bug-bears was the ridiculous situation where the incredibly ugly Gas and Fuel Towers blocked the view of one of Melbourne’s most iconic and beautiful buildings – St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Gas and Fuel Corporation Towers were somewhat representative of the times in which their construction occurred – 1967. Brown brick, aluminium windows, a pale green and brown monstrosity, commissioned and built over what was originally the Princes Bridge Station and Rail Yards on the South side of Flinders St. What a contradiction it was to the surrounding cityscape.
St Paul’s, Flinders St Station, Young and Jacksons Hotel, the Forum Theatre – all delightful and interesting buildings, constructed to be somewhat timeless – and the Gas and Fuel Building – plonked like a huge hideous misshapen Lego block. When it was finally demolished in 1997 it was to make way for Federation Square and Birrarung Marr, an extensive, beautiful addition to Melbourne’s parkland.
The Railways had occupied the land since 1859, and over the years it became the driving hub for the Melbourne Electrified Railway System.
Prior to this for thousands of years the site had been the meeting place for indigenous tribes of the Kulin Confederacy. The Wathaurung, the Bunarong and the Woiworung peoples occupied the surrounding lands to the North, South and East with the swamps and salt marshes West to the Marybnong River and beyond being considered communal hunting grounds. Tribal people still camped on the Yarra banks, both sides, stretching from this area down to the MCG and Government House during the early years of European settlement.
Federation Square and its development leading up to the Centenary of Federation in 2001 gave rise to a perfect opportunity to celebrate the ideas of ‘identity’ and ‘place’ in providing a much needed civic and cultural space.
The Victorian Government had commissioned the architecture to Lab Architecture Studio, a firm based in London and Melbourne firm Bates Smart with whom they formed a partnership. Lab Architecture had originally been one of five finalists in the Victorian Government two stage design competition commenced in 1996. The partnership with Bates Smart, a premier Melbourne Architecture firm was required to proceed to the second stage and the consortium was awarded the contract for the design of the new area..
The Fractal Facade is an extraordinary feature. “Three cladding materials: sandstone, zinc (perforated and solid) and glass have been used in a circular pinwheel grid. This modular system uses five single triangles (all of the same size and proportion) to make up a larger triangular panel. Following the same geometrical logic, five panels are joined together to create a large triangular ‘mega panel’ which is then mounted onto the structural frame to form the visible facade.” [from http://www.fedsquare.com]
For the public the controversy was fanned by ‘shock jock’ radio personalities and tabloid journalists who simply ‘didn’t get it’. The criticism went so far as to see the Glass Shards planned for the North Western corner removed from the plan and the finished result. It was claimed the Government did this to appease critics who believed it would again block the vista of St Paul’s Cathedral however many believe it was an unnecessary political intervention to ameliorate ongoing criticism from more conservative voices in the community.
It is now recognised as an extraordinary contemporary work lauded and praised internationally as changing the overall look of the Melbourne CBD and its entrance. The public have adopted it and its features with enthusiasm and it plays a huge role in Melbourne’s Cultural and Civic Events.
As well, as of 2019, Federation Square enjoys Heritage Protection, having been listed as a Heritage site by the Heritage Council of Victoria. This process was hastened by an ill-advised attempt by both the management of Federation Square and the State Government to demolish part of it and replace it with an Apple Store. With objections from the National Trust, the City of Melbourne, and one of the original architects, the modification was rejected and the square remains intact. Currently the South East corner is off-limits whilst the new Melbourne Underground is constructed.
This in no way encroaches on the visitors experience as most of the works are occurring beneath the ground.
Federation Square is well worth a visit. It provides a gateway to the Melbourne CBD and is an eclectic creation that offers a wide range of activities. From Bars and Cinemas, restaurants and expansive outdoor spaces, it is truly magnificent.
And everyday thousands of Melbournians commute on trains to and from the city beneath the structure. The cinemas, galleries, radio and television studios barely experience a vibration. It is in fact one of the largest expanses of railway decking ever built in Australia taking twelve months to complete.
Next week we revisit Melbourne’s latest Heritage battle – from Sandringham to Black Rock where the wonderful modernist homes of the 1950s and 1960s are under real threat. Already homes built and designed by Robyn Boyd and his contemporaries have succumbed to demolition. The latest challenge is a property located at 372 Beach Rd Beaumaris. The developers have applied to build two new dwellings on the site. Stay tuned.
Every now and again a building is brought to our attention that is under threat of demolition. Usually it’s just the building itself that is in imminent danger, but recently there have been several cases where the building represents a significant component of a major heritage area and overlay. No 1 Victoria Ave is such a building.
In a similar situation to the buildings under threat on Victoria St and Brunswick St by St Vincent’s Hospital, Number 1 Victoria Avenue Albert Park represents a pivotal gateway to Victoria Avenue itself. There is no denying the building is somewhat tired and requires a future planning to either restore it to previous grandeur, or to reconfigure it in a sensitive, sympathetic response to its location and its surroundings.
Located on the corner of Merton St, it is adjacent to rows of Victorian Terraces and period shops continuing down Victoria Avenue. Opposite is the red brick Albert Park Primary School. Directly opposite and up the continuation of Merton St going North is the famed St Vincent’s Place Gardens and estate.
This is a particularly sensitive location. The area was part of a very early Melbourne development modelled on a typical London street plan and estate.
In April 2017, 1 Victoria Avenue was sold for $5.575 million, about $500K above its reserve. At the time the Agents acknowledged that despite the Heritage overlay, the purchaser was likely to redevelop the site into a 3-4 level mixed use building and occupy part of it.
Similar plans were indicated by developers who demolished the Greyhound Hotel on St Kilda Rd in St Kilda and the London Hotel on the Esplanade in Port Melbourne. Both remain vacant blocks.
The Saade group have released plans and artists impressions of what the planned new building will look like. It bears no connection at all with its surrounds, is entirely disconnected from the area’s overlay, and frankly shows little understanding of either heritage values or streetscapes.
The National Trust has expressed its objections to the project to the Port Phillip Council in August 2017.
Re: Planning Permit Application
1 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park
Dear Ms Johnson,
The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) objects to the above permit application, which includes complete demolition of the existing building and construction of a contemporary four-storey (plus basement level) mixed use building.
The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) is state’s largest community-based heritage advocacy organisation actively working towards conserving and protecting our heritage for future generations to enjoy, representing 28,000 members across Victoria. The National Trust’s vision is that “our diverse heritage is protected and respected, contributing to strong, vibrant and prosperous communities”, and our mission to “inspire the community to appreciate, conserve and celebrate its diverse natural, cultural, social and Indigenous heritage”.
The subject site is included within the Bridport Street/Victoria Avenue Commercial Precinct, identified as HO443 in the Schedule to the Heritage Overlay of the Port Phillip Planning Scheme. The subject site is identifiedas a significant place in the City of Port Philip Heritage Policy Map, and is subject to external paint controls.
We submit that the proposal to demolish 1 Victoria Avenue Albert Park is contrary to the provisions as set out in the Port Phillip Heritage Policy 22.04, specifically the following policy objectives (22.04-3):
To encourage the conservation of all significant and contributory heritage places in the Heritage Overlay.
To discourage the demolition of significant and contributory heritage places in the Heritage Overlay.
When a permit is required for demolition of a significant or contributory building, as set out under 22.04-4 Demolition, it is policy to:
Refuse the demolition of a significant building unless and only to the extent that:
the building is structurally unsound;
the replacement building and/or works displays design excellence which clearly and positively supports the ongoing heritage significance of the area
The complete demolition of an individually significant place in an identified precinct is rare and should only be permitted if it can be clearly demonstrated that there is no alternative course of action. We submit that the supporting documentation provided with the permit application does not demonstrate that demolition is unavoidable.
