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.


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 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,

Melbourne’s Architectural Integrity and Heritage Buildings – the vision of the City of Melbourne

Screen Shot 2020-01-16 at 2.35.01 pmThe City of Melbourne for the main has a vision that looks to protect heritage architecture and buildings. In December, the City approved the new Central Melbourne Design Guide.

Specifically it looks to prevent some of the largesse and profiteering of developers only looking to create rentable space in the sky – at any cost. Investors from Asia and the Middle East combining with local developers built tower after tower in the 1990s, much to the chagrin of opponents. Many stand today with low occupancy.

Melbourne City Councillor Nicholas Reece presented this piece in The Age Newspaper on Dec 5 2019.

Spreadsheets in the sky are putting Melbourne’s liveability at risk

It has been said that the history of a city is written by its architects and urban planners.

Melbourne’s earliest days are still evident in the genius of the Hoddle Grid with its big streets, little streets and laneways. The legacy of the 1850s gold rush that transformed a remote outpost into a city of worldwide fame can still be found in the grand public buildings, beautiful boulevards and picturesque brick terraces with their iron lacework.

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Standards of development in Melbourne’s CBD need to be improved if the city wants to build on its healthy legacy.

Over the past two decades modern Melbourne has gone through another gold rush of sorts, fuelled by record immigration and population growth, a thriving financial and business sector, and an international student boom.

So how is the history of modern Melbourne being written by architects, planners and developers? The good news is that despite the demolition crimes of the 1970s, Melbourne has preserved more of its heritage buildings than other Australian capital cities. An emphasis on good street design, bluestone pavements, quality street furniture, beautiful trees, and some stunning examples of modern architecture have given Melbourne a distinctive contemporary character.

But unfortunately, too much cheap and nasty development has crept in. Too many new towers are nothing more than spreadsheets in the sky, delivering a big profit for developers but leaving the city poorer because of bad design and low-quality materials, particularly at street level. The biggest building boom the central city has ever known has put our world famous liveability and appeal at risk.

The point was driven home to me during a recent visit to Sydney. Our northern neighbour is blessed with a spectacular harbour but it is cursed by poor street layout, a century of bad planning decisions and a hotchpotch of urban street designs. But now after two decades of determined focus by local and state government on lifting architectural and design quality, the dividends are increasingly apparent.

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A legacy of heritage and good structure has served Melbourne well up to now.

More than a hundred buildings have been through the City of Sydney’s design competition process, while many other buildings have benefited from architectural design reviews. Last year the University of NSW surveyed 26 projects that were the result of design competitions. The researchers found 62 per cent went on to win industry awards.

With the wrappers finally coming off the long-delayed George Street tram, central Sydney stands proudly as a showcase of world-leading modern architecture. Meanwhile, Melbourne has produced some brilliant new buildings and has been buoyed by home-grown local architects and a distinctive design culture, without resorting to a line-up of global “starchitects” like Sydney. The new Parliament House Annexe, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Federation Square and Eureka Tower are all examples of local designers creating amazing buildings that we should acknowledge and celebrate.

But the painful truth is that Melbourne has suffered from far too many poor developments. Featureless glass boxes that could be in any city in the world. Buildings that are low grade and bland when newly complete, and destined to deteriorate into eyesores over time. Tall towers that set out to be seen from afar, but offer nothing to the pedestrians walking the streets of the city. Our planning processes are quicker and involve far less red tape compared to other big cities. This is an advantage we need to preserve. But we also need to acknowledge that we need to lift the general standard.

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The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Parkville stands out as one recent success.

So the City of Melbourne is drawing a line. We are saying that we must do better. The city last week gave the green light to the new Central Melbourne Design Guide and associated planning scheme amendments to encourage design excellence in future developments. The guide is the biggest rewrite of the city’s urban design policies since the 1990s and even includes a pictorial guide to make it easy for everyone to follow.

Some examples of the new mandatory provisions include the requirement that parking in buildings within the Hoddle Grid be underground, while parking in buildings within Southbank must be concealed by offices or apartments. Ugly building services will not be able to occupy more than 40 per cent of the ground floor, and we will require 80 per cent active frontages to streets and laneways in some areas.

We want to create more public spaces for people. This means at least 50 per cent of private plazas should be retained and refurbished to preserve access to these valuable open spaces in the city. We want to see more buildings that give back to the public realm, with well-designed ground floors that have character and contribute to rich street experiences with more fine-grain detail and quality materials.

The city is also establishing a Design Excellence Committee to engage members of professional design institutes, public advocacy organisations, the development industry and community members in championing good design in our city.

We’re also investigating the establishment of a Melbourne Design Review Panel to review development projects of local significance and provide design advice as part of the planning process. The new panel will be made up of independent design industry leaders and experts and will bring a new level of focus on the design of new buildings. This Melbourne Design Review Panel will complement the work of the design review processes run by the Office of the Victorian Government Architect but will significantly expand the number and type of buildings that will be subject to design review.

The City of Melbourne will continue to develop policy to encourage the use of design competitions in the right circumstances. This parallels an increased interest from private developers in the value of competitions to explore a range of design options.

Melbourne remains Australia’s most architecturally interesting and attractive city. But if we want to keep our world-beating liveability and appeal then we must do better. “Average” is no longer good enough when it comes to new design, development and urban amenity in our city.

