Heritage Properties Regenerate, Revitalise With Balance Heritage Architecture

Over the last year there has been a significant increase in the sale of rural and regional city properties. This has seemingly been in response to the COVID situation whereby many people have felt the need to re-assess their living situation and move to a more relaxed, more comfortable home in places such as Geelong, Ballarat, the region of Gippsland and the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas. 

Often the properties purchased enjoy a heritage overlay or a singular heritage listing. Beautiful Victorian terraces, villas and older Georgian style homes offer a whole raft of new and quite difficult impediments to developing a modern living space yet still maintain the period charm and heritage features of some of these wonderful old homes. 

There are eclectic purchases that include old churches, former hotels, corner stores and even schools. Locales stretch from central Victoria – Castlemaine, Daylesford, Kyneton, Bendigo, Ballarat and Maryborough through to the Murray Valley, the high country around Bright, Mansfield and Beechworth.

Homes constructed during the late nineteenth century through to the early 1930s often present with unique issues. Electricals, plumbing, lighting and foundations nearly always need assessment and often replacement and renewal. 

It is not unusual for such heritage listed properties to have suffered unkind modifications over the years – the removal of or bricking up of fire places and chimneys, tiling, ornate plaster mouldings, fragile stained glass and wrought iron features on verandahs such as lacework, pillars and ornamental features. 

To renovate these types of properties can be immensely rewarding and satisfying but it is entirely prudent to arrange for a heritage report from a qualified and experienced  Heritage Architect. Andrew Fedorowicz is such an Architect and as the Principal Architect for Balance Architecture Andrew has managed hundreds of such projects from initial assessment through design and planning to completion and lock up stage, supervising the contracted builders to assure complete compliance to both the restoration and design intended as well as ensuring compliance to the heritage listing or heritage overlay requirements. 

It’s everyone’s desire to create a comfortable and liveable space, a home that is fitted with modern standards and a vision of space and light. It is possible to achieve true heritage compliance and beauty that is a highly desirable, comfortable residence.

Call Balance Architecture now on 0418 341 443 to arrange an obligation free consultation at a time that is convenient to your schedule. Alternatively leave your details here for a prompt reply. 

Vision, Experience and a True Respect for Heritage and its Value – Balance Architecture. 

Heritage – the pathway from our past ensuring a rich rewarding and fulfilling future. 

Queen Victoria Market Back on The Heritage Agenda

The City of Melbourne has determined that it will again attempt to re-develop the historic and heritage listed Queen Victoria Market precinct. Previously Heritage Victoria blocked the re-development of the original market sheds. The battle to save the market and its character was long and hard fought. You can refresh your memories of the event here 

It would appear that the vision of former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is again being revisited. The aim of the then proposed development seemed to be to modernise the “food court” to resemble something more akin to the upmarket food halls found in department store environments. This perspective is completely at odds with what “old city” markets represent worldwide. The Queen Victoria Market is listed not only as a State Heritage Site but as a National Heritage Listing.

For more on the current situation please refer to this article from The Age by Chloe Booker and Jackson Graham: 

Fears $40m plan for Queen Vic Market will turn it into shopping centre

By Chloe Booker and Jackson Graham

April 8, 2021 — 2.00pm

A plan by the City of Melbourne to add two sheds to Queen Victoria Market at a cost of almost $40 million has renewed fears that the site will be turned into something resembling a shopping centre.

On Tuesday, the council will decide whether to invest $35 million to build a “trader shed” and “northern shed” on Queen Street, which would include logistics, storage, waste and recycling facilities, customer toilets and trader bathrooms and meeting areas.

A further $4.5 million would be spent on a refurbishment of the market’s food court.

The response from market traders to the plan was mixed, with some suggesting it would reduce the landmark heritage site to “a little boutique market”.

Lord mayor Sally Capp said the project would employ about 400 workers, in addition to 500 already building the Munro development and restoring the market’s heritage sheds, and help attract more shoppers.

The Munro development includes a community hub, apartments, retail and a carpark.

“These stages of the market renewal program will deliver 900 jobs for our city at a time when we need them most,” Ms Capp said.

“Businesses throughout the City of Melbourne have been hit hard by COVID-19 and major projects such as the Queen Victoria Market renewal are critical to create local jobs and support our economic recovery.”

However, the secretary of the Friends of Queen Victoria Market, Miriam Faine, said the plans went against the recommendations of the people’s panel, which was appointed to give the community a greater voice in the market’s redevelopment.

“We don’t think they are upgrades at all; we think they are continuations of the [former lord mayor Robert] Doyle plan,” she said.

“We think they will make life impossible for traders in every way.”

Ms Faine said the group believed traders would be forced to store goods and perishables in the sheds and that they were being built to accommodate franchises moving into the market.

She said the northern shed would cut off traffic access from Queen Street, which would mean traders would have to load and unload produce at designated times.

“These are designed to turn the market into a shopping centre and into an entertainment precinct,” she said.

Rosa Ansaldo, a fruiterer of 34 years, said there would not be enough new storage and traders would face challenges moving stock without forklifts in the market.

“[The council has] an agenda to get all of us out of here and only have a little boutique market,” she said.

“I want to see an upgrade that works for all of us.”

Queen Victoria Market fruiter Rosa Ansaldo is concerned long-term stall holders are being pushed out. 

Ms Ansaldo felt the council and market management had not listened to her over the past six years.

“Our livelihoods are all at stake; family businesses will go to the wall,” she said.

However, Leo Moda, an owner at Egg stall Eggsperts, said he supported the redevelopment, believing the new look would be cleaner and draw customers back.

“At the moment it doesn’t look nice when people walk through and see dirty rags,” Mr Moda, who has operated his stall for six years, said.

“Traders are mostly for it. The traders who have been here 20-plus years, they are against it, they don’t want to see change.”

Fruiterer of two decades Nash Bideci was indifferent to the plans but feared the ongoing impact if customers stayed away due to noise and dust.

In the past three months, after coronavirus rent-relief was withdrawn, Mr Bideci said his business had suffered a 40 per cent decline while nearby shed restoration works occurred.

“It might look good in the future, but at the moment we are paying full rent and it’s affecting us,” he said. 

The market’s chief executive, Stan Liacos, welcomed the development and rejected the claim it was part of a plan to turn the market into a shopping centre.

“It is imperative that to safely operate a business of our scale we need better infrastructure, storage and safer operations,” he said.

“These two projects will take us into the next century, because the facilities that we have are probably Dickensian and virtually have not seen investment since the 1800s.”

Mr Liacos said the investment would form part of the market’s recovery after a drop of about 80 per cent of its revenue because of COVID-19. This included millions spent on rent relief for traders, a reduction in car park fees and the loss of its night markets. The night markets returned in a reduced form on Wednesday and will be at full capacity in June.

Cr Capp said traders wanted an upgrade to the food court, built in the mid-1990s, as the current one limited the potential to expand their businesses.

She said the upgrade would also include an improved dining area with more seating, a cooking demonstration area, greenery and a new floor and roof

The plan would invest $4.5 million in refurbishing the market’s food court.

“The trader shed and northern shed will deliver important safety, efficiency and sustainability improvements,” she said.

Heritage permits for the two sheds were approved by Heritage Victoria in December. Construction is expected to start in early 2022, subject to approvals.

Friends of Queen Victoria Market has long been concerned about the council introducing fixed storage and refrigeration for fresh produce traders, and loading docks.

The group believes vegetable traders are being driven out of business so they can be replaced with stalls selling wine and takeaway food.

The battle over the redevelopment of Queen Victoria Market – the site of one of the most colourful and contested parcels of land in Melbourne – has been running for years.

The Queen Victoria market is the last remaining in Melbourne’s CBD. Gone are the Eastern and Western Markets, the Fish Market in Flinders Street, the Meat Market in North Melbourne. Markets such as the Queen Victoria are places of the people where shoppers come for fresh produce, the atmosphere and the open air. Generations of migrants have made the Queen Victoria their shopping destination and this is reflected in the huge variety of fresh vegetables, meat, fish, dairy and specialty products available. It is eclectic with a charming hustle and bustle. A sterile. modern foodhall just won’t be the same. It might be nice for council’s new residents located in the Munro Street development – but for the rest of Melburnians it’s pretty simply a disappointment.

The market represents one of the largest areas of relatively open space available in inner Melbourne and it is no doubt coveted by developers seeking new potential sites. Considering council paid $74M for the Munro Street site just imagine what the entire Queen Victoria market site is now valued at. 

Over the coming years, no doubt, further attempts will be made to water down the heritage listings that protect the market and its precinct. The first step in ensuring the protection of this wonderful location, its history, its unique architecture and fabulous eclectic atmosphere is to ensure its heritage value and listing are fully and totally protected. 

Heritage – it’s worth protecting the pathway from our past to ensure a rich rewarding and fulfilling future for our children. 

Heritage – It Matters. Preserve It. 

Heritage Homes in Rural Victoria. Renovate, Restore and Refurbish With Balance Architecture

The last twelve months in Victoria has seen a rapid uptake on sales of older properties in regional and rural Victoria, with many being covered by Heritage Overlays or unique Heritage Listings. For a number of purchasers this provides a conundrum; on the one hand how to preserve and enhance heritage characteristics, features and the overall heritage quality of their new home, and on the other hand how to modernise plumbing, electricals and internal space to adjust to modern standards and demands. 

Balance Architecture can provide the right solutions with a careful melding of both the past and the present within the boundaries of the heritage protection afforded such properties. One of the first priorities should be to do a property architectural inspection of the building/s to identify what needs to be done and what can be done.  

Older buildings from the 19th and early 20th century have often been rudely modified by church organisations, government bodies and individuals. Smaller properties have seen odd renovations during the 1950s and 1960s (Spanish arches, removal of ceiling mouldings, removal of pillars, stainglass, feature tiling, ironwork – and the list goes on). Where once there was space there are now dividing walls, false ceilings and bricked up fire places, again the list goes on. 

There are choices to be made. If the building is sound can a full restoration to the original design be undertaken? Can an extension be added? Can there be demolition of unwanted add-ons such as laundries, workshops and other oddities? 

Can the original tilings, mouldings, light fittings, architraves, fire places etc. be sourced, obtained and refitted? Is it possible to rebuild and re-create the original space and ambiance? 

An experienced Heritage Architect can often find the right solutions that will not only add value to your property but will enhance the liveability of your new home with space, light and warmth. 

Whether you select a rural farmhouse on acreage, a Victorian terrace in a provincial city or a grand mansion built in bygone days Balance Architecture offers vision, creativity and competence in all elements of planning, building and construction. Heritage buildings were constructed to last a millenium not just fifty years. Often it took great wealth to facilitate their construction.

The foundations are there in place. It’s time to enhance your property and enjoy its features and beauty whilst being confident of today’s building standards and requirements – climate control, solar systems, water reticulation, functional, beautiful bathrooms and superb bedrooms, living rooms and entertaining areas. 

Call Balance Architecture now on 0418 341 443 and speak with Principal Architect Andrew Fedorowicz to arrange a free, no obligation consultation at your convenience. Alternatively you can leave your details here for a prompt reply. 

Refresh, Refurbish and Renew with Balance Architecture.

Balance Architecture recognises the importance of historical architecture, specialising in the renovation and restoration of heritage buildings.

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

Yarrawonga Town Hall – an integral part of Old Yarrawonga’s heritage.

Inter-War Free Classical styled Shire Hall (1930), entry portico, Belmore Street, Yarrawonga.
Source: Lorraine Huddle 2004.

Yarrawonga has been a prominent riverside community in Northern Victoria for well over a century. The township was first surveyed in 1868 by government surveyor Henry Grimes. The early survey included sections 1-4 of the subsequent town planning scheme and includes the main part of the Town Centre Heritage precinct (south of Witt Street and north of Orr Street.). During the1880s, brick structures began to replace timber structures and the boom times of the 1880s saw many buildings begin to line Belmore Street. This growth consolidated through the harsher years of the 1890s.

The township’s prominence was initially due to the river crossing on the mighty Murray River. In 1886 the Railway reached Yarrawonga – a branch line from Benalla that linked the township to the state capital Melbourne. By 1903 it boasted a population of 1500 residents and supported a variety of industries.

But what may be forgotten is the history of Paddle steamers and barges passing through the ‘port’ of Yarrawonga in the late 19th century – carrying cargos of wheat, wool, timber and general merchandise between Echuca and Wodonga, right through to the mouth of the Murray at Goolwa in South Australia, then by train to the waiting ships and early steamers anchored at Victor Harbour. The Building of the Yarrawonga Weir in 1939 meant the end of the river trade and its boats and barges, but there are now still restored river boats plying Lake Mulwala for the tourist trade.

By this stage, Yarrawonga was a firmly established rural centre with wonderful old buildings and a broad avenue as its main thoroughfare – Belmore Street. Complete with statuesque tall palm trees. Buildings included the Shire Offices (1896), the State Savings Bank of Victoria (1912), the Post Office (1904), the Athenaeum Hall (1885) and the Shire Town Hall (1930).

Of course much of the decorative trappings have disappeared over the last fifty 50 years – the Kurrajong trees, the Palm trees, the chain and stone surrounds of the central roundabout. But the magnificent Yarrawonga Shire Hall still stands with its distinctive Art Deco theming.

‘The new shire hall was begun in 1929 and completed in 1930. With the rapid growth of Yarrawonga’s population in the interwar period, with both expanding agricultural production and the construction works associated with the weir, the hall answered a longstanding demand for expanded municipal offices for the Shire of Yarrawonga. The architects commissioned for the work were Harrison; Glaskin of Albury. The builder was J. Keith, whose tendered cost was £14,875. The hall was part of a large program of municipal works, including the sealing of roads and drain construction that occurred around this time.The Inter-War Free Classical style has a courageous weaving of Art Deco decorative themes into the detailing. Essentially composed of individual symmetrical elevations, it has a strong asymmetrical form, emphasised by the unusual roof outline. The subtle cement rendered classical modelling on the Belmore Street façade has giant order Corinthian columns in-antis either side of the recessed entrance and a tall corner tower addressing the intersection of Belmore and Orr Streets. The building is also a very important architectural landmark in Belmore Street. It is the largest building in the street. The bold corner tower, unusual roof form and superb architectural details create variety and delight in the streetscape. The building is also a very important architectural landmark in Belmore Street. It is the largest building in the street. The bold corner tower, unusual roof form and superb architectural details create variety and delight in the streetscape.’ – Moira Shire Stage Two Heritage Study 2007.

Corner clock tower illustrating the subtle cement rendered Free Classical detailing with Art Deco capitals on the classical pilasters.
Source: Lorraine Huddle Pty Ltd. 2005

In its own way, the former Shire Hall building (Yarrawonga now forms part of an expanded Moira Shire.) flows comfortably with the existing heritage architecture already mentioned.

Now we reach the present. The Yarrawonga Community Hall constructed in the 1950s is scheduled to be demolished. The current plan of the Moira Shire is to replace it with a new building, its purpose to have a new library and performance precinct.

Map of Yarrawonga Town Centre Precinct with location of 59 significant places marked with red dots.
Source: MOIRA SHIRE STAGE TWO HERITAGE STUDY 2007

The current design and plan for this new facility is quite simply inappropriate and incongruous to the current streetscape and the magnificent Shire Town Hall itself. It shows a complete determination to inject a modernist style building into what is essentially a late 19th century to early 20th century streetscape. It demonstrates absolutely no sympathy with or to the architectural style. It is in fact somewhat gimmicky and bizarre, spelling out the words ‘LIBRARY’ and ‘YARRAWONGA’ for those who perhaps have no idea where they are!

The new design is at best neutral, however in terms of the history, the former stunning streetscape has been quietly removed over time – it is a design entirely lacking in empathy for the Yarrawonga Heritage precinct. It pays no homage to the clever, intricate Art Nouveau design of the existing Yarrawonga Shire Town Hall, it ignores the streetscape of the late 19th century buildings and early 20th century pre and mid war architecture. It simply does not blend with, or compliment the present architecture.

With the prospect of losing their Community Hall as well as the pre-school centre already demolished, it is time for the Moira Shire to pay heed to the expectations and wishes of the local community. The current plan and design simply do not recognise the Heritage values of the Yarrawonga precinct, its history and its potential future role in honouring that Heritage. Consideration must be given to formulating a more considered design that melds with the current Town Hall/Shire Hall building and the immediate surrounds.

Heritage Protection in Victoria. How Does It Actually Work?

For many people heritage protection of both buildings, precincts and open space is somewhat confusing. In real terms the cultural basis of our living city Melbourne and regional cities, our rural areas, our history is integrally bound up in our treasured heritage buildings and precincts. For Indigenous people, our First Nation’s people, heritage values are of vital importance in terms of their connection to country, their history, their culture and their beliefs.  

Heritage values are imperative in our understanding of our current circumstances and urban development, and the influence the past has had in formulating those values. Last week one of our readers commented that heritage is not just about the grandeur of older buildings, the mansions and estates, the public buildings such as town halls, the railway stations and other old world edifices, such as mechanics institutes, masonic halls, churches and the like. Her view was that heritage has a much broader impact and foundation and she’s quite correct. For instance, many inner city suburbs – Carlton, Fitzroy, South Melbourne, Albert Park and Clifton Hill –  for example, have complete suburb wide heritage overlays that protect large swathes of early residential housing, streetscapes, parks and public buildings as well as historical places of interest. Today it is the responsibility of the Heritage Council of Victoria, established in 1995, to maintain the Victorian heritage database. It is overseen and advised by Heritage Victoria, a division of the Victorian government planning department, as to what places and objects deserve protection and conservation in having State level heritage. This authority was formalised by the Heritage Act of 2017 in the Victorian State Parliament. The area that is somewhat less clear and not as effectively protected is what is described as “local level heritage”.

From the Heritage Victoria website:

“Local-level heritage – The protection of places of local heritage significance is the responsibility of Victoria’s 79 local councils (councils). The Planning and Environment Act 1987obliges all of Victoria’s councils to use their Planning Schemes to conserve and enhance buildings, areas or other places which are of significance within their municipalities. Planning Schemes set out objectives, policies and controls for the use, development and protection of land within a municipality. Councils are responsible for ensuring their Planning Schemes protect places with local heritage significance through a Heritage Overlay. To introduce a Heritage Overlay for a place or precinct, a Planning Scheme Amendment is prepared by council with the final decision made by the Minister for Planning. There are about 23,000 heritage places listed in Heritage Overlays in local government planning schemes. These places can include buildings, structures, farmhouses, gardens, mining and industrial sites, residential precincts and historic town centres, as well as many other types of heritage places of importance to local communities. Altogether, upwards of 180,000 properties in Victoria are included in heritage overlays. Tens of thousands of these properties include Victorian, Edwardian and other early twentieth century buildings, many in heritage precincts. There are about 23,000 heritage places listed in Heritage Overlays in local government planning schemes. Councils are responsible for conducting heritage studies, investigating the merits of listing places in their Heritage Overlays and consulting with their communities. If a Heritage Overlay does not apply to a place or precinct, and a council considers that it is worthy of protection, it is able to request the Minister for Planning to apply an Interim Heritage Overlay. This introduces a temporary heritage overlay to a place while it is being assessed by council for local heritage significance. A request for an Interim Heritage Overlay may be prompted by a demolition request or planning application for redevelopment received by a council. Councils have a safety-net under the Building Act 1993to prevent demolition of important buildings that have, for whatever reason, not yet been provided with protection until an assessment is made of their potential importance. The Building Act requires a report and consent of council for a building permit for the major demolition of a building on land within its municipality. This provides the council with an opportunity to advise of the need for a planning permit or an opportunity to seek an Interim Heritage Overlay if one is considered warranted.”

Original facade of building above and changes made subsequently below illustrate how the original architectural style can be lost.

To reiterate there are three levels of heritage protection activity in the State of Victoria. The majority of heritage buildings, architecture and places in Victoria fall under the protection of the State’s 79 local councils.  In our opinion the protection offered in many cases is manifestly ineffective and, as such, is open to manipulation by unscrupulous builders and developers.It is plainly evident that some local government authorities value increased income through strata title property rates collection over properly enforced heritage protection; with many heritage overlays being hopelessly outdated and inadequate. For heritage protection to work the requirement for there needs to be a clear understanding of which body is expected to provide and enforce such protection. Where the responsibility is that of local government authorities they have often failed. In recent times there has been a plethora of unnecessary demolitions and outright destruction of heritage buildings and streetscapes. This has simply confirmed the inadequacy of current legislation.  Melbourne has grown and expanded substantially since 1995 and in many cases local government has simply not kept pace with registering precincts or buildings for heritage protection

Balance Architecture offer a full Heritage Consultation service for both Heritage property owners and Community groups with significant interest in local heritage.  Principal Architect Andrew Fedorowicz is available to meet and confer with interested parties, develop site reports and provide expert appraisal on all Heritage properties, precincts or projects affecting Heritage overlays.

Call now on 0418341443 to speak directly with Andrew or leave your details here for a prompt response.

Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the restoration and renovation of Heritage buildings and property,

The Battle Continues. Is it heritage or just a ‘façade’?

East Melbourne is an area covered by both Heritage overlays and individual Heritage listings. It features some of Melbourne’s grandest buildings. Over the years there have been many stoushes to protect what is a unique vista and part of Melbourne’s living history.

The latest property to be put at risk is the ‘landmark’ East Melbourne Mansion, Eblana, the former home of Young and Jackson’s publican Thomas Jackson. It was built in 1883 in the ‘Grand Italianate’ style of the times.

Developers consider if the façade remains then there’s no reason they cannot demolish the rear of a stately home and replace it with a modern tower, in this case four stories high, rising to 15m over the height limit for the precinct.

There’s a simple reason such projects get traction – profit. Four new luxury apartments towering over the original building offer a staggering return on investment. To the property owner or developer the equation is simple – it’s worth pushing the boundaries on Heritage to achieve a compromise. But quite simply there should NEVER be a compromise of any sort.

As the following article rightly identifies, façadism is the new go to ‘soft’ option for developers.

Frankly façadism is an absurdity. The character of the Heritage neighbourhood is simply lost to glass and steel. Natural light is blocked and in all honesty, what is left is often nothing short of comical. Quite simply, it is both inappropriate and a travesty to see some of the rather pathetic examples described as ’sympathetic design’. Market St South Melbourne is a good example. It has several ‘façades’ which are simply the front walls of previous buildings whereby visitors then enter an extensive courtyard gracing the entrance to multi storey glass towered apartment buildings.

The proposal for Eblana is simply the thin edge of the wedge. It cannot be permitted to proceed. Here is the recent article from the Age regarding the planning application, the objections of local residents and the National Trust to the proposed project and ‘façadism’.


Young and Jackson founder’s grand home the latest to get ‘facade’ treatment

Developers have lodged plans for the partial demolition of landmark East Melbourne mansion Eblana, built for Young and Jackson publican Thomas Jackson in 1883, to make way for an apartment tower.

At almost 42 metres, the tower would soar from behind the facade and front two rooms of the grand Italianate-style building at 140-142 Jolimont Road. The new building, home to four luxury apartments, would be almost three times the 15-metre recommended height limit for the precinct.

East Melbourne residents Greg Bisinella (centre). Nicole and Chris Pelchen, Sylvia Black and Diana Bosak outside Eblana.

Human Habitats director Will Pearce said the proposed development sought to protect the grandeur of the existing building’s frontage, while including a sympathetic design at the rear of the property.

But the application has been strongly opposed by local residents, representing the latest flashpoint in a long-running stoush between developers and heritage advocates to balance the preservation of character with new developments in historic precincts.

Eblana, the grand house built for Young and Jackson’s co-founder Thomas Jackson in 1883.

Prompted by a raft of developments in which the facade of buildings are retained in a nod to the original heritage – while the rear of the building is demolished for modern towers – the National Trust of Australia is now drafting guidelines for heritage-sensitive development across Victoria.

The trust’s Victorian director of advocacy, Felicity Watson, said “facadism” was a poor design outcome.

Some of the most egregious examples of the practice in Melbourne include the former Celtic Club Irish pub in Queen Street, the former Turf Club Hotel in North Melbourne, and the former Palace Theatre in Bourke Street, she said.

An artist’s impression of the proposed development at landmark East Melbourne mansion, Eblana.
The former Turf Club Hotel on Flemington Rd, North Melbourne.

“If you only retain the facade, or you only retain the external walls and a very small portion of the building, it removes all of the evidence of the building’s former function, its methods and materials of construction and also its ability to be understood within the streetscape,” Ms Watson said.

The National Trust says the former Celtic Club, on the corner of Queen Street and Lonsdale Street is an example of facadism being a poor design outcome.

Ms Watson said the proposed tower on Jolimont Road, East Melbourne, would dominate neighbouring buildings in its current form.

“East Melbourne is well known to have a very high number of significant 19th century buildings, and a number of very intact streetscapes and generally, we don’t want to see the erosion of that character of East Melbourne.”

By Sunday, 106 objections had been lodged with the City of Melbourne to the proposed development. A spokesman said council’s urban planners would carefully consider the application, and any development would be required to suit the area’s special local character and history.

Mr Pearce, whose company Human Habitats completed a town planning and urban context report for the City of Melbourne, said Eblana was not an “individually significant” building under current heritage guidelines.

“From a heritage response point of view, a superior outcome has been achieved than what the policy actually expects,” he said.

The role of town planning was to balance maintaining existing character and modernising the city, Mr Pearce said.

“There’s been considerable thought and effort put into the facade of the new building, and how that complements the existing heritage building on the site.”

The City of Melbourne introduced heritage policies last year, which have been approved by Planning Minister Richard Wynne, in an attempt to better protect the city’s historic buildings and precincts.

Councillor Rohan Leppert, who leads the heritage council’s portfolio, said the new guidelines – while not binding – made it clear that facadism would no longer be tolerated.

“The days of as-of-right facadism in the City of Melbourne are over,” Cr Leppert said.

“And new developments will take some time to adjust to that new reality. But we value heritage buildings in the round, in their three-dimensional form, and that’s the expectation the market will now need to adjust to.”

Greg Bisinella, who is the heritage and planning convener of the East Melbourne Group, said the proposed 42-metre development behind Eblana’s facade was disrespectful to the area’s heritage and locals were livid.

“It just sticks out like a sore thumb,” he said. “It is completely incongruent to the suburbs of Jolimont and East Melbourne.”

Mr Bisinella said retaining the building’s facade was not enough and that the internal building needed to be preserved.

“You lose the integrity of that building. It’s starting to chip away at one piece of living history, you are losing something that can’t be replaced,” he said.

Source: theage.com.au


For advice, assessment and reportage on Heritage architecture and prospective Heritage listing, please feel free to contact our principal Architect Andrew Fedorowicz on 0418 341 443 or leave your details here for a prompt reply.

Andrew is a Heritage Architect and a fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects with many years’ experience in Heritage Architecture, both public and private buildings.

Balance Architecture is passionate about Heritage Architecture, its preservation and restoration. Each year the base of our heritage ‘capital’ is continually eroded with attempts to bypass Heritage listings and the overall intent of heritage preservation. The time for this to stop is now. It requires a bi-partisan approach and cooperation between all relevant authorities – State Government, Local Government and a properly funded Heritage Council of Victoria.

The ground rules must be spelled out and understood by all – property owners, local government officials and developers alike. Heritage is precious – it’s our responsibility to ensure it’s here for future generations – not just a ‘façade’. It’s really up to each one of us to ensure its proper protection and to maintain the respect it deserves.

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

Balance Architecture – For expert advice, planning and delivery on all Residential Heritage Architecture

With current Real Estate clearances at an all-time high in Melbourne and Rural Victoria, many buyers are purchasing property that carries a Heritage listing or is a part of a Heritage Overlay. This can be a complicating factor and definitely requires expert advice and direction. Balance Architecture offer qualified and experienced support to buyers purchasing Residential Heritage listed properties throughout Melbourne and regional Victoria.

As a Residential Heritage Architectural firm, Balance Architecture offers a steady hand and sensible programming of any and all renovations and refurbishments of Heritage homes. Georgian, Victorian, Federation or Mid Century Modern – Balance and its principal Architect, Andrew Fedorowicz, offer practical sound planning as well as bringing real excitement and flair to the recovery of the true Heritage identity of your valuable new property.

Today, it really is the merging of modern living, the space and comfort that is required with many properties often constructed well over a century ago, still retaining much of the older infrastructure and internals.

Balance Architecture will ensure the essential and required heritage features are retained, refurbished or replaced, faithfully adhering to the fittings, materials and building methodologies prescribed by Heritage authorities. At the same time, issues such as electricals, plumbing and painted surfaces will be addressed. What was acceptable 50 to100 years ago is not necessarily so today! Lead paint, antiquated electricals and lighting, creaky old iron pipes and ineffective drainage and sewerage must be replaced with modern functional infrastructure.

Ultimately, it is a combination of livability and maintaining the classic beauty of a gorgeous older building to the levels of appearance and quality as required by Heritage Victoria. It is no simple task and for that reason it’s imperative to seek and avail yourself of expert advice and experience.

Andrew Fedorowicz, Principal Architect for Balance Architecture, is a fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects. Andrew is a highly experienced Architect with over 30 years in Architectural Design and construction, its administration and ancillary drafting. Clearly Andrew represents the upper echelon of his profession, having won numerous awards and having personally managed and supervised over 320 high level projects.

It may be that you have purchased a Heritage property in regional Victoria – Ballarat, Bendigo, Daylesford, Kyneton, Mt Macedon – or the Dandenong Ranges or Gippsland. Alternatively, you’ve been fortunate enough to purchase in Greater Melbourne– Kew, Hawthorn, South Yarra, Clifton Hill, Ivanhoe, Eaglemont or Heidelberg to name just a few areas where both Heritage listed homes and suburban Heritage overlays exist.

Make the decision now – engage a Heritage Architect, call Balance Architecture now on 0418 341 443 and arrange a free no-obligation consultation. Meet directly with Andrew and start the process of re-developing your home to its real potential and true heritage. Alternatively, simply leave your details here for a prompt reply and scheduled meeting.

Balance Architecture and Interior Design

Luxury, Comfort and Style. Heritage Values, Heritage Design.

Heritage in Victoria – Time for Action.

Over the last few years it has become increasingly obvious that there is a need for a stronger lobby group in presenting the arguments, the cases for retention and protection of heritage buildings in Greater Melbourne and Victoria.

Right now, the Government agencies responsible for such protections are simply overwhelmed with the sheer volume of requests for Heritage protection. The budget allocated to Heritage Victoria and the heritage Council of Victoria seems to be inadequate.

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

 

Heritage has become a political football. The public and our grand heritage inheritance are the losers. Countless buildings are demolished whilst Heritage overlays are investigated by the Heritage Council. Without publicity, the problem is hidden and the solution becomes moot – often the building just simply disappears. There are loopholes upon loopholes. The recent events in Booroondara bear testament to this.

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

Beautiful residential dwellings in Kew, Toorak, Hawthorn, Elsternwick, Caulfield North, Black Rock and Beaumaris have been destroyed. Old Hotels built in the 1880s, modified in the 1920s to an art nouveau style have been demolished. Why? Well, because their original architecture was diminished. What about the fabulous Art Nouveau transformations? Look at the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda and the London in Port Melbourne, both now vacant blocks.

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Greyhound Hotel, St Kilda

 

At Balance Architecture, we are passionate about Heritage Architecture. The richness of Victorian era opulence engendered by the 1850s Gold Rush, the extraordinary craft and skill in the simple yet intricate details of masonry, tiling, slate roofing, monochromatic brickwork, stained glass windows – the Ballroom and Staterooms. The drawing rooms, the huge and impressive stairwells – the symmetry, the grace.

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

Over the last few years we have brought you the passing vista of homes and buildings saved and preserved, of those that are derelict and in need of restoration, and of those demolished and gone forever.

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A bulldozer moves in on 368 Auburn Road

We now arrive at a crossroads. It is time for genuine action. We propose the formulation of a new group. The purpose of the group will be to lobby the government (State) to improve Heritage protections, to ensure Heritage Overlays across the entire state are up to date and to commit to the ongoing protection of our precious Heritage assets.

We are aware of other groups operating within the same arena but want to apply a more modern approach utilising online and social media opportunities to not only demonstrate the community depth of feeling on the issue, but to focus the various local groups into a strong voice for Heritage stability and protection.

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This house on Burwood Road, Hawthorn East is set to be demolished

Preparing for Heritage Listings can be both a daunting prospect and a set of difficult procedures. Quite frankly it shouldn’t be, and this is one of the objectives we believe we must work towards – a simplification of the processes combined with much increased funding to the state government bodies charged with doing the relevant inspections and determining the Heritage listings or otherwise.

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In many cases, the ultimate process will find its way to VCAT or a higher court. Often it is Heritage that is the loser. Time’s up on that nonsense. No more Corkman Fiascos, no more Currajong interventions.

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The Corkman Hotel, prior to its illegal demolition.

 

Let’s get a clear, open process in place. Let’s call all parties to the table – Architects, Developers, Residents and Bureaucrats, Council officials, Heritage Council officials and the National Trust – and politicians of all persuasions.

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55 Seymour Rd

It’s five past midnight and it’s time to act. Keep watching our page. We will provide details of a new group for those genuinely interested in Heritage protection. You will be able to join up on Facebook and then we can broaden the base from there. We will announce the new page here soon.

Heritage is our history, our persona, our character – the people of Victoria own it. Time to claim it.

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

The difference in heritage values Cultural Vs Architectural sees the end of Melbourne’s Iconic Metro.

Originally a theatre, now known as the Metro Nightclub, the building was constructed in 1911 replacing the original ‘Queen’s Hall’ attached to the Hotel Douglas.

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To refresh your memories or to provide the basis for discussion, here is a reprint of our blog dated Sept 27th 2017.

The Palace Theatre Melbourne – perhaps you remember it as the Metro Nightclub. Demolition of this well known Melbourne icon was approved in 2016 at VCAT. The interior was illegally demolished without permits in 2014. It is now owned by the Jinshan Investment Group. The group planned to build a 30 storey W Hotel on the site but are now restricted to a 7 storey site after the intervention of the City of Melbourne. Located at 20-30 Bourke St, the venue has a long history in the Entertainment Industry. As it stands, it is slated for demolition at any time.

The Palace Theatre is somewhat of an enigma. Its scenario is not that dissimilar to the Corkman Hotel of Carlton illegally destroyed by developers recently. The building is in fact a large, high roofed theatre. What was significant about it were its internal fittings. In 2014 a contracted demolition company removed the ornate plaster features, facades and balcony decorations, rendering the interior somewhat featureless and undermining any claims of heritage value. One could consider it a ‘tactic’ to enable a party to proceed with a demolition that might otherwise be opposed.

It this case, the venue represents a very valid principle in both planning and preservation. In the view of many – including the City of Melbourne’s representatives, it should be incumbent on the properties owners – Jinshan Investment Group – to restore the interior to its previous state.

palace

Originally the site was occupied from the late 1850s by the Excelsior Hotel. Hotels at the time were close relations to the Theatre and Theatre companies of the time. The Excelsior had a ‘hall’ attached known as ‘Queen’s Hall’. Vaudeville, boxing and wrestling events were staged there regularly. Name changes occurred in 1875 (Stutt’s Hotel) and 1900 (Hotel Douglas). The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1911 and the land was sold for 32,000 pounds.

In 1911, a new theatre was commissioned by the new owners, to occupy the site. Queensland Architects Eaton and Bates in association with Melbourne Architect Naham Barnet were tasked with designing the new theatre. It featured seating on 3 levels with a large proscenium and very grand ‘curtains of gold’. The theatre incorporated a hotel, the Pastorial, with bedrooms on the first floor.

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The theatre was modified in 1916 with a complete refitting of the lobby and auditorium under the instruction of Architect Henry E White. This involved the addition of ornate plaster mouldings decorating the theatre in a style recognised as ‘Louis Seize’.

Further additions to the decorative style occurred in 1923 when the theatre auditorium was extensively remodelled , retaining the Louis Seize style yet overlaying it with a further Adamesque decoration. Upon completion it reopened as the ‘New Palace’.

In 1934 a further new renovation occurred and the theatre became known as the Apollo. It was renamed again in 1940 – The St James Theatre. 1951 saw it renamed ‘The St James Theatre and Metro’. Now an MGM theatre it became a cinema and showed films exclusively from that studio.

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The street frontage and facade was remodelled in an Art Deco style – designed by a H Vivian Taylor, and to this day the design remains. The Proscenium and side boxes were removed to allow for the installation of a ‘CinemaScope’ screen.

In 1971 it reverted to live theatre with the production ‘Hair’ running for 39 weeks. By 1974 it had reverted to its original name and was a working Cinema – again. 1980-1987 saw it as a Christian Revival Centre run by the Pentecostal Church.

A major refurbishment was undertaken in 1987 by Melbourne Architects ‘Biltmoderne’. From then on it was known as the Metro Nightclub. The Nightclub was sold in 2007. The new owners were the former owners of the Palace live music venue in St Kilda.

They renamed the venue ‘The Palace’. Holding 1850 people, the venue hosted many well known touring groups and musicians over the next 7 years. It was sold to the Chinese Development Group Jinshan in late 2012.

In 2016 opponents to the demolition of the venue finally lost the fight and VCAT ruled that the Demolition should proceed and the redevelopment works go ahead.

Excerpts from Wikipedia

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This is a rather interesting case study. From an architectural viewpoint, much of the original charm of the foyer and auditorium were removed over the years but the very ornate plasterwork remained up until 2014. Additions made in 1987 including stainless steel staircases and galleries could easily have been reverted.

Its claim for heritage value was not on architectural grounds but on cultural grounds. The Bourke St Precinct has strict heritage overlays yet the Developer was prepared to challenge these, even in view of the Windsor result and the location of the Victorian Parliament, with a 30 storey tower – until challenged by Council as to its height.

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According to Professor Graeme Davidson, the Heritage listing (not ratified) for cultural importance was and is well justified.

“This is likely the last surviving expressly built Vaudeville Theatre (Variety Show) in Melbourne.”

The destruction is breathtaking when considering the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots. In our view this is a glaring example of manipulation of regulations by third parties to gain an outcome that provides little recognition of heritage values. Under the Bourke Hill precinct overlay, the theatre’s internal fitout was protected as was the building’s facade. When the theatre was gutted and the interior demolished – no authority intervened.

Heritage is often more than just the value of the individual aspects of a building. It is the sum total of the history, the usage, the architecture and the decorations of a building. And as with the Corkman in Carlton and the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda, this time VCAT, you got it wrong.

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What’s your opinion? Should the developers be forced to restore unauthorised demolitions? As it stands we have precious little left to preserve.

Its time Council started to respond and intervene when required. Our city has great character and we must do whatever it takes to retain what is quintessentially Melbourne.

Source: Balance Architecture

So in this instance the application for Heritage Listing was based entirely on the Cultural Heritage of the venue, but as can be seen, the history of the venue is much older and far more impressive that just the cultural heritage. It would appear that under Heritage Victoria’s direction Art Deco is not valued, unless it is specifically mentioned in the Heritage application. Surely the umpire should have stepped in here!

Take a look at the architectural mouldings, the plasterwork, the murals – simply irreplaceable!

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Melbourne’s old vaudeville theatres have all but disappeared. The Tivoli, the Theatre Royal, Sol De Val, the Gaiety and St George’s Hall to name but a few. Bourke St East was the heart of theatre and vaudeville in old Melbourne town. Sadly it’s now lost.

From The Age…

‘Morally outrageous’: After 108 years, demolition of The Metro begins

Demolition of one of Melbourne’s best-loved music venues, The Palace Theatre on Bourke Street, began this week, ending a seven-year public battle to save the venue.

The 108-year old theatre, venue of The Metro nightclub for over 20 years from 1987 as well as a live music hall, played host to artists including James Brown, The Prodigy, Slash, Jane’s Addiction, Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age until its doors shut in 2014.

 

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Demolition of the Palace Theatre in Melbourne commenced this week.

 

With the site to be converted into a Marriott hotel after years of conjecture, councillors and music industry figures have lamented the demolition as an indictment on Victoria’s heritage laws, which they say fail to properly recognise the cultural value of the state’s venues.The Palace was sold in 2012 to Chinese developer Jinshan Investment Group for $11.2 million.

Melbourne City Council approved plans to build a hotel in 2013, which objectors unsuccessfully opposed in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in 2016, however the site was dormant until the roof was removed in the past fortnight.

Known for its marble staircase and sweeping viewing balconies, photos emerged this week of excavator trucks in the venue, the stage area in rubble and a hole in the roof where a chandelier once hung.

 

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The Metro Nightclub at midnight in January 1992

 

Melbourne City councillor Rohan Leppert, who leads the council’s heritage division, said the 3000-capacity Palace was not previously granted heritage status because renovations had created a “mish-mash of architectural eras”.

“Even though the demolition that’s happening inside the theatre is perfectly legal, it’s still morally outrageous,” Cr Leppert said.

“Our heritage regime still rewards architectural purity above everything else, but the thing that makes The Palace special is the social history of the place, which is so extraordinary. I hope we are never in a situation like this again.”

 

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The Metro nightclub in its heyday

 

Music Victoria chief executive Patrick Donovan said The Palace closure left a “massive gap” in Melbourne for a medium-sized venue with a late-night licence.

“It was an absolutely pivotal venue in the Melbourne music scene,” he said.

“It was a popular weekly alternative music nightclub called Goo for university students, then they had live music shows up to five days a week. I really do believe our heritage laws need a good look at.”

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Heavy heart: You Am I’s Tim Rogers performs at The Metro in 1996

 

The Palace was also used as a cinema, Pentecostal church venue and theatre in its 108-year history. It’s understood the developers will be required to retain its historic facade.

 

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The Palace Theatre is being demolished

 

Mr Donovan said cities such as Vancouver and Toronto in Canada recognised cultural value more than Victoria and said The Palace should be used as a cautionary tale to protect venues such as St Kilda’s The Esplanade and Festival Hall, which survived an initial push for demolition in 2018.

“We don’t need any more apartments in this city, but we do need venues like the Espy and the Palace.”

Rebecca Leslie, spokeswoman for the Save the Palace campaign that has fought the development since 2013, said the demolition’s timing had taken the group by surprise.

“The experience of attending a live band there was incredible. No matter where you stood, you got the most incredible view, with this beautiful 100-year-old building, with all the pictures and fittings around it still intact.”

Source: theage.com.au

It is accepted that many of these buildings (the theatres) would not have lasted until today in terms of Construction, however The Metro had done so until 2012 and put simply the venue was unique.

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As we said before, now we have a 7 storey hotel with 143 rooms, a gym, a swimming pool and a restaurant.

C’est la vie.

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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.