In particular, the Assessment of Heritage Impacts views demolition as a fait accompli and fails to assess the impacts of the proposal on either the building or the wider precinct. We note that the Structural Report prepared by David Farrer, while outlining the specific structural issues currently affecting the building, does not undertake any form of cultural heritage assessment of the impact of full demolition.
Accepted best practice for the preparation of Heritage Impact Statements can be found in Heritage Victoria’s “Guidelines for Preparing Heritage Impact Statements” and requires the consideration of the following:
What physical and/or visual impacts will result from the proposed works? i.e. what will be the affect on the cultural heritage significance of the place
If there are detrimental impacts on the cultural heritage significance of the place or object, provide reasons why the proposal should be permitted
If there are detrimental impacts on the cultural heritage significance of the place or object, detail alternative proposals that were considered and reasons why these were dismissed
What measures are being proposed to avoid, limit or manage the detrimental impacts?
While these guidelines have been prepared to inform applications under the Heritage Act 2017, we would expect the same principles to be observed in the preparation of an impact statement for any recognised heritage place, including those protected under the Planning and Environment Act. As it stands, the current proposal would clearly have a deleterious impact on the heritage place, and a significant negative impact on the surrounding precinct, yet these impacts have not been assessed, nor have steps to mitigate these impacts been considered.
Further, the Structural Report does not rule out, or even contemplate, the reconstruction of the building according to Burra Charter principles, or its incorporation in any new development. We would expect that for a place identified as being significant within a heritage precinct, that all possible options for restoration or reconstruction should be explored and documented in any application for a development on the site. The application provides no evidence that options for the retention of the building have been meaningfully investigated, or that restoration and reconstruction are not viable options.
We would expect that where full demolition is contemplated on the basis of advice provided in a structural report, that this advice would be subject to peer review. In making a determination on this application, we therefore urge Council to engage a consultant to provide an independent assessment of the structural integrity of the building, and options for remediation or reconstruction.
The National Trust also strongly objects to the assessment provided by Bryce Raworth that the proposed replacement building displays design excellence which “clearly and positively supports the ongoing heritage significance of the area.” We note the Statement of Significance for the Bridport Street/Victoria Avenue Commercial Precinct, as included in the Port Phillip Heritage Review (2018), which states that
“the built fabric is largely characterised by rows of double-storey Victorian residential shops, a smaller number of single-storey Victorian shops, terraced dwellings, and Edwardian and inter-war shops.”
We submit that the proposed development does not respond to these identified values, and does not respect the scale and character of the surrounding precinct.
In conclusion, we do not believe the current application demonstrates that the demolition of the existing building at 1 Victoria Avenue cannot be avoided, and respectfully submit that the permit application should be refused on these grounds. We further submit that the proposed replacement building is not an appropriate response to the heritage precinct. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this application. For any enquiries regarding this submission, please don’t hesitate to contact me on 9656 9802 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Port Phillip Council have denied both the demolition and building permits. The Saade group have now appealed to VCAT with the hearing set down for March 18th 2019.
To date the integrity of the area has remained largely intact. But a project such as this undermines the entire heritage overlay for for the Albert Park area, and if permitted would provide a very unwelcome precedent for what is one of Melbourne’s last remaining Victorian era Heritage precincts.
Principal Balance Architect, Andrew Fedorowicz is currently looking to provide both an opinion and possible alternatives to the proposed building for the community organisation objecting to the proposed demolition and development – #dontdestroyalbertpark Their website is: dontdestroyalbertpark.com.au
This is a prime example of where a building is not properly maintained to facilitate the outcome whereby demolition is considered. However we hope to show this is entirely unnecessary with the use of both a clear understanding of Heritage values, local rental returns and good design.
You can support the Don’t Destroy Albert Park Village case in VCAT by contacting the group through its website and requesting bank details for the legal case appeal.
This area, Albert Park, is a joy for all who love, enjoy and respect Heritage values. Now is the time to respond and protect this wonderful area for future generations. Please give this cause your full support.
For many people a Heritage Listing is only applied to historic buildings. In itself this is an interesting concept. What deems a building historic? Times are rapidly changing. Is it now time to protect some of our historical developments in Architecture and Construction?
Right now there is serious discussion occurring at the highest levels of Government in Victoria on the provisional listing of Federation Square by the Heritage Council of Victoria after application was made late last year by the National Trust to preserve the precinct’s integrity.
It goes to the deeper question – what is worth preserving? Melbourne is an ever evolving city with a Metropolitan spread that is now well over 100km in diameter. It features inner city living, semi-rural living, sea-side living and plain old suburbia. Over the last 70-80 years, post World War 2, there have been some truly significant advances in both purposeful design that acknowledges climate and location, as well as some stylistics that are truly Australian in genesis and application.
The ‘Modern’ Architecture of post war Australia was very much a part of the new developments of the 1950s in Bayside Melbourne. Architects such as Robin Boyd, Neil Clerehan and Roy Grounds actively pushed the envelope on new ‘Modern Design’.
It comes down to preserving what is in fact our heritage over time; where such ‘modern’ design (for the 1950s and 1960s) represents a significant shift in Australian Architectural and Design values.
The following article from the ABC gives a solid insight into the issue.
Architecture advocates argue for change to interpretation of heritage buildings
City of Melbourne council has earmarked the Hoyts Mid City building on Bourke St for heritage protection.
City of Melbourne council has earmarked the Hoyts Mid City building on Bourke St for heritage protection.
City of Melbourne council has earmarked the Hoyts Mid City building on Bourke St for heritage protection.
Melbourne’s beautiful Victorian-era buildings are widely appreciated as some of the city’s most valuable assets — but that was not always the case.
Decades ago, debate raged about whether Victorian architecture was worth saving at all.
These days it is Melbourne’s post-war buildings that are in the crosshairs, with homes from the 1950s and ’60s at the centre of a debate around which architectural styles are worthy of protection.
So, is it time for the community’s understanding of what is considered a ‘heritage’ building to evolve?
National Trust Victoria advocacy manager Felicity Watson thinks so.
‘Exciting time of experimentation’
Ms Watson said mid-century modern architecture evolved during a time of significant change in Melbourne, culminating in the hosting of the 1956 Olympic Games which showcased the city to the world.
“In terms of architecture, the post-war period was a really exciting time of experimentation,” she said.
“There were lots of really skilled and significant architects that were practicing.”
She thinks it is time to reshape the way we think about buildings from this era, which are often dismissed as daggy.
Felicity Watson thinks we should be protecting mid-century architecture for future generations
[Photo: Felicity Watson thinks we should be protecting mid-century architecture for future generations]
“We really see this as a turning point in the heritage movement,” she said.
“In the 1970s it was about protecting places of Victorian heritage — which at that time were not always seen as the way that we appreciate them now but were sometimes seen as ugly and undesirable.
“That’s sort of the argument we’re seeing in relation to post-war heritage.”
Ms Watson called on local and state governments to recognise the significance of these homes, but said property owners also had a responsibility to protect them.
“There are certainly views in the community that heritage is an encumbrance on a property,” she said.
“But what we really need to take into account is the benefit to the community and not think about just individuals.”
Beaumaris a haven of mid-century modern
One of the largest concentrations of significant post-war homes can be found in the bright, open-plan, mid-century modern residences of Melbourne’s bayside suburbs.
Local community group Beaumaris Modern has sprung up to spruik the architectural innovation they believe makes these homes worthy of preservation.
The group’s president Fiona Austin said many homes in the area were designed by significant Australian architects.
Ms Austin, an interior designer, said the group’s members were distressed at seeing so many mid-century modern homes demolished; homes that evolved during a time of important architectural innovation.
“People were sick of dark houses that look like something from England,” she said.
“Young architects, after the war, started designing houses that face north, face the garden, had big windows, skillion roofs, flat roofs and you know, enjoyed outside spaces.
“It’s perfect for our climate and still is now.”
Only last week the group fought — but failed — to save a home on Mariemont Avenue in Beaumaris which was designed by architects Chancellor and Patrick in 1962.
The home was originally identified by Bayside City Council as worthy of protection in a 2007 heritage study.
But in 2018, the council abandoned planning scheme amendments to introduce a heritage overlay on this and other mid-century properties, after what they described as strong opposition and community division.
Bayside City Council now plans to introduce a voluntary process for owners to nominate their mid-century homes for possible inclusion in a heritage overlay.
National Trust Victoria has urged them to reconsider, saying conducting their own study could have protected this “significant home”.
In a statement, the council said the permit to demolish the property was issued by a private building surveyor and did not require council approval because it was not covered by heritage controls.
‘Jury still out’ on financial impact of heritage listings
Boroondara Council, in Melbourne’s east, has a large concentration of heritage properties, albeit from a different era.
Councillor Coral Ross said the jury was still out on whether heritage listings drove property prices up or down.
“Our role and our responsibility is to conserve and enhance the area which we live in,” she said.
Fiona Austin founded the community group Beaumaris Modern to foster appreciation of mid-century architecture.
“We have done large surveys which say that our community values the character of the area in which they live and the heritage is something that they really value.
“The reason that people move into an area is because they like the architectural style [and] we certainly have a lot of people that want to live in our area.”
Beaumaris Modern is trying to take matters into their own hands by matching sympathetic house hunters with mid-century modern properties.
Ms Austin said at least one local real estate agent had embraced the niche market.
“He has a database of over 100 people who want to buy a mid-century house in Beaumaris, so he goes to them before they go on the market and often just matches people with their houses,” she said.
Modern additions to Melbourne’s heritage listings
The City of Melbourne has just released an audit of heritage listings across the CBD.
Greens councillor Rohan Leppert described the 2,000-page Hoddle Grid Heritage Review as “the mother of all audits”, unprecedented in scale in Victoria.
The review considered increasing heritage protection for 64 properties and six precincts within the grid — including some from the post-war period.
The City is now seeking permission from the Planning Minister to formally exhibit the Planning Scheme amendment C328, which proposes permanent heritage protection for properties identified in the review.
The Lyceum Club in Ridgway Place may also be heritage-listed by the City of Melbourne.
The Lyceum Club in Ridgway Place may also be heritage-listed by the City of Melbourne.
Cr Leppert said he was surprised many of the buildings had not been granted heritage protection already but said heritage was a “tricky issue”.
“We need to really carefully measure the social heritage of a place, the architectural heritage [and] the scarcity of particular types of buildings,” he said
Cr Leppert said the review had looked at post-war and post-modern buildings including the Hoyts Mid City complex in the Bourke St Mall and the Lyceum Club in Ridgway Place.
“The Hoyts Mid City complex is maybe not what Melburnians typically think of as something worthy of heritage protection but it is quite a remarkable building,” he said.
“The Lyceum Club is not a building that people might necessarily think is a standout piece of architecture.
“But it is something that we think has remarkable social and architectural heritage and is quite unique in the way it came about, so we’re seeking protection for that building as well.”
Cr Leppert said there would always be competing interests between development and heritage protection — especially on the most expensive land in the state.
He hopes the public will embrace mid-century architecture as an important part of the city’s history.
“I think public heritage values do change over time and we’re having a fascinating debate publicly about that at the moment.”
It is probably a very opportune time to have this discussion. Buildings of real significance have disappeared very quickly here in Victoria, leaving only a façade that has no real purpose. Or in the case of the Beaumaris homes – gone forever. It’s time to expand the understanding of Heritage, not just the ‘definition’, and to take some pride in what is and has been a magnificent journey – in under 200 years.
This week we repeat our earlier blog from March 22nd 2018. It features the delightful Victorian town of Daylesford and its neighbour Hepburn Springs. Take the time to drive up to this delightful location – about an hour of driving – during the break. Swimming is available at both Daylesford Lake and Jubilee Lake. We will resume our regular blogs later this week.
A favourite destination for many is the town of Daylesford, about 100km west of Melbourne. Gold was discovered on Wombat Flats, now deep below Daylesford Lake, in 1852. These alluvial deposits were the forerunner to deep quartz mining, which continued until the 1930s. Gold – the foundation of another heritage town, in this case providing the bounty that built the magnificent buildings of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.
Daylesford these days is better known as the Spa capital of Australia. It has long been renowned as a place to ‘take the waters’ and now features the Hepburn Spa complex and walking trails with many springs to sample the mineral waters on your way. (The Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve is a 30 acre reserve surrounding the Spa Centre. It is heritage listed.)
It is also famous for the simply stunning buildings, its streetscape and the rolling hills, surrounding the extinct volcano – Wombat Hill, which overlooks the twin townships of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.
In many ways it is a challenge to maintain the historical character of the precinct yet still facilitate the needs of the regular stream of tourists and the local population. From the early 1990s, the local Hepburn Shire Council has received royalties on all mineral waters sold on to beverage companies in Australia. The majority is bottled in Melbourne. The funding then available has been used to develop the new Spa complex and other tourist related facilities.
The Hepburn Springs Bathhouse was first opened to the public in 1895 providing ‘social bathing’. The Hepburn architecture is predominantly Edwardian due to the bushfires in 1906 which effectively destroyed the original township, which was predominantly Victorian architecture as in nearby Daylesford.
In 1864, the local population determined to protect the mineral springs from mining. The migrant populations from Italy, Germany and England rated the mineral waters ‘more valuable than gold’. A bathhouse was constructed in the 1890s. It has been remodelled several times. It was mainly the efforts of the ‘Swiss Italians’ that saved the springs for posterity.
The most recent remodelling was completed in 2008. From what was effectively a rundown, red brick facility, a mix of Federation, Edwardian and other influences, constructed in the early part of the twentieth century, the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa is now housed in a thoroughly modern complex, offering hydrotherapy, massage and beauty therapy. It is a tasteful extension and renovation that acknowledge the past yet provides the comforts of the present. The new development cost over $13 million.
For this week the other location to be visited is ‘The Convent Gallery’ or to give it its proper title ‘The Holy Cross Convent and Boarding School Brides of Christ Convent’.
Purchased by the Catholic Church in the 1880s as a presbytery for the local priest, it was originally built back in the 1860s as a private residence for the Gold Commissioner. It was disparagingly referred to as ‘Blarney Castle’ at that time.
From the 1890s, the church expanded the complex to accomodate nuns and boarders – opening in 1892 with building continuing through until 1927 including the new North Wing and substantial chapel. The accommodation wing was three storeys with an attic. No heating was provided and with massive costs in upkeep, the nuns moving to alternative accommodation, by the late 1970s the building and its gardens were derelict and neglected.
In 1988, it was purchased by a well known local artist and ceramicist Tina Banitska. It was reopened on March 31st 1991 as the ‘Convent Gallery’. Since then there have been further rounds of renovation to the buildings and grounds that add new life to the original grandeur. These include two major glass fronted function rooms, a penthouse suite and the ‘Altar Bar and Lounge’.
Externally the building retains its strong Victorian architectural features. Sitting high on the slopes of Wombat Hill, it provides panoramic views to the north and west of Daylesford town and Hepburn Springs. It houses several individual Galleries, a large retail area, a café, the two function rooms and the penthouse suite. It also retains four tiny ‘nun’s cells’ – the original nun’s bedrooms. Perhaps a reflection on the very frugal and harsh past.
It is a real celebration of Art History and Culture. We thoroughly recommend a quiet drink in the ‘Altar Bar and Lounge’ and a toast to the former Archbishop of the Melbourne Diocese, Archbishop Carr. He envisioned the place to become ‘a source of light and edification’ back in 1891. It may well have taken over a hundred years to materialise, but the Convent Gallery is certainly that now and well worth a visit.