Councillor Nicholas Reece is the chair of the City of Melbourne’s planning portfolio.

Source: theage.com.au

The Central Melbourne Design Guide offers some genuine hope that at least inner Melbourne is actually preserved and enhanced. Perhaps the Victoria Market could be reviewed in this light?

Til next week.

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

From England, to Toorak, and Finally Melbourne Gardens – The Well-Travelled Nareeb Gates

The intricate Nareeb Gates might have caught your eye while strolling through Melbourne Gardens D Gate entrance – highly decorated, they stand out amongst the more modest entrances to the gardens, and this speaks to their colourful history spanning decades – and oceans!


Originally built in England, the gates arrived in Australia, where they stood for over 60 years at Toorak’s grand Nareeb estate. Constructed in 1888, Nareeb estate was designed in an Italianesque style by architect William Salway, and built for Piano Manufacturer Charles Beale, who hosted many extravagant parties within it.


The estate was truly grand, boasting 34 luxurious rooms including an ornate entrance hall, smoking room, music room, sewing room, and considering Beale had 13 children, not an insignificant amount of bedrooms!


When Nareeb estate was auctioned off in 1965, it still operated using a gas-powered lighting system and so did its gates, the most eye-catching feature of which are the vibrant gas lamps adorning each post. When the property was demolished in the late 60s, the owners bequeathed the Gates to the National Trust of Australia, following which they were erected at the D Gate entrance, and officially declared open in November of 1967.

In 2019, the lamps adorning Nareeb Gate’s glorious posts are no longer functional, and the Gardens are hoping to light them once more, albeit with a more modern ‘flame’! With your help, we can restore Nareeb Gates and other heritage gems in Melbourne Gardens to their former glory so they can be enjoyed by future generations for years to come. Your donation can see to a Gardens rich in character and charm we head in to the future.

Source: https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/news/nareeb-gates

Balance Architecture were pleased to assist the Royal Botanical Gardens in providing material for the article featured here.

You can read about Nareeb, Armadale and Heathfield, Grand Mansions of Melbourne now demolished here.

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Heritage is of vital importance to our community, our city and the destruction of these grand masterpieces in less than 150 years probably indicates that at the time, our appreciation of such Architecture and its historical importance was of lesser importance than it should have been.

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So as you pass through those beautiful elaborate gates at the Botanical Gardens D Entrance, take a moment to be wistful and transport yourself back to 1888 as Charles Beale, Piano manufacturer first strolled through them on his evening walk. But now you may ‘take the airs’ yourself as you enjoy one of Melbourne’s most renowned Heritage treasures – the Royal Botanical Gardens.

(Don’t forget your plimsolls and boater hats!)

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

Is your property within a Heritage Overlay? It may qualify for a ‘Heritage Loan’.

For many people living in designated ‘Heritage Overlay’ areas or in a Heritage listed building, the cost of restoration can be somewhat daunting. However it can be entirely less problematic if your property and its buildings qualify for a nil-interest or low interest Heritage Loan.


The criteria for eligibility is restoration, not maintenance. Essentially your proposed works must be restorative, and your property publicly visible in most cases. You will need to prove that the works are of a restorative nature through building plans, photographs and drawings. It goes without saying that the services of a specialist Heritage Architect would be recommended and ultimately most advantageous.

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There are restrictions and it is wise to be well aware of what these are before commencing your application. Each council area has slightly different criteria. Balance Architecture’s Principal Architect, Andrew Fedorowicz (FAIA), has a thorough working knowledge of such requirements and is happy to assist you (His contact details appear at the end of this article.)

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Currently, the Ballarat City Council, the Bendigo City Council, the Shire of Hepburn, the Geelong City Council, the Melbourne City Council and the City of Yarra all offer such low interest loans. The Borough of Queenscliffe also offers a comprehensive package but it is also far more demanding in terms of detail and competitive quoting on proposed restorative works.

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If you are interested and would like to know more, here are the links for each location. The Victorian Heritage Restoration site provides information for property owners and residents in the City of Melbourne, the City of Yarra and also Ballarat.

To give some examples of what may be funded in different areas, in Bendigo the re-installment of Verandahs, the restoration of shop-front joinery and front fences from historic photographs, repainting and repairs to timber windows and to chimneys have all been funded.

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In both the City of Melbourne and the City of Yarra, painting is not funded and if the building is not visible to the public, funding is restricted.

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In the Borough of Queenscliffe the projects approved are entirely at the discretion of the Council’s Planning Department.


The City of Adelaide offers similar funding but it requires documentation and plans of a completely professional standard.

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The simplest solution is to engage a Heritage Architect with a proven track record in preparing such documentation and in supervising such restorations. Andrew Fedorowicz, our Principal Architect has over 25 years experience in Heritage Architecture. Whether it’s a restoration of Ironwork or Verandahs, ornate Victorian tiling, roofing, chimneys or decorative external mouldings, it’s worth making an enquiry – even to restore that original fence.

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Then again if it’s a full restoration of a Victorian Terrace, a Queen Anne or Georgian style home, or simply a Californian Bungalow, discover what is possible. Restoration of commercial premises – shops, warehouses and older shopping centre façades and verandahs? Call now on 0418 534 792 for a free no-obligation consultation on both your potential renovation and the possibility of a low interest loan to achieve it. You can leave your details here for a prompt reply. The funding is available if applicants follow due process. Let Balance Architecture restore your Heritage property to its former grandeur.

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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 in Hawthorn Saved with Planning Ministerial Intervention

A significant victory has been achieved this week by Heritage supporters in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn. Currajong House, located on Auburn Rd in Hawthorn has been saved from demolition through the timely intervention of the Victorian Planning Minister, Mr Richard Wynne. In an odd set of circumstances Boroondara Council had approved a demolition permit on July 12th 2018.

However this same council had recommended the property for Heritage protection in its Hawthorn East Heritage Gap Study delivered April 12th this year, 2019. The report was designed to provide recommended amendments to the Boroondara Planning scheme (to apply permanent and interim heritage controls in line with the study to the planning scheme). Planning Minister Wynne approved the interim controls on April 12th.


It is becoming increasingly obvious that Melbourne’s fine heritage of Victorian era buildings is under real and continuing threat. Note that this intervention order from the Planning Minister is interim until the current interim heritage overlay is made permanent. Property owners with valid demolition orders could still demolish the said buildings if a pre-existing demolition permit existed predating the December 2018 Interim Heritage controls. This will now not occur, as the Minister Mr Wynne has intervened.

The Age article dated May 14th ‘Historic Hawthorn house saved from demolition after planning Minister steps in’ goes some way to explaining this rather unusual circumstance and sequence of events.

Historic Hawthorn house saved from demolition after planning minister steps in

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has intervened to save Currajong House in Hawthorn from demolition, accusing the local council of failing to protect the historic property.

More than 5000 people signed a change.org petition to save the 135-year-old home after Boroondara Council consented to its demolition in July last year.

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“There has rightly been community concern about the demolition of this grand home, which we have listened to,” Mr Wynne said.

“We’ve stepped in to protect this historic property where the council has failed to – our heritage is our history and councils should protect it.”

Mr Wynne said the decision ensured Currajong House would not be demolished while Boroondara City Council undertook a further heritage assessment, which would then be reviewed by Heritage Victoria.

The council requested permanent and interim heritage controls for the Longford Estate Precinct, which includes Currajong House, last December.

Until Tuesday’s ministerial intervention, however, the owner of Currajong House at 337 Auburn Rd, Hawthorn, could have proceeded with the demolition because they had pre-existing approval to do so.

Mr Wynne’s decision – gazetted in the Victorian Government Gazette on May 14 – removes this exemption in the case of Currajong House.

Screen Shot 2019-05-16 at 4.08.25 pm.jpg

The change.org petition asked for signatories to call on Mr Wynne to avoid the demolition of a stately home, which it said would be “replaced by more box like developments”.

It said the “heritage masterpiece” contained gracious period detail including “soaring ceilings, magnificent open fireplaces and superb return verandah”.

“Melbourne is home to some of Australia’s finest heritage architecture. Too much of this is being lost to developers,” the petition says.

“High-density living has its place and is being catered for in the inner regions already. This block does not need to be part of that.

The petition said limited car parking in this residential area was already an issue and likely to be worse with any development of this site other than as a single dwelling.

The proposal to introduce a permanent heritage overlay is on public exhibition. Submissions can be made until June 3.

Source: theage.com.au

There is no doubt this trend of developers targeting older inner-city properties on larger blocks will continue. Already we have seen the destruction of a number of older heritage period homes in both Kew and Armadale in the last year. It is worth noting that many current Heritage overlays were applied over 20 years ago (or more). This means many buildings of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century are now well over 100 years old, but are not protected. Realistically these properties are now most definitely worthy of Heritage consideration.

The Hawthorn property Currajong House was definitely saved by people effectively petitioning Government to effect change and update the Heritage listings of older properties on the Longford Estate precinct there. The reassessment must extend and become widespread through areas of the same vintage and era surrounding inner Melbourne.

Properties are constantly being listed that could be considered ‘at risk’. In Thursday’s Domain supplement, another Hawthorn property listed has been sold for over $3 million, the same price that Currajong House sold for several years ago. Currajong House however was intact with amenities, a beautiful home.

Zetland, described as an historic home and built in 1873 was in anything but good condition internally. Fortunately the young buyers here intend to restore the home. It however is part of a different ‘estate’ – the St James Park Estate.

Renovations will cost up to $7 million

Without the same interim heritage orders and perhaps with a different purchaser, the property could have easily been demolished.

Historic Hawthorn fixer upper sells for more than $3 million at private auction


It may be missing ceilings, skirting boards, cornices and other fixtures and fittings, but that didn’t put off the buyers of the historic Zetland mansion at 16 Yarra Street in Hawthorn.

The home, originally built in 1873, sold at a private auction on Tuesday night for an undisclosed amount somewhere between $3.4 million and $3.7 million.

Kay & Burton South Yarra selling agent Geoff Hall said four bidders fought it out for the home at the auction. The successful buyers were a young family who lived close by.

“They live around the corner,” Mr Hall said.


It was the first time the house had come onto the market in almost 20 years, with the home selling in 2001 for $1.22 million, public records show. The current owners decided to sell before major renovations were undertaken.

The buyers are planning to restore the home, which is listed on the heritage register, to its former glory. Estimates to fix the home have been given at somewhere about $1.5 million.

Zetland, a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home, has been a significant part of the Hawthorn landscape for almost 150 years.

The unique home on a 981-square-metre block was part of the originally larger St James Park Estate. It was designed by architect William J Ellis, who also responsible for the Fitzroy Town Hall.

It features original marble fireplaces, timber floors, stained glass in windows and door frames and even servant bells harking back to the stately manors of the late 1800s.

The home’s facade features a seven-arched, lacework front veranda, making it a significant example of Victorian architecture.


Before it went onto the market, the property had been styled using its “film noir”-like surrounds and artwork to set the scene.

Despite the historic home’s fixer-upper state, there had been a lot of interest in the lead-up to the auction.

“There was significant interest in it. We had 180 groups of people through before the auction,” Mr Hall said.

“We heard a lot of the same feedback and that was that the bones of the home are terrific but it needs a lot of work.”

Source: domain.com.au

It’s now appropriate to re-examine Heritage Listings and Heritage Overlays throughout inner Melbourne. It is effectively the province of the Victorian State Government’s Planning Department and its Minister to do so. Replacing graceful old homes on large inner suburban blocks with intensive townhouse and apartment developments is entirely inappropriate.

There should be no more 34 Armadale St or ‘Forres’ at 9-11 Edwards St Kew demolitions. Putting it in perspective, unscrupulous developers will purchase a property at $6.7 million, clear the block and offer the property at land value of $17.5 million – as was the case with Forres.

These beautiful buildings represent our history and our heritage. And as 5000 people who signed the Currajong petition agreed – it’s now time to fight for them. Once they’re gone, that’s it. And frankly our heritage is worth just a little more than another street full of crowded rental apartments. Let’s hope Currajong is just the first of many buildings to be saved and preserved for posterity. Melbourne deserves no less.

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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.

Kyneton District Hospital – Heritage listed, now for sale


The original Kyneton District Hospital is now officially back on the market. The complex is renowned for its classic architecture, a mix of Georgian, Victorian and Gothic styles. The site has been mired in controversy for some time. Development plans presented by both previous owners left much to be desired, and did not proceed. The entire building is covered by a Heritage Overlay.

And it really is time to do something about preserving these wonderful buildings as Lee Lin Chin prescribed back in 2016.

From the Heritage Council of Victoria’s Statement of Significance…

Statement of Significance


What is significant?

Kyneton District Hospital, Simpson Street, Kyneton, was erected in numerous stages, the two storey central bluestone wing being the first of these, erected from 1854 to 1856. Stonemasons Smith and Rogers constructed the building to the designs of architect Gabriel Fleck. Subsequent stages included an additional east wing and mortuary designed by the well known Kyneton architect William Douglas between 1859 and 1861 and further work by Gabriel Fleck in the extension of the west wing in 1864. An emergency ward was constructed separately on the site in 1894 to the designs of architect William Tonks who was also responsible for the addition of a cast iron verandah to the main building in 1910. Of bluestone construction the original building is symmetrical inform and Georgian in character with two flanking wings either side of a two storey central section. The central doorway is arched, with a semi-circular fanlight and arched windows on either side and there is a central pediment at the upper storey. The Georgian design is somewhat masked by the cast iron verandah added in 1910. The mortuary is of random range quarry faced bluestone construction and the emergency ward is of redbrick construction. From its early beginnings the hospital has remained the centre for health care in the Shire.


How is it significant?

Kyneton District Hospital is of historical, social and architectural importance to the State of Victoria.

Why is it significant?

Kyneton District Hospital is historically and socially important for its association with Kyneton’s boom activity of the 1850s when the town became a service centre to the surrounding goldmining activity. The hospital is one of the earliest of a group of Victorian country hospitals built between the early 1850s and mid 1860s. The only other country hospital in Victoria that pre-dates it is Port Fairy Hospital, which is less intact than the Kyneton example. The original building designed specifically as a hospital, performed that function for almost 90 years, fulfilling only ancillary needs after completion of the new main ward block in 1942. The different stages of the building’s construction demonstrate the changing needs of the hospital and its development with the history of Kyneton.

Kyneton District Hospital is architecturally important as it demonstrates a range of architectural hands and styles, including Georgian, Gothic and Victorian. Of interest are the Gothic buttressed chimneys added by architect William Douglas contrasting with the Georgian style of the building and the Late Victorian cast-iron lace work added to the building in 1910. The stonemasonry demonstrates skilful craftsmanship with the quarry faced ashlar with drafted margins in the earliest wing of the hospital and random range quarry faced bluestone in the later sections. There were three notable architects involved in its construction Gabriel Fleck (1864 & 1854), William Douglas (1859-61) and William Tonks (1894 & 1910). The former emergency ward is architecturally important as it is relatively unaltered and demonstrates clearly the building/health regulations at the time it was built in 1894.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

The original building is now on the market with two hectares of land – it is valued at between $5.75 million and $6.25 million.

This is a building that simply must be saved as it is – intact. The question is how? Kyneton is both a tourist/weekender destination and for some a commute to Melbourne. However, the complex is both extensive and of a different era. It will take some considerable imagination, planning and capital to adequately maintain the property and then develop some form of return on the rather substantial investment that will be required.

Suggestions have included a Wellness Centre, Accommodation (Bed and Breakfast), a Reception Centre, A Winery tasting complex and other food and beverage related activities. Or it could simply become someone’s home – and hopefully the surrounding two hectares be restored rather than subdivided.

Read the report from Domain dated April 2019…


67 Simpson Street, Kyneton is up for sale. Photo: Buxton Ballarat

Historic Victorian gold rush-era hospital in Kyneton looking for a buyer with healthy bank balance

It is a property sale that may just be good for the right buyer’s health as well as their bank balance in Kyneton, just an hour north-west of Melbourne.

The old Kyneton District Hospital is on the market and the sale includes the historic bluestone hospital building, no longer in use, and two hectares of land.


67 Simpson Street, Kyneton comes with more than 2 hectares of land. Photo: Buxton Ballarat

The asking price for the property at 67 Simpson Street is between $5.75 million and $6.25 million.

Selling agent Mark Nunn, of Buxton Ballarat, said it was a rare sale with lots of opportunity for the right buyer.

“It’s the first time in nearly 20 years of working in real estate that I’ve had something as rare and unique as this come onto the market,” Mr Nunn said.

“It’s a massive building so there’s lots that could be done.”

The hospital is covered by a heritage overlay. It was originally built in 1856 as Kyneton boomed during Victoria’s gold rush.

It had various additions, including an emergency ward built in the 1890s, and is known as one of the oldest hospital buildings in Victoria.

It is also renowned for its mix of Georgian, Victorian and Gothic architecture.

Kyneton District Hospital’s redevelopment has had a controversial past. Applications to subdivide the land, and use the building for two separate townhouses, met local pushback.


67 Simpson Street, Kyneton has significant architecture styles. Photo: Buxton Ballarat

The plans were put forward by developer and current owner Winport Kyneton Pty Ltd who bought the property in 2011, public records show. The redevelopment plans have not gone ahead.

Locals had campaigned to save the hospital and find other uses for the building other than residential development through the SaveOKH group. The campaign attracted the support of former SBS newsreader Lee Lin Chin who appeared in a video to launch it in 2016.

Kyneton has become one of the trendy hotspots for those looking to move away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but still be able to have a meal at a hatted restaurant.

Kyneton’s Piper Street has become a foodie haunt and even local distilleries have opened, offering the type of cocktails some may have once thought were only made in high-end bars in Melbourne’s CBD.

Mr Nunn said though the hospital had only been listed for a short time, it had already garnered a lot of interest from buyers wanting to turn the former hospital into a wedding venue or even an Airbnb short stay rental.

The hospital is for sale by expressions of interest, which close at 5pm on May 7.

Source: domain.com.au

As is stated, Mark Nunn of Buxtons Ballarat can be contacted for an inspection of the property. Expressions of interest will be accepted up until 5pm on May the 7th.

We wish this wonderful old building a bright future. But again it is another example of our magnificent heritage facing a significant challenge. As is evidenced by the demolition of the beautiful home we spoke of in Armadale back on August 24th 2018 at 34 Armidale St, there isn’t always a positive result – as reported in the Herald Sun dated the 2nd of April 2019. Often we don’t win, and these magnificent buildings are lost forever. So pass the word on, this is one property (Kyneton District Hospital) that simply must be saved.

Heritage – It’s who we are and where we come from.

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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 – What does it really mean – a visual reminder

Heritage listing is much more than acknowledging a structure’s antiquity. Modern buildings from the ‘50s right through until the early years of the new millennium have been accorded Heritage status. And it appears that there are those among us who flaunt these classifications and destroy such buildings purely for profit.

We are all probably aware of the devastating vandalism wrought on Carlton’s Corkman Hotel by two such unscrupulous ‘developers’. Already subject to significant fines, both developers now face further major punitive actions.


Here is a less well known case from the Apple Isle – Tasmania. In Hobart, Mount Stuart has long been a well known and popular suburb. Hobart was first established in 1804 at the mouth of the Derwent River, a year after the establishment of nearby Risdon Cove (on the other side of the Derwent in 1803).

Mount Stuart was originally established in 1836 when the unpopular Governor George Arthur was returned to England aboard the ship Mountstuart Elphingstone. Two roads were named in celebration of the colony ridding itself of the Governor and the reversal of his many unpopular laws at the time. The roads were Elphingstone Rd and Mount Stuart Rd. Mount Stuart Town eventually covered much of West Hobart. It was absorbed into Hobart Town around 1908.

In the 1890s, a rather interesting home was constructed at number 55 Mount Stuart Rd. With breathtaking views across the Derwent it was always a sought after property. By the year 2016, it was somewhat run down but quite able to be tastefully restored. Two trees planted on the 1406 square metre block and the actual building in total carried heritage listing. When the property came up for sale in 2016, the Heritage listing, the restrictions the listing imposed and the detailed report on asbestos contamination were all carefully documented for prospective buyers.

The successful purchaser, a Mr Darko Krajinovic decided to ignore these conditions and restrictions. The result? On a property he purchased for $445,000 he has been fined $225,000. He has also been billed $60,000 for the asbestos clean-up program required after his rather amateurish demolition job. Now, having lost his appeal against the fine imposed he will be subject to further costs as the demolition is completed.

A rather fool-hardy enterprise, one that should have would be cowboy developers in Tasmania rethinking their get rich quick schemes.

You can read about it here…

Mount Stuart house owner fined $225k for demolishing heritage home, creating ‘clouds of asbestos’

A Tasmanian man who deliberately demolished his heritage-listed house has been fined $225,000 and ordered to pay legal costs to the Hobart City Council.


Darko Krajinovic, 32, demolished the Mount Stuart house and outbuildings, which contained asbestos, without a permit.

He also cut down two trees listed as significant to develop four townhouses on the land.

In the Hobart Magistrates Court, he was convicted of nine separate offences and ordered to pay the fine, which is significantly less than the maximum penalty of $353,000.

Magistrate Simon Cooper said Krajinovic displayed “spectacular disregard” for planning laws and the safety of his neighbours when he demolished the house and outbuildings.

“I’m told that clouds of asbestos floated across to neighbouring properties,” he said.


The court heard Krajinovic was visited several times on the day of the demolition by council officers.

The officers and police had been alerted by neighbours that he was cutting down the trees and using an excavator to demolish the outbuildings.

Krajinovic told a neighbour: “I’m sick of everyone around here telling me what to do. It’s my place and I can do what I want.”

Mr Cooper took into account Krajinovic’s early guilty plea but said that the penalty needed to reflect that he had committed a “very serious offence indeed”.
Penalty sends strong warning, council says

The council’s general manager, Nick Heath, said the council was satisfied with the penalty and the case should serve as a “strong warning” and deterrent.

“Mr Krajinovic’s actions in destroying his property and removing heritage-listed trees are unacceptable and were an act of blatant destruction with no regard for the safety of others,” he said.


Darko Krajinovic was convicted of nine separate offences.

“We are aware that this matter caused severe distress to many in the community which is understandable, and one of the reasons why the council vigorously pursued this matter.”

In 2015 the State Government removed the option to ban reckless developers from continuing with any work for 10 years.

Mr Heath said the Council would lobby to have that power reinstated.

“There’s a report that’s been asked for by the council to look at what penalties besides just monetary penalties ought to be imposed on developers,” he said.

“Unfortunately at the moment the way the law is it’s only monetary penalties that are available, but going forward I think we’ll have some strong discussions with the Government to make it even harder on developers who blatantly breach the law around development and demolition in the city.”

In the meantime there is an application before the council to continue the demolition of the house.

Mr Heath said the planning authority would work with Krajinovic to ensure some of the site’s original significance was restored.

Krajinovic’s neighbour Geoff Wylie said he wanted the land cleaned up as soon as possible.

“If there’s not something done shortly, it’s going to become an eyesore. It’s going to become a fire hazard,” he said.


Source: abc.net.au

Melbourne has already lost many extraordinary buildings to unscrupulous development. Consider this, in Melbourne CBD there are only 3 buildings that predate 1850. Melbourne was established in 1835.

The 1850s Gold Rush saw a flood of money pour into old Melbourne town, replacing the earlier buildings with some of the grandest buildings in the world at the time. But where are they now? Take a look here at some of what we’ve lost and some of what has replaced those grand and beautiful buildings that have been demolished.

It may just provide some readers with the perspective required to understand heritage listing… Then again, it may not.

Melbourne’s Wonderful Demolished Buildings


276 Flinders Street



When built in 1880, this office block was Melbourne’s tallest at ten stories. In 1897 it, and most of the block of Finders Street that it stood on, was destroyed in a fire, one of the worst the city has seen. Only the facade was left, although the building was considered such an icon that it was rebuilt. In 1967 it was finally demolished outright. Present day, this stands in its spot:



Flinders St, between King and Spencer Streets


Of all of Melbourne’s vanished buildings, this one is probably the most spectacular. Built in 1890, for more than 50 years this was used as a commercial market for fish and other fresh produce. In the lead up to the Olympic games in 1956 it was decided to demolish a number of Melbourne’s older buildings in order to ‘modernise’ the look of the city. Sadly, incredibly, this was one of the buildings to go, although the demolition was not completed until 1959. It was replaced – sadly! incredibly! – with a carpark… the block now also shared by a nondescript office building:



555 Collins Street


Built in 1888 to coincide with the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition (marking 100 years of Australian settlement), this was once one of the largest and most opulent hotels in the world. The first two floors housed impressive dining, reading, smoking and billiard rooms, with the remaining 5 stories given over to luxurious guest rooms. The interior was so impressive that the building became a tourist attraction in its own right:


As an added historical footnote, the hotel was also conceived as a ‘Coffee Palace’ as part of the 19th century temperance movement. No alcoholic beverages were served at the hotel when it was built, which was something of a fad at the time, as public drunkenness was perceived as a serious problem. This wonderful piece of architecture and history was demolished in 1973, the site sold for redevelopment. Pleas to have it saved as a heritage building were ignored by the Government of the time (there was no heritage protection legislation as we know it today). It was such a popular local landmark that thousands of people turned out to watch it go. This dreary brown box was built in its place:



140 William Street


Built in 1867 to accommodate the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Menzies was another of Melbourne’s most impressive luxury hotels. Among the famous guests who stayed there; Sarah Bernhardt, Alexander Graham Bell, Mark Twain (who helped stoke the hotel boilers as part of his fitness regime), Herbert Hoover and General Douglas Macarthur. In 1969 it was demolished to make way for, the admittedly pretty stylish, BHP Plaza:



111 Williams Street


Built in 1891 for the John Sanderson company, this block length building showed exactly how important the agricultural industry was in fledgling Australia. Demolished in 1969 to make way for the AMP Building, which is itself currently under redevelopment:



444 Collins Street


Built in 1860, and substantially remodeled between 1910 and 1914, Scott’s hotel enjoyed a reputation for supplying some of Melbourne’s finest food and wine. Dame Nellie Melba and English cricket legend W.G.Grace were two among many notable people who stayed at the Scott, which was also a favourite haunt for local racing identities. Sold to the Royal Insurance Co in 1961, when it was Melbourne’s oldest continuously operating hotel, the building was demolished to make way for another in a series of drab office blocks (to the right of this picture):



Corner Queen Street and Flinders Lane


Built in 1856 when the twenty year old city was still finding its feet (note the muddy track that is Queen St in the above photo), this Greek temple themed design was the product of a competition held by the bank among Melbourne’s architects. Unfortunately, the bank itself would go out of business in 1884, and this building was demolished shortly afterwards. The same spot today:



Corner of Collins Street and Queen Street


A great example of Melbourne’s art deco heritage, the tower was added to this already existent building in 1929, making it the city’s tallest for 30 years. Taken over by the firm ‘Legal and General’ in the 1950s, it was demolished in 1969 when they wanted a more up to date, and considerably less stylish, headquarters:



316 Collins Street


The ‘Equitable Company’ set themselves the ambition of constructing ‘the grandest building in the southern hemisphere’ for their Melbourne headquarters. Which, with a five year construction and £500 000 price tag, this wonderful building may well have been. Taken over by Colonial Mutual in 1923, it would serve as their grand offices for thirty years. But high maintenance costs and outdated fixtures made the company want rid of it by the 50’s. A bland office block stands in its place today, with the logo ‘CML’ emblazoned across its street level pillars, to remind people of what once was:



43-45 Elizabeth Street


The world’s third tallest building, at 12 storeys, when it was constructed in 1889, this building dominated Melbourne’s skyline for decades. At one time visible from anywhere in the city, the Australia Building was also the first tall building to employ mechanical lifts (powered hydraulically by high pressure water pumped from the Yarra). In 1980 its distinctive red facade and ornate roof was demolished to make way for this:



Exhibition Street between Bourke and Little Collins Streets


Established in 1847, the Eastern Market was embryonic Melbourne’s principal fresh produce market for thirty years, before being superseded by the Queen Victoria Markets in the 1870’s. The Eastern market survived for nearly another 100 years, however, operating as a flower market and tourist attraction. The markets were demolished in 1962 to make way for the uniquely stylised ‘Southern Cross Hotel’:


The ‘Southern Cross’ was undoubtedly one of Melbourne’s most striking buildings, although it attracted as much vitriol as admiration. Famous guests of the hotel included; The Beatles, Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland. Frank Sinatra stayed there during his infamous 1974 tour of Australia, when he created a storm by referring to local female journalists as ‘hookers.’ And both the Brownlow Medal and the Logies were hosted in its function rooms. In 1999 it was sold off and slowly demolished, with the site sitting vacant for several years. The location is now occupied by this, considerably less flamboyant, mixed use building:



235 Bourke Street


Very few pictures or drawings remain of the Tivoli Theatre. When it opened in 1901 (from a design by William Pitt) it was originally named ‘Harry Rickards’ New Opera House’, after it’s first owner. The theatre presented a variety of live entertainments, including music, comedy and vaudeville. Harry Houdini,W.C. Fields and Chico Marx are among the famous names who performed there.


Sold by Rickards in 1912, it was renamed the Tivoli shortly after and continued to present live entertainment right through until the 1960s. Converted in that decade to a cinema, the fate of many of Melbourne’s old theatres, the building was destroyed by fire in 1967. The ‘Tivoli Arcade’ stands on the site today:



Swanston Street, Between Bourke and Collins Streets


Built in 1888, the Queen Victoria Buildings ran the length of the block on Swanston Street, opposite the town hall. A rare local example of French Second Empire architecture, the elaborate facade and roof of the building was further ornamented by a number of statues, including a sizable one of the monarch it was named after. The building was used for high end retail shops and featured a glass topped arcade, The Queens Walk, that ran between Bourke and Collins:


In the 1960’s, the Melbourne City Council began to consider the construction of a large public park in the city centre. Across a decade or more, it gradually acquired parts of the Queen Victoria – and other adjacent – buildings for this purpose. Demolition commenced in the late 1960’s and took several years (The Regent Hotel was also acquired and scheduled to be knocked down as part of the same project, but was saved by a union ban). The new open space was dubbed ‘City Square’:


Windswept and largely ignored, part of it was sold for development in the 1990s and the Westin Hotel was built on this section. The remainder of the park was redesigned and remains for public use:



172 – 254 Lonsdale Street


Built in 1911 of bluestone, with stylish towers and iron railings, the Melbourne was almost too elegant to be a hospital. It’s graceful facade was further complemented by a lush garden (visible above) that ran around two sides of the grounds. Initially home to the principal hospital for the city, in 1946 it was reconstituted as a specialised institution for women and children (and was solely staffed by women for a time), and renamed the Queen Victoria. The hospital closed in 1987 and the site was then used for a variety of unlikely purposes, including a mini golf course and a craft market. In 1992 the site was purchased by a development group and three of the four hospital buildings demolished. The bulk of the property was then turned into a mixed commerical premises, the QV Building:


The one remaining hospital building was refurbished and returned to its previous use, once again offering care to women and children, in 1994.




264 – 270 Collins Street


One of Australia’s most famous architects, Walter Burley Griffin, designed the sumptuous Cafe Australia, a remodeling of an existing cafe on Collins Street. Opening in 1916, the cafe bore all of Griffin’s trademarks; an elaborate facade and entryway, delicate concrete ornamentation and highly stylised interiors.



Cafe Australia was only shortlived, however. It closed and demolished in 1938 and was replaced by the similarly named Hotel Australia, which borrowed much from Griffin’s design, but lacked the overall panache of the previous establishment.


This building was then reworked into the current occupant of the site, ‘Australia on Collins’, an up market retail space.


Source: marvmelb.blogspot.com

Heritage listing can be achieved on a number of quite different grounds. Check here “Heritage Listing – What is it?” for a previous blog we presented that has links and an explanation of what achieving a Heritage Listing can entail.

Our heritage is what gives our cities and towns, our nation it’s character. It should be respected and protected so that future generations can appreciate just how we have come to live in this wide brown land.

From Victorian pomp and grandeur to the rather abstract and visually challenging lines of Federation Square – it’s simply our heritage, our imprimatur – it’s certainly worth preserving.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance 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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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 Manor House and Banyule – Our Heritage – Some of our earliest buildings.

For many of us the 1840s seems like a very long time ago, but in Architectural terms it is yesterday, so to speak. For Victorians however this is actually the period when many of our earliest buildings were designed and constructed, and for most people these buildings are obscure – being now surrounded by modern suburbia or townships. This week we review The Manor House in Bacchus Marsh, the nearby Former Leahy’s Residence and lastly the jewel in the crown – Banyule in Heidelberg, currently the subject of a protracted VCAT dispute between current owners and Banyule Council.

Manor House


Manor House is one of Victoria’s oldest homes. In the time of John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner, pastoralists from Launceston in Tasmania’s north were exploring the Southern Coastal regions of Victoria. One such gentleman was Mr Kenneth Clarke who had emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land in 1818. Clarke brought over a flock of sheep from George Town in Tasmania on behalf of the Great Lakes Pastoral Company.

In 1838 Mr Clarke chose to shift his initial operation, situated near the junction of the Werribee and Lederberg Rivers further west to the Pentland Hills. His original holding passed to Captain William Bacchus and his son, also pastoralists.


Bacchus extended his holding on the river junction to a radius of 3 miles. The property consisted of the Head Station and four outstations (huts). In the survey of 1839-40, a structure is shown on the present day site of Manor House, possibly a brick building pre-dating the existing house.

Bacchus was a foundation member of the influential Melbourne Club, a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club and the ‘Pastoral and Agricultural Society of Australian Felix’. He became a successful land developer in Melbourne, avoiding the ‘1842 depression’. In 1846-47, Bacchus erected a substantial and imposing house of a scale which reflected an image for a suitable dwelling for a country gentleman. As is oft the case, Captain Bacchus only lived in the house for two years before he died. The house was occupied after he died by a Robert Neldur Clarke for two years until Bacchus’s son, William Henry Bacchus, leased the property to the Victorian Colonial Government for use as a Court House (Petty Sessions).


Amusingly enough it was then sold to James Elijah Crook in 1856, and the Crook family occupied the home for over 90 years. It received National Trust accreditation in 1959 – one of the first to have such protection bestowed upon it.

The house was eventually restored by Dr Pulteney Malcolm and his wife who did so with the assistance of National Trust honorary Architects John and Phyllis Murphy. So by now you’ve realised – Bacchus Marsh was in fact Bacchus’s Marsh.

The house is architecturally significant as one of Victoria’s earliest surviving substantial homes. It is built in the Victorian Regency style – with a high level of craftsmanship in its joinery and stonemasonry.

For your enjoyment here is an article from the ‘Bacchus Marsh Express’ Sat 23rd February, 1907.

The Manor House, Bacchus Marsh.


Between tenancies we had a glance round the building and grounds last week, as many others did, and found the site and building both admirable and of considerable historical interest, as Victorian annals go.

The building is of two storeys, with freestone facade, substantial and ornamental. There is a side wing curved brick wall, and a “horse block” of stone in front of the door. There are five top-storey windows, and two on each side of the doorway. Some fluted columns still show good “arrises,” and the building is in good repair, on the whole, but needing renovations. There is a battered sundial in the garden-a relic with a history, no doubt. In fact the place is full of history, as it was the Courthouse, the lock-up, and various other things in the early days.

There has been a fine orchard, before the days of Codlin. The trees are mostly pears, and are still bearing well. There are a couple of fine mulberry trees.

A resident owner, spending £500 on the property, could restore its former glories.

Mr. