Heritage How Do You Value It?

Shell House, Spring Street, Melbourne. Wikimedia.

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.

But the heritage listing for the 28-level tower, designed by world-renowned architect Harry Seidler, will be set aside if an application before authorities is successful.

Marcel Mihulka on the plaza where Shell House’s owners want to build a second skyscraper. Credit:Jason South

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.

Proposed development area

Seidler – who died in 2006 – designed many Sydney towers including Australia Square and the much-criticised Blues Point tower. His work redefined Australia’s city skylines. His other acclaimed buildings include the Australian embassy in Paris.

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.

An artist’s impression of the proposed tower behind 1 Spring Street.Credit:Source: Phillip Nominees Pty Ltd

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.

Harry Seidler’s legacy

He said increasing density on another Melbourne city block was “part of a worrying trend”, and had already happened at Nauru House on the corner of Collins and Exhibition streets, where a tower has been built just metres away.

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.

The tower would cantilever over Milton House, built in 1901.Credit:Phillip Nominees Pty Ltd

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.

History Summary

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.

Description Summary

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:

Criterion D

Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects.

Criterion E

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.

TO SUMMARISE:

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

Heritage Protection – It’s time to act.

Heritage protection of Melbourne’s fabulous older buildings remains a challenge in 2020. In January, the State Government acknowledged that the ‘Corkman Cowboys’ have thumbed their nose at the agreements and requirements those developers had entered into. The State Government has now initiated new legal actions against them. This consists of an enforcement order brought jointly by the State Government and the City of Melbourne at VCAT to ensure the developers deliver on their promises. As yet, they have not.

The reality is that heritage protection in this state remains fairly weak with legislation hamstrung by the inaction of local councils in maintaining Heritage overlays and databases in their areas of control. Some examples of this are Bayside City Council and its intransigence on the protection of the midterm modern architecture in Beaumaris and Black Rock, and the ongoing rolling heritage disputes in the Booroondara Council areas.

Here’s a recent synopsis of the situation in Bayside as published in the Age Newspaper

National Trust slams Bayside Council’s ‘deplorable action’ on heritage sites

Planning Minister Richard Wynne is being urged to intervene to protect unique mid-century heritage in the City of Bayside – home to some of the best post-war architecture in the state – following the “devastating” demolition of two homes last week.

The National Trust has called for urgent action after the “tragic and unnecessary” demolition of the award-winning Breedon House in Brighton, which was designed by architect Geoffrey Woodfall and built in 1966.

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Beaumaris Modern president Fiona Austin in front of The Abrahams House

Chief executive Simon Ambrose said the modernist house had been left unprotected due to the “deplorable actions” of Bayside Council, which had “for many years abrogated its responsibilities … to ensure the conservation of places of heritage significance”.

A mid-century home in Nautilus Street, Beaumaris, that was designed by architect Charles Bricknell was also demolished last week, despite objections from the National Trust and community association Beaumaris Modern.

And a third modernist home – The Abrahams House on Beach Road, Beaumaris – is also in jeopardy, with an application to build townhouses on the site before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Beaumaris Modern president Fiona Austin said the houses would have been protected if Bayside Council had not abandoned heritage studies in 2008 and 2018.

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The Abrahams family in front of their one-time home

“This week in Bayside has been devastating for our architectural heritage,” Ms Austin said.

Heritage studies would have identified the best examples of the mid-century period, with a planning scheme amendment prepared to permanently protect them. This approach is taken by almost all other councils.

However, the council abandoned the heritage study in 2018 after some residents hit out when told their homes would be put on an interim heritage overlay until the study was completed.

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The award-winning Breedon House in Brighton

“As soon as the letters were put in letterboxes, all hell broke loose,” Bayside mayor Clarke Martin told The Age. “It descended into a horrible situation, where people were literally yelling at each other in the streets.”
Cr Martin said some home owners feared the interim heritage overlay would make renovating difficult, drive down property values and mean they couldn’t sell their homes.

“What underlined the whole thing was the view that it is your castle, you should be able to do with it what you like.”

Cr Martin said the process was so divisive the council paused the heritage study and instead invited property owners to nominate their homes for heritage protection on a voluntary register.

He said the voluntary process had identified eight private homes and 11 council properties in Beaumaris, which the council had submitted to Mr Wynne for approval.

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The mid-century home in Nautilus Street, Beaumaris

He said once these were given protection, the council would restart the heritage study.

However, the National Trust said it was aware of more than 100 places of heritage significance in the City of Bayside that remained unprotected and were at risk.

“Mid century homes are an important part of our history and utilised groundbreaking construction methods, innovative approaches to open-plan living and connections to the landscape,” said Mr Ambrose.

“The Bayside area in particular was a hotbed of architectural expression and experimentation and has one of the best collections of post-war architecture in Victoria, if not Australia.”

The National Trust and Beaumaris Modern have written to the Planning Minister urging him to intervene to protect heritage in Bayside.

Mr Ambrose said he requested that Mr Wynne use his ministerial powers to apply interim heritage overlays to places identified in previous heritage studies.

He said this would be done with a view to pursuing permanent protection through a planning scheme amendment. “[This] allows everyone – including home owners – to have a say.”

Mr Wynne said councils were responsible for protecting their local heritage and this was yet another example of their failure to do so.

“If the council considered these houses to be of local significance, they had the means to protect them and the demolition permits should never have been issued,” he said.

Source: theage.com.au

In Booroondara, the gap between Heritage Overlay approval and the protection of a property by a Victorian Heritage Council listing has meant a number of buildings have been demolished with impunity. The demolition permits were issued prior to the Heritage Overlays being approved and applied.

There needs to be an entire overhaul of Heritage protection in Victoria. Many councils are still running with Heritage Listings first applied in the 1980s and 1990s. It is imperative that these listings are kept up to date. Without an up to date Council Heritage listing all such buildings are vulnerable.

The situation has been allowed to slip whilst under the stewardship of both major political parties. There is one simple reason these issues are more often than not consigned to the ‘too hard’ basket – money. Those wishing to develop in these Council areas often represent a significant increase in rateable property income per property – e.g. Strata Title replacing single occupancy. On particular Local Councils, the developers hold major influence.

The National Trust, the Victorian Heritage Councils and the Heritage Inspection processes are heavily underfunded. With only limited staff, inspections that should take weeks, can be delayed for years.

The Real Estate Industry and the Building and Construction sector have good reasons to turn away – the simple answer is profitability. If heritage supporters want significant change then it will be necessary to strongly lobby both the State Government and individual Local Councils to do much more.

In the case of the State Government there needs to be much stronger funding of the Heritage Council of Victoria and Heritage Victoria. These organisations and the State Government Planning Department have the capacity to implement much more effective heritage policy, and for the Planning Department to provide far more realistic funding to these two organisations.

If you know of a Heritage property anywhere in Victoria currently under threat, please don’t hesitate to message us, or alternatively leave a message on our website and we will investigate and publicise the dispute.

Balance Architecture is committed to ensuring Heritage Architecture and listed buildings receive maximum protection and given due respect and recognition by both Government and Local Government Authorities. Heritage is who we are as a population, it’s where we’ve come from, and it’s the true basis on which future generations will rely to acknowledge our growth and diversity as a city and a State.

It’s time to ensure real protection, to value it, and to celebrate it.

Heritage Knock-Downs and the ‘Politics’

There is an old saying many of you will have heard – ‘The law is an ass’. It’s an interesting statement. The ass or donkey is not renowned for its intellect but it is in fact a sturdy beast of burden that will carry heavy loads without complaint. Heritage law for some Councils is in fact ‘a heavy load’.

With competing agendas creating and angling for different outcomes, the current situation in Boroondara Council is an excellent example of legislative failure, at least at a local level, and an inability at a State level to ensure compliance with heritage values enshrined in legislation. The amendment simply makes no sense as currently applied by the State Government.

At 81 Charles Street, stands a striking Victorian-era weatherboard. Built 134 years ago, it could all be replaced by three townhouses.jpg

At 81 Charles Street, stands a striking Victorian-era weatherboard. Built 134 years ago, it could all be replaced by three townhouses

At a Council level, Planning Departments have competing agendas. On the one hand multi-occupancy on single occupancy sites makes for significant increases in rates and revenue per property.

It would also seem that it is somewhat mischievous to permit demolition permits on properties known to be included in projected Heritage overlays being submitted to Heritage Victoria and the Victorian Heritage Council for approval. In saying this, it’s recognised that the approval process for heritage listing can take up to 12-18 months. In this case Boroondara is imploring the Planning Minister to intervene.

The Toorak mansion bought for $18.5 million and razed. The empty block is now on the market for $40 million

The Toorak mansion bought for $18.5 million and razed. The empty block is now on the market for $40 million

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18 months on, the site is an ‘ugly paddock’

There are several deficiencies at work. The Heritage Council is seemingly underfunded and understaffed. With this in mind, it would be sensible of the Council’s in question with outstanding demolition orders on properties included on proposed heritage overlays, or indeed properties to be heritage listed in their own right, to apply a freeze, an injunction on these properties until a decision has been handed down by the Heritage Council. In turn this could be added to current State Heritage legislation as an amendment to current legislation to prevent any such demolitions being pursued through VCAT or the courts.

This is a most serious issue for Heritage protection. To date this demolition permit loophole has been used to demolish properties in Armadale, North Caulfield, Hawthorn, Kew, Black Rock and Beaumaris. Councils such as Boroondara, Stonnington, Glen Eira and Kingston have all been placed in such untimely dilemmas.

It comes down to properly maintaining heritage listings and overlays within their province and keeping them up to date.

This historic house at 55 Seymour Road Elsternwick was demolished in August, despite outrage from locals.jpg

This historic house at 55 Seymour Road Elsternwick was demolished in August, despite outrage from locals

It would appear the dilemma between development offering significant revenue increases and the preservation of heritage style properties is somewhat daunting for our elected officials.

As has been stated previously, the maintenance of the Victorian Heritage Database is unfortunately not keeping pace with the shift in Real Estate valuations and the mounting pressures for development. The process, due to lack of Heritage Inspection staff is interminably slow.

This article from Melissa Heagney in Domain covers much of the current angst.

Heritage knockdowns: Boroondara Council calls on government to close a planning ‘loophole’

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368 Auburn Road was demolished on August 30

Boroondara Council is calling on the state government to close a planning “loophole” which has seen a Victorian-era home torn down, and puts another six homes at risk.

An amendment made to the council’s planning rules by the state government last year allows home owners who have approval to tear down and rebuild a house, to push ahead even if the council attempts to stop them by placing an interim heritage overlay on the property. The council is calling on Planning Minister Richard Wynne to change this.

The properties the council argues are now at risk include homes on Belford Road in Kew East, Toorak Road in Camberwell, Moir Street in Hawthorn, and on Auburn Road and Burwood Road in Hawthorn East. Each has approval for demolition.

Local residents were dismayed at the recent demolition of a 130-year-old home at 368 Auburn Road in Hawthorn, knocked down two weeks ago.

In wake of the razing, the council fears for the other residences in question.

“All six properties can be demolished in accordance with the loophole implemented in the Boroondara Planning Scheme by the minister through Amendment C299,” Boroondara Mayor Jane Addis said.

“Typically, an interim Heritage Overlay would invalidate these building permits, thereby protecting properties from demolition and maintain their contribution to their respective heritage precincts.

“We fear that without the removal of the loophole, these six properties will share the same fate as 368 Auburn Road, Hawthorn.

“Council has requested the minister to remove this loophole four times now and we are hopeful the Minister will now act.”

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has argued that the changes to Boroondara’s rules made the planning process fairer for home owners.

“I introduced the planning amendment to stop this council from continually moving the goalposts,” Mr Wynne told Domain in an email. It was the only council with such an amendment, he said.

Since February 2018, more than 20 amendments had been approved for the Boroondara planning scheme to provide heritage protection for precincts and individual sites, Mr Wynne said.

It was the most extensive application of interim heritage overlays in any council area in Victoria in recent times, protecting thousands of properties.

He said Boroondara had been too slow putting together its heritage applications.

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This house on Burwood Road, Hawthorn East is one of the six homes set to be demolished

The issue in Boroondara came to a head after approval to tear down a home at 25-27 Victoria Avenue, Canterbury was brought into question when the council introduced an interim heritage overlay on the property after it had been torn down.

The Victoria Avenue property was legally demolished in early 2018.

“It doesn’t make sense for the council to seek heritage protection for a house … many months after approving a demolition permit to knock it down,” Mr Wynne said.

But Boroondara Council argued Mr Wynne had taken six months to review some of these studies before a decision was made.

The council had been undertaking heritage gap studies while some home owners applied for demolitions. As there had been no heritage protection in place at the time, the council was unable to protect such houses.

Under Victoria’s planning rules, a council permit to demolish a home is only required in certain circumstances including: if it is listed on the heritage register; is larger than 40 square metres; or would create a danger to the public when being torn down.

Losing these types of homes has raised the ire of local residents, politicians and the National Trust, with two state MPs airing the issue this week.

The National Trust raised concerns about the number of homes under threat as a result of the Boroondara-specific planning scheme amendment.

“This issue has highlighted the need for clearer and more consistent State Government guidelines around heritage protection, including interim heritage overlays,” National Trust of Australia (Victoria) chief executive Simon Ambrose said.

Boroondara Council and other councils should be “identifying places of potential heritage significance and seeking heritage protection before demolition permits are issued”, he said.

“The best way to do this is through implementing strategic heritage studies, like the gap studies recently undertaken by the City of Boroondara,” he said.

“But even in individual cases, councils have a safety net under the Building Act to withhold consent for demolition and apply for interim heritage protection if it’s warranted.”

Source: domain.com.au

So as the Chief Executive of the National Trust has stated, Councils have a safety net under the building Act to ‘withhold consent for a demolition and apply for interim protection if it is warranted’. We would also suggest ‘if they have an appetite for it’.

The whole scenario illustrates perfectly that the time to act is now. The minister must step in and prevent demolitions until heritage status is determined.

Currajong House in Hawthorn was saved from demolition by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in May

Currajong House in Hawthorn was saved from demolition by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in May

Councils must urgently create ‘Gap’ studies and ensure that their heritage registers are up to date. Local Government and State Government bureaucracies can move slowly and often it’s too slowly. It’s time to step in and intervene – co-operatively to save our valuable heritage buildings and precincts – State Government and Local Government – co-operatively. We simply cannot afford to lose further heritage treasures. Act now and stop politicking. This is far too important.

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

Heritage Listing for Federation Square then we visit Maldon in Central Victoria.

Completed in 2002, Federation Square is the latest addition to the State’s Heritage Register.

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“Federation Square is significant as a notable example of a public square. It is highly intact and its size and design illustrate the principal characteristics of a public square.” – Victorian Heritage Council statement on its decision to list the precinct.

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So ends the ‘Apple Store’ debate and some sections of the Victorian Government’s efforts to demolish part of the square. Whilst you ponder the result – congratulations to the Heritage supporters, the National Trust and the City of Melbourne on the outcome – let us now take a wide diversion. We are heading to Central Victoria, to Maldon.

First visited by white colonialists in 1836 as part of Major Thomas Mitchell’s famous Victorian expedition, it was settled soon after by pastoralists who established two sheep runs at the foot of Mt Tarrangower. On one of these sheep runs, Cairn Curran, gold was discovered in 1853. This changed the area forever. The Goldfield was named ‘Tarrangower Fields’ after Mt Tarrangower now simply referred to as Tarrangower.

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Maldon Courthouse

Maldon the town was officially gazetted by the Victorian Government in 1856. The town’s population fluctuated with the number of miners. In a census taken in 1861 there were 3341 permanent residents and over 5000-6000 miners in the area. Over the years this reduced by half by 1891 with only 1600 permanent inhabitants. Large quantities of quartz reef gold was retrieved in and around Maldon well into the 20th century.

Today, with a stable population of 1000 people, it is an interesting place to visit. In all there are probably 1500 people resident in Maldon and its surrounding district. Maldon was named as Australia’s first notable town in 1966 by the National Trust of Victoria.

“The township displays overall historical and architectural importance, particularly in its gold town buildings. The significance lies in the variety of building styles, and the area of mining is of interest with one mine still open to the public. Maldon boasts that it is largely unchanged since the 1850s and has attracted considerable interest from Tourists for its 19th century atmosphere.”

Maldon has its own newspaper, the Tarrangower Times, first published in 1858 and is the oldest continually published newspaper in Victoria.

Maldon_Cemetery-uprightIt was gold that displaced the original indigenous people of the area, the Wemba Wemba people from their station near Mt Tarrangower in 1849. The immigrant miners were multicultural and included thousands of Chinese miners. Over 200 Chinese graves are still visible in the Maldon Cemetery and there is a special ‘Chinese oven’ where incense was burned in their honour.

 

 

Principal Architect for Balance Architecture, Andrew Fedorowicz, has a Maldon residence, Palm House. Andrew is very familiar with the buildings and architecture of the area. Please do not hesitate to contact him to seek assistance in renovation, restoration and heritage listing of your home or property. Andrew is passionate about Heritage architecture and has been engaged on many such projects both in Melbourne and throughout the Victorian Central Highlands – Ballarat, Daylesford, Kyneton, Castlemaine and Bendigo as well as many other smaller centres. Have no hesitation in calling Andrew on 0418 341 443 or leave your details here for a prompt reply [LINK].

There are many historic buildings still functioning and intact in Maldon. The Shire offices were built from the converted bluestone market building (1859) and opened in 1866.

The courthouse was constructed in 1861 and the post office in 1870.

You can pick up a brochure on the town’s historic buildings at the Information centre, located opposite the Shire’s offices in High St at the Maldon Visitor’s Centre. But! – don’t do it for the two weeks from today – the building is closed for renovations!

For a more contemporary view of Maldon and the attractions of living there, here is a recent article from Domain.

Escape to Maldon, Victoria: ‘There is absolutely not a traffic light’

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It’s Australia’s first notable town and a delightfully preserved piece of Gold Rush history. Close to Castlemaine and Bendigo, the scenic town of Maldon is flourishing and attracting artists, the semi-retired, foodies and families.

Population: 1513, as at the 2016 Census.

Who lives here?

Kareen Anchen, the gallery director of Cascade Art, first made the move to the area with her husband around 20 years ago.

“We loved it,” she said. “We’ve always just loved Maldon village.

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“Maldon attracts … that sort of foodie,” she said, with residents keen on quality food, quality wine and quality experiences – just a good quality of life, generally.

She has noticed plenty of tree-changers and new families, as well as retirees and the people with small businesses, who could “pick and choose how to run their lives”, who found the town a good place to get away from the rat race.

Rebecca Haack, from Portia & Co on the main street, bought a property two years ago which she now runs as a short-stay accommodation business.

She also opened her store about nine months ago, splitting her time between Melbourne and Maldon, and has met several people in town who have moved there in the past five to 10 years.

“I feel like there’s an established community, as well as new people moving in,” she said. “It feels like a nice balance.”

Ms Haack said Maldon was also drawing “pre-retirees” – people still working part-time and commuting to Melbourne, or working from home.

“Whatever it is, they’re still working,” she said. “But changing lifestyles, maybe downsizing.”

Valentina Tansley, from Tansley and Co, is also a part-timer, settling on Maldon when looking for a weekender with the plan “eventually morphing into a business venture”.

“Look, I really like it! I think there’s a bit of a perception that it’s full of retirees,” she said. “But there’s young kids too, and there’s great opportunity for multi-generational community stuff.”

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What happens here?

The Maldon Folk Festival in November is a huge drawcard, as is the Maldon Twilight Dinner in January. Plenty of people also come out for the Maldon Markets, which sells local products and is held on the second Saturday of every month.

“There are lots of events, all organised by different people,” Ms Haack said. “It is wonderful, because it spreads the load, but it brings a bit of a buzz.”

“There are heaps of events in town,” said Ms Tansley. As soon as the weather warmed up, she said, the events season kicked off – a carols by candlelight in the park, an antiques and collectables fair in February and a massive four-day Easter fair for families like hers to enjoy.

“Getting out of the city and experiencing all these different activities is really rewarding,” she said.

Aside from the bigger shindigs, the Kangaroo Hotel and Maldon Hotel regularly host live music, and the town is also home to active football, netball, golf and bowling clubs.

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What’s life like here?

Maldon ticks along as a country town, with the change of seasons clearly delineated – it is somewhere it could actually snow in winter.

Weekdays are bit more leisurely and the weekends busier with tourists, with a crowd arriving on the steam train on Sundays.

“It’s gentle, slow,” said Ms Haack. “During the week, it’s locals or people from the surrounding area, doing their shopping and their banking.

“While it’s a tourist town, it still has its own population, its own heartbeat, whether the tourists are coming or not.”

The heritage buildings give the town a particular, striking charm, and many residents are keen gardeners, creating “that contrast of European gardens against the more rustic bush,” Ms Anchen says.

“It has a fairly intact streetscape in the main street, people really love it. There’ll never be neon flashing lights here. It’s not the city, it’s the country!”

The town also had a strong artistic community, Ms Anchen said, with her gallery and shows attracting plenty of local support.

“There’s so many artists in this region, it’s so rich. Hobby artists and amazing professional artists,” she said. “In that sense we’re a bit spoilt for choice, in terms of who to exhibit.”

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What jobs are here?

Long-time local Rob Waller, from Waller Realty, said many of Maldon’s full-time residents worked in health or education, often in the sort of role where they could go into the city for a bit, and work from home for the rest of the time.

“A lot of people will buy a property and do the last five or 10 years of their working career split-living,” he said. “It gives them an opportunity to put their roots down and get a feel for the area.”

Ms Anchen said small businesses really benefited from the tourist trade, with Maldon on the route between Bendigo and Ballarat.

“And also Daylesford,” she added. “They come across for a day trip.”

Visitors were also drawn by the chance to ride in the Victorian Goldfields Rail, a stream train service connecting Castlemaine and Maldon.

While the town is home to Melbourne part-time commuters – it’s a bit too far for a Monday-to-Friday job – the bigger centre of Castlemaine with its food manufacturing industry was only 20 minutes’ drive away, while Bendigo was about a 40-minute trip.

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Why should you move here?

“I think it’s that thing of having really old buildings as a beautiful backdrop,” Ms Anchen said. “It’s that bit of a special factor that makes Maldon work.”

Also, she said, people were “very, very, very friendly”, and locals worked together to enrich the town’s social fabric; and it was a well-serviced location.

“It has its own hospital, it has a really fantastic primary school; really fantastic shops and eateries,” she said, noting the town’s French Cafe in particular was going gangbusters.

Mr Waller agreed that the town was great for families and, while the internet connection was good, with the state forests surrounding the town there was plenty of opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.

“And there is absolutely not a traffic light in Maldon,” he added. “It has that slow, village, country lifestyle, and a really good sense of community – that is what people look for in neighbourhoods.”

“I guess for us,” said Ms Tansley, “it was all about the facilities.”

With a supermarket, a couple of pubs, a butcher and a hospital, Maldon is much better catered for than some other small towns.

“It’s a really interesting, historical place,” she said, but added that practically, it was “really great”.

“You can go to the pub, you can see some music, you can buy supplies at the supermarket,” Ms Tansley said.

“You run out of milk, it’s three doors down. It’s a really nice village environment.”

It also felt pretty safe, she said. “It’s a small community, and people do tend to recognise each other.”

Ms Haack said Maldon was a nice distance from Melbourne – close but not too close – with surprisingly blue skies.

“People might think it’s cold, but it’s a beautiful climate,” she said. “There’s this amazing streetscape to wander through, and the location is great.

“It’s a beautiful, established community – and it is a community. I have been made very welcome.”

Source: domain.com.au

Towns like Maldon give a living appreciation of real heritage buildings, architecture and our rich and varied past. Country living is far more relaxed, quieter and closer to nature. To really appreciate it at its very best, call Balance Architecture now on 0418 341 443 and ensure you gain the very best in both lifestyle and heritage values for your home.

Or simply take a drive out to Maldon, have lunch at one of the hotels, cafés or restaurants then take a train ride on the Steamrail locomotive. It’s simply a beautiful little town.

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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.

Demolition Derby Continues, Elsternwick ‘Heritage’ Homes Destroyed

Heritage overlays are curious creations. In the most part the Heritage Council’s approvals for many inner Melbourne locations occurred in the 1980s to 1990s. At the time, many of the areas protected featured buildings aged 100 years or over, constructed in the 1870s and 1880s onwards. Now properties outside of these Heritage overlays are at risk, in that unless holding an individual Heritage protection, demolition permits can be issued, readily.

Originally it was East Melbourne, Carlton, South Melbourne, Fitzroy and Flemington – as well as parts of the CBD that were given Heritage protection. Stately homes in Hawthorn, Kew, Essendon, Moonee Ponds and other suburbs also received Heritage protection.

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A buyer paid $9.6 million for 9-11 Edward Street in Kew and ripped it down, after a last-ditch bid for heritage protection was knocked back.

Homes of more a modest dimension often did not, particularly those built in the late 19th Century and also early 20th Century. These homes were constructed between 100 and 130 years ago. But as smaller domestic residences, they had not attracted the attention of the National Trust or the Heritage Council in earlier times. And in the 1980s and 1990s the homes were less than 100 years old.

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This rundown Toorak house sold for more than $5.8 million, a heavy discount, after it passed in at auction.

Heritage listing is a time consuming and meticulous process undertaken by the Heritage Council of Victoria upon request, generally form Municipal Councils or the National Trust. The Council is underfunded and there is no overriding policy enacted by the State Government to protect Heritage buildings outside of current declared Heritage overlays and buildings given a listing on the Victorian Heritage Register.

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Before: ‘Forres’ at 9-11 Edward Street, Kew, torn down in July 2016.

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After: The empty Edward Street block.

With the destruction of the property in Seymour Rd Elsternwick (where over 2000 people petitioned to save it), the intervention of Planning Minister Wynne to save Currajong House on Auburn Rd in Hawthorn, and the unfortunate demolition of two 100 year old plus homes in Armadale in recent times, it is obvious that it is time to provide further funding and legislative power to the Heritage Council of Victoria. With only one or two inspectors available most of the time, heritage approvals in dire situations are simply not possible. More demolitions will occur – it’s far quicker to arrange a demolition permit.

Add to this the destructive nuances of Developers seeking prime property locations. The London Hotel Port Melbourne and the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda were both demolished on the basis of development plans. Both remain vacant blocks, and have been so since demolition nearly two years ago.

Uncertainty with regard to Heritage protections saw the incredible destruction of the property located at 16 St Georges Rd Toorak by its new Chinese owners in 2015. Having paid $16.5 million in 2013 when informed a Heritage protection order was to be applied imminently and not understanding what they would be permitted to do, they promptly demolished the building. It now stands on the market, an empty block valued at $40 million.

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The former house at 16 St Georges Road, Toorak.

All this points to the need for a timely re-assessment of heritage values, their applications and protections. Currently the State Government, Local Councils and VCAT can give totally contradictory orders based on what appears to be out of date and flawed legislation, coverage and values. It’s time to introduce new assessments, values and punitive measures. Surely the Corkman Cowboys have more than adequately demonstrated the urgency of the matter?

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A 108-year-old home in the Melbourne suburb of Armadale is being dismantled piece-by-piece after a last-ditch effort to save it from demolition failed.

Regarding the Seymour Rd Elsternwick demolitions, here is the Age Article where even the Opposition spokesperson on Planning is calling for immediate action (we say this as previously the LNP have been ‘pro-development’ under the then Planning Minister Matthew Guy).

Minister should have heeded locals before wreckers moved in, Libs say

Local outrage should have been enough for Planning Minister Richard Wynne to stop the demolition of a historic Elsternwick home that began on Thursday, the opposition says.

More than 2000 people signed a petition to try and stop the 130-year-old house on Seymour Road – which Glen Eira Council failed to recommend to Mr Wynne for heritage protection – from being torn down.

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But a local resident’s referral of the property to Mr Wynne’s agency, Heritage Victoria, and the independent Heritage Council, was not enough to save the home.

A demolition crew arrived on Thursday to begin knocking down the property, bought in June for a touch over $3 million.

“We can’t have Melbourne’s soul torn up because of developers wanting to make a profit,” opposition planning spokesman Tim Smith said on Thursday.

The house is the latest in a number of irreplaceable homes across inner and middle Melbourne whose demolition has enraged locals in recent years.

Four days before May’s federal election, Mr Wynne stepped in to stop an even older property in Hawthorn from being bulldozed.

Mr Wynne said of that 135-year-old property, Currajong House on Auburn Road, that there had “been community concern about the demolition of this grand home, which we have listened to”.

The Elsternwick property destroyed on Thursday is the second historic house in the street to be knocked down this week.

Sam Dugdale, who lives a few doors down from the Seymour Road home started the online petition to save it after a cyclone fence went up outside it last week.

“I was walking past and saw someone was removing the window frames. The next day they were taking out the doors and fixtures,” said Ms Dugdale, who was surprised there was no heritage protection on the tree-lined street.

She rang the council, who said they could not do anything immediately about it. But the council suggested Ms Dugdale file an interim protection order with state heritage authorities.

The department came back to her after she had filled out the form and said “I haven’t established a prima facie case – which isn’t exactly surprising. I don’t know the first thing about planning law or heritage,” said Ms Dugdale, a marketing consultant.

“I just know it’s wrong,” she said, that the house was being demolished without consideration of what was being lost.

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Mr Smith said that too many historic homes around inner and middle Melbourne were being demolished because the system set up to protect them was not working.

“Our local heritage protection system in Victoria is broken, and the Andrews government has to do something about it. We can’t just have this constant stream of Federation-era homes, Edwardian-era homes, being knocked down without any recourse,” he said.

Glen Eira councillor Mary Delahunty said until the recent demolitions in the street, “I didn’t realise quite how unprotected parts of Elsternwick are until we started this process”.

“It’s a reminder we need to throw some more resources at our heritage study,” she said.

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The National Trust’s Victorian chief executive Simon Ambrose said the state government needed to provide more support for councils to update heritage studies, so that more homes of local importance were not lost.

“This problem is bigger than just one house,” he said. “In many areas across Melbourne, heritage protections have not kept pace with development and community expectations.”

In order to protect a home considered important, a council must apply to the planning minister to change the council’s planning rules – a process that can be costly and take months or even years.

“Planning scheme amendments to apply heritage overlays are expensive and time consuming for councils to undertake,” Mr Ambrose said.

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“The state government needs to step in and provide real support.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Wynne said the council was responsible for ensuring its local planning schemes were up to date to protect sites with local heritage significance. She said the council had made no request to the planning minister to stop demolition of the Seymour Road property.

But she acknowledged that Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Council had received an application from another party to stop the demolition.

Both refused the application for an interim protection order because there was no prima facie case on the evidence provided for the building to be deemed of state-level heritage significance.

Source: theage.com.au

The issue is becoming quite serious. Both historic and modernist homes are demolished with impunity. Corporations and hospitals partially demolish some of our oldest and most important buildings. Progress and development is entirely a balancing act, we don’t dispute that, but realistically it’s time to ‘put the brakes on’ and review and refresh Victoria’s rather out-of-date and fractured Heritage protection laws. The destruction must stop.

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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.

Professor David Yencken AO – A true visionary

In Architecture more than any other discipline the visionaries are unconventional. When in the 1950s and 1960s builders and developers were having a field day ‘modernising’ Melbourne, there were voices calling for a more moderate approach. There were those who knew and respected the grand heritage of old Melbourne and did what they could to protect it. Of these David Yencken was one of the most foremost and most effective.

For more than 50 years, Professor David Yencken has been a champion for the Australian environment, the nation’s heritage and excellence in design. Working in industry, politics and academia, especially through his association with the University of Melbourne, he has been a staunch advocate and activist, promoting better outcomes for strategic policy, innovation in implementation, design and practice across our cities and landscapes.

David George Druce Yencken was born in Berlin to Australian parents in 1931 and undertook his schooling in England and Australia, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cambridge. From early in his career he strove to break new ground, opening one of the earliest art galleries in Melbourne devoted to Australian painting in 1956-57 and building and running one of the first motels in Australia, the Mitchell Valley Motel in Bairnsdale (1957-60). He also commissioned noted architect Robin Boyd to design the architecturally significant Black Dolphin Motel in Merimbula, NSW (1960-65).

In 1965 he co-founded Merchant Builders Pty Ltd where, as Chairman and Joint Managing Director, he led the way in pioneering new project housing developments in Victoria that combined progressive architectural design with native landscaping. Yencken’s firm won a number of architectural awards including three Victorian Architectural Medals and the inaugural Robin Boyd Environmental Award (1972) for “changing the face of residential Melbourne”. During this period he also founded Tract Consultants, a firm of town and regional planners, resource analysts and landscape architects, in which he held the position of Chairman and Managing Director from 1971-79.

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The Black Dolphin Hotel, Merimbula, one of Autralia’s earliest hotels. Designed by Robin Boyd at the request of David Yencken.

One of Yencken’s most influential roles was as Secretary (Chief Executive) of the Ministry for Planning and Environment for the Victorian Government, a position he held from 1982-87. During this time he was involved in a number of important strategic projects, including the preparation and release of a new Metropolitan Policy and State Conservation Strategy; the preparation of a comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of central Melbourne; and the consolidation and re-writing of seven different Acts, as well as a number of smaller local community projects. His work with the Ministry was recognised with several Royal Australian Institute of Architecture awards, a special Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture award for the greening of Swanston Street, and a Royal Australian Planning Institute award for its work on central Melbourne pedestrian and street planning and Yarra River bank works.

David Yencken has been active throughout his career on a significant number of international organisations, serving as the inaugural Chairman of the Australian Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and representing Australia twice as a joint leader of the Australian Delegation to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 1980 and 81. He has also participated in numerous government bodies, including as Chairman of the Interim Committee on the National Estate (Commonwealth Government) in 1974-75. He was an author of the seminal Report on the National Estate (1974), which led to the establishment of the Australian Heritage Commission, and which he then chaired from 1975-81. In these roles, Yencken helped to realise some significant achievements including stimulating national planning, research, professional standards, training and public education across Australia, and developing a Register of 6,600 natural, Aboriginal and historic places, published in an 800 page catalogue, The Heritage of Australia, in 1981. He was a member of the Prime Minister’s Urban Design Taskforce from 1994-95, chaired the Design Committee of the Australia Council for the Arts and was President of the Australian Conservation Foundation. He is currently Patron of the Foundation.

Source: about.unimelb.edu.au

It is during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s that Heritage values in Australia became a recognised asset of our nation. David Yencken played no small part in this.

A recent article aptly and accurately describes his influence.

The man who helped re-imagine Melbourne

In the 1950s, iron lace on Victorian-era buildings was considered so outmoded in Australia that magazines such as Women’s Weekly were full of articles illustrating how to spruce up old buildings to remove it.

But cultural tastes change, which is why David Yencken – one of the architects of heritage protection in Australia – believes heritage listings are so important.

“Later, following the establishment of the National Trusts, along with spirited defence of iron lace by writers such as Graeme Robertson, Victoriana gradually came fully back into fashion again,” Professor Yencken writes in his new book, Valuing Australia’s National Heritage.

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David Yencken when he was a member of the inquiry into the National Estate in 1978. Credit:The Age

In 1975, Professor Yencken, who is critically ill and too frail to interview for this story, was appointed the inaugural chairman of the Australian Heritage Commission.

The prime task of the commission was to develop the Register of the National Estate, which had more than 13,000 listings when the commission was abolished by the Howard government in 2003.

“We collectively reached the view that the only way to avoid bias in listing caused by temporarily prevailing architectural likes and dislikes, was to seek to list the best examples of each style period,” Professor Yencken writes.

He says whether or not they enjoyed architectural popularity at the time, the likelihood was that the heritage significance of each would almost certainly be better appreciated at some time in the future.

Urban historian Graeme Davison says Professor Yencken is a “national treasure”. “I can’t think of anybody who has contributed more to our understanding about the Australian environment than he has.”

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Urban historian Graeme Davison says Professor Yencken transformed Southbank. Credit:Eddie Jim

Professor Davison met Professor Yencken at a party when he was secretary of the Victorian Planning Ministry from 1982 to 1987. They talked all night. “I thought this is a most remarkable person – he had a breadth of vision, a capacity to think imaginatively and creatively.”

Professor Yencken contributed to the re-imagination of Melbourne.

In 1985 Swanston Street was a gloomy, car-clogged thoroughfare. As part of Victoria’s 150th celebrations, Professor Yencken had the radical idea of turning it into a giant green pop-up park.

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Professor Yencken turned Swanston Street into a green pedestrian mall as part of Victoria’s 150th celebrations. Credit:The Age

For the weekend of 9 and 10 February, 13,250 square metres of fresh grass was rolled out along four blocks of Swanston Street.

The price tag for the party – $550,000 – was not cheap. Professor Yencken’s wife – Dr Helen Sykes – recalls a friend sniping “this is my taxes at work”.

Premier John Cain wobbled after a sustained attack from then opposition leader Jeff Kennett.

He rang and asked Professor Yencken to pull the pin on the turf. Dr Sykes recalls him saying no.

For one weekend tens of thousands of families picnicked on a gritty strip transformed into a green oasis. “The garden party to end all garden parties,” was the headline in The Age. Journalist John Lahey wrote: “the cheerfulness is the one thing that will stick in most people’s minds”.

Professor Davison said Professor Yencken had an agenda. “This illustrated how clever he was. This one event was a dramatic way of sowing the seed that Swanston Street could become a pedestrian street.”

Professor Yencken was also responsible for the redevelopment of Southbank. At the time the precinct was made up of derelict factories and the city turned its back on the Yarra River.

“A lot of our work in the initial instance focused on the central area of Melbourne because there was such a sense of neglect and lack of policy direction,” Professor Yencken told Planning News in 2017.

“This lack of effective action was being expressed in papers like The Age on a very regular basis. We had a big program and that included Southbank.”

Professor Yencken’s introduction to architecture and building was a road trip through Canada in his early 20s, where he wrote he was introduced to “several wonders of the new world: hamburgers, three-minute car washes and motels”.

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One of Australia’s original hotels, the Mitchell Valley Hotel in Bairnsdale, designed and built by David Yencken

He built one of the first motels in Australia in Bairnsdale in 1957 and later asked architect Robin Boyd to design a second – The Black Dolphin – in Merimbula.

In 1965, Professor Yencken co-founded Merchant Builders, which built homes that emphasised the Australian character of the landscape.

The firm pioneered cluster housing at Winter Park in Doncaster and Vermont Park, where groups of homes share communal space such as a park or swimming pool.

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The Winter Park Estate in Doncaster. Credit:Eddie Jim

Melbourne University architecture professor Alan Pert says Merchant Builders was ahead of its time. He says its model of suburbia is relevant to Melbourne’s current debates about housing affordability and population growth.

“A lot of the things Nightingale is trying to do with apartment building – the attitude of shared space and community – were all things Merchant Builders was doing 40 to 50 years ago in a suburban context.”

Valuing Australia’s National Heritage, which Professor Yencken wanted to see published while he is still alive, is part memoir, part history of the development of Australia’s national heritage consciousness.

The book is full of interesting tidbits.

Professor Yencken describes his initial battle to persuade a sceptical media that the National Estate was not a middle class conceit. (Curiously, after Malcolm Fraser came to power, he was never asked this question again.)

He details the “fierce and unexpected opposition” of Liberal Billy Snedden, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, to Parliament House in Canberra being on the register.

But it is also a lament for what Professor Yencken sees as the current neglect of national heritage and the “apparent unwillingness” to add places to the national lists.

Dr James Lesh from the School of Architecture at the University of Sydney says Mr Yencken has been a life-long advocate for the conservation of things and places.

“As businessman, as developer, as conservationist, as policymaker, as urban planner, as educator, his overriding ambition has always been to make Australian society a better place.”

Valuing Australia’s National Heritage is published by Future Leaders, a not-for-profit initiative. For a free copy email helen@futureleaders.com.au

Source: smh.com.au

The Heritage Council of Victoria and the bodies active in other states as well as the Commonwealth are seriously under-financed and under-staffed. A heritage assessment can take anything from 8 months to 2 years. Where municipal councils remain active in presenting Heritage buildings and sites for assessment, the relevant body in Victoria, the Heritage Council, simply does not have sufficient staff to keep up with the demand from such bodies.

As we have stated previously, it’s time to acknowledge the challenge Heritage Architecture faces in modern Australia and develop a uniform platform that is pragmatic and practical ensuring our precious heritage resources are preserved and protected for future generations. It was the visionaries of the late 20th century that established the parameters of Heritage protection in Australia. It’s now time for a new generation to step up to the plate. Our heritage is precious and it is most definitely worth preserving, now even more than ever.

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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.

Heritage – It’s Worth Preserving and Protecting.

This week the Corkman Saga has gone decidedly quiet. When the Victorian Government announced its compromise deal with the property developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski, there was unquestionably massive outrage. For most people, the very idea that someone can knock down a heritage listed building with total impunity is just outrageous.

There is a groundswell of opinion crystallising right now that the developers should be forced to forfeit the land to the statutory authorities – the Victorian Government and the City of Melbourne. The simple fact is they “broke the law” as opposition Spokesman on Planning Tim Smith has stated.

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Any proposed forcible acquisition of the land will no doubt be costly given the punitive actions already taken by the current Government and the City of Melbourne. But in terms of establishing precedent, the Government simply cannot acquiesce to these developers. By not upholding heritage values here it opens the door to further rogue actions.

For your interest, here is the most recent article from the Age Newspaper, dated June 1st.

Push for state to forcibly acquire Corkman site from cowboy developers

Planning experts and the state opposition have demanded Planning Minister Richard Wynne compulsorily acquire Carlton’s Corkman pub site from the developers that illegally demolished the hotel.

They say the land could be taken by the state for its value as an undeveloped site, at millions less than the cost of its commercial value as a development prospect.

But Mr Wynne says compulsory acquisition would require the land to be purchased at its highest possible value – meaning it would cost Victorian taxpayers millions.

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Two and a half years after the Corkman was razed, the site is still full of rubble covered with tarpaulins and old tyres.

Mr Wynne and Melbourne City Council this week struck a deal with Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski, developers who knocked down the Corkman Irish Pub.

Under Mr Wynne’s deal, they must build a park on the site by November and can then redevelop part of the site up to 12 storeys.

The razed pub was built in 1858 and covered by heritage rules that restricted its redevelopment.

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The Corkman Irish pub in Carlton, built in 1858, as it was until it was illegally demolished in 2016.

Rather than work through the planning system to pull down the building, Kutlesovski and Shaqiri – who bought the pub in 2015 for $4.76 million – instead turned up one weekend in 2016 and simply bowled it over. The site has since sat fenced off and covered in rubble ever since.

Despite being fined almost $2 million dollars for their illegal actions (they are appealing the severity of these fines), the pair could still turn a profit by re-developing or selling the site.

As a development opportunity, the site was valued at $8-10 million in 2016.

Opposition planning spokesman Tim Smith demanded Mr Wynne take the land off the pair immediately: “They broke the law, they must not profit from doing so.”

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Developer Raman Shaqiri and his partner razed the historic hotel illegally.

Soon after the Corkman was demolished, Mr Wynne told Parliament the government would act to send a message “that you cannot snub your nose at heritage in this state”.

But Mr Smith said the planning minister had failed to keep his word, and must now send “a clear message that destroying heritage buildings will not be a profitable business in Victoria”.

He said while he would not normally advocate for forced acquisition, the flagrant disregard for heritage made it a special case.

Melbourne University geographer and planner Kate Shaw said under section 172 of the Planning and Environment Act the government could compulsorily acquire the land at its current, undeveloped value.

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Stefce Kutlesovski was the other developer involved in unlawfully knocking down the Corkman.

“It would send a very clear message that developers cannot get away with this nonsense, and the minister can legally acquire the site at its current, undeveloped value.”

Dr Shaw, an expert on international planning schemes, said “this kind of behaviour, particularly in northern Europe, simply would not be tolerated”.

A spokeswoman for Mr Wynne said the government’s deal with the developers meant they would rehabilitate the site so it can be used as a park. They could then “only build on with ministerial approval, following consultation,” she said.

Melbourne Law School lecturer Brad Jessup said the government could forcibly acquire the land but because of past threats to punish the developers would likely be forced to pay more.

Rod Duncan is an experienced planner who has advised previous planning ministers. He said the deal Mr Wynne had cut with the Corkman’s owners appeared to be “waving the white flag to rogue developers”.

He said the planning act gave the minister “formidable power” to unilaterally change controls, and could be used to send “clear messages to offenders and reassure the public”.

“Any outcome that rewards, rather than rebukes, the offenders sets a dangerous precedent.”

Source: theage.com.au

On another note, several weeks ago we were considering the preservation and restoration of the former ES&A Bank building on Clarendon St South Melbourne (Cnr of Bank Street.)

Principal Architect for Balance Architecture and Interior Design, Andrew Fedorowicz, previously supervised the refurbishment of the Moonee Ponds branch of the same bank we featured in the images supporting the story. It provides a great illustration of just how such a building can be restored to its former glory. In this case, the former bank was converted to an upmarket business premises.

It is worth noting that the heritage decor it timeless and the property has continued to appreciate in value remarkably compared to other real estate available in the same market sector.

Here for your viewing pleasure are images of the project.

Heritage isn’t a peculiar hobby for bored historically inclined people. It’s the genesis of our society, the look, the feel, the fabric of our great city and states – the vistas we look out upon day by day. It’s a reminder of our past yet much of it was designed to last for millennia.

Heritage values and protection – the buildings, the locations, the lavish and not so lavish interiors we need to protect for posterity, for future generations. It is simply non-negotiable.

We commend the National Trust and the Heritage Council of Victoria for their ongoing work in both protecting our valuable heritage and in making much of it available to the public.

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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.

Heritage Listing – What does it really achieve?

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’.

Related articles:

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

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Modernism – Time to Protect Midcentury Modernism with Heritage Listing.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.”

Source: abc.net.au

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.

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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 Apple Development for Federation Square has been Re-designed.

After a rethink from Apple, Federation Square, the State Government and the City of Melbourne, a new design for the new Melbourne Apple Headquarters has been unveiled. Initially with the first design being described as a cross between a ‘Pizza Hut’ and a ‘Pagoda’ the new design is considered somewhat more neutral. A rectangular building with open verandahs overlooking the Yarra River and the Federation Square courtyard, it’s still somewhat controversial.

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For comparison on opinions we offer three different press releases. First off is the press release from Federation Square itself.

Refined Apple Designs Signal a Re-imagined Fed Square

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Refined designs of the Apple Global Flagship Store at Fed Square have been released today after a series of design workshops involving Fed Square Management, the Victorian Government, Melbourne City Council and Apple.

Part of a broader reimagining of Fed Square, which includes the new Digital Facade on the Transport Building and the new Melbourne Metro Train Station entrance, the Apple Global Flagship Store will create more than 500 square metres of new public space, provide outdoor shading, better connect the square to the Yarra River, deliver more cultural events and boost visitor numbers.

The refined designs complement Fed Square’s existing buildings and include a new roof design to allow for solar power as well as new solar shading design feature that enhances the energy efficiency of the building.

The addition of Apple to Fed Square’s existing tenants is expected to attract an additional two million additional people to Federation Square every year.

CEO of Federation Square Jonathan Tribe said the Apple Global Flagship Store is “consistent with Federations Square’s Civic and Cultural Charter, which recognises Melbourne’s pre-eminence as a centre for creativity and innovation.”

A daily program of free events – Today at Apple – will use local creative talent to run workshops and experiences showcasing local tech, design, art and education communities. The free program provided by Apple will help to inspire and educate Victorians of any age, cementing Melbourne as the nation’s cultural and tech capital.

The Apple Global Flagship Store in Fed Square reinforces Melbourne’s reputation as the undisputed tech capital of Australia.

Source: fedsquare.com

For a more robust independent view, please consider this report from the ABC.

Apple reveals new design for Melbourne concept store at Federation Square after public backlash

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Controversial plans to build a flagship Apple store at Melbourne’s Federation Square have been redesigned following criticism that the original draft was ugly and created without public consultation.

In December the Victorian Government revealed the three-story Yarra Building at Federation Square would be demolished to make way for the tech giant’s two-storey concept store.

There was a strong public backlash to the original plans, which featured a copper-coloured pagoda-style facade that some dubbed a ‘Pizza Hut pagoda’.

A new design has now been unveiled, transforming the building into a rectangle with a glass facade on the ground floor and a coloured mesh facade on the second floor.

It would include a publicly accessible balcony that overlooks the Yarra River, and an amphitheatre for public performances.

The chief executive of Federation Square, Jonathan Tribe, said the new design was “more sympathetic” to the style of the existing space.

“The original design was very much a concept plan and was always subject to refinement,” Mr Tribe said.

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But the new design is already copping criticism.

The National Trust said while it was encouraging that Apple was open to redesigning the building “it did not respond to the fundamental concerns that were proposed about the demolition of a significant building”.

“The updated design has also been prepared without community consultation with its most important stakeholders — the people of Victoria,” chief executive of the National Trust Simon Ambrose said.

Community groups echoed that sentiment.

“We think Apple doesn’t fit in Federation Square,” Tania Davidge from Citizens for Melbourne said.

“Federation Square should be primarily based around people, not Apple products.”

But Mr Tribe said including the store at Federation Square would help bring “innovation and creativity” to the public space.

“[Apple] will run over 73 sessions a week around music, photography and art,” Mr Forbes said.

The latest plans will be submitted to the City of Melbourne for public consultation.

“I still think there is some tweaking to be done,” Mr Tribe said.

When the Government spruiked in the original plans, it said the development would attract an extra two million visitors a year to the area.

Work was to begin on the concept store next year and finish in 2020.

Source: abc.net.au

And finally here is an industry perspective from Architecture Au in an article by Linda Chen dated 20th July this year.

Federation Square Apple store redesigned

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Federation Square has released refreshed designs of the proposed Apple flagship store, which have been significantly altered following workshops with Fed Square Management, the Victorian Government, the City of Melbourne and Apple.

The Victorian government’s initial decision to demolish the Yarra Building at Federation Square to make way for the Apple flagship store, designed by Foster and Partners, drew wide-spread backlash.

A number of concurrent petitions against Apple Fed Square plans on Change.org have collectively amassed nearly 100,000 signatures.

The City of Melbourne also received 800 submissions to a motion to call of the Victorian government to “commit to a significant redesign of the Apple Global Flagship Store at Federation Square.”

Karres and Brands, the original landscape architect for the square was also critical of the initial design. In a statement it said, “In our opinion the proposal for the Apple store does not fit in the characteristic design approach. Federation Square could have been the place for the most unique Apple Flagship store. A store that reflects Australian culture above brand image and is respectful of the city.”

However, the Apple flagship store had the support of Federation Square’s original architect Donald Bates of Lab Architecture Studio and the Victorian government architect Jill Garner.

The government formed a steering committee in February 2018 to supervise the design development of the new building “in response to the issues raised by the City of Melbourne.” The steering committee included representatives from the City of Melbourne, the Office of the Victorian Government Architect, Federation Square and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

The committee developed a set of guidelines for the refinement of the design, including that it should acknowledge and respond to the design cues of the existing Federation Square context, including references to its non-orthogonal planning, geometry, layered and varied facade and bespoke materiality.

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In a statement following the release of the refreshed design, Federation Square said, “The refined designs complement Fed Square’s existing buildings and include a new roof design to allow for solar power as well as new solar shading design feature that enhances the energy efficiency of the building.”

However, the National Trust of Australia (Victoria)’s CEO Simon Ambrose was critical of the redesign. “While it is encouraging to see Apple is open to redesigning its Federation Square store, it does not respond to the fundamental concerns that were proposed earlier about the demolition of a significant building in our city’s town square,” he said.

The Citizens for Melbourne group, which formed in reaction action the Apple store proposal for Federation Square, described the refreshed proposal as “a big iPad.“The redesign of the Apple store at Fed Square doesn’t address the key problem with the proposal: the complete disregard for the Victorian people in shaping our public square,” said president Tania Davidge. “Victorians would not support a giant iPad in the Botanic Gardens or at the National Gallery of Victoria. Why does the Government think that Victorians would be happy to sell out what makes Melbourne great?”

Source: architectureau.com

From our perspective, it would appear Apple still has some work to do in creating a design application that is sympathetic to the actual architecture and design of the existing award winning Federation Square precinct design. But we leave it for the public to decide. Does the design work? Or is something more required? Considering the National Trust is prepared to act upon a building and outdoor complex barely 16 years old, it’s reasonable to assume that the current vista is world class and an extraordinary feature of our great city.

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Let’s hope there is an elegant and ultimately tasteful compromise.

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

The Ballarat Fernery Re-creation and Restoration.

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

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For your interest, we repeat the article here…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: thecourier.com.au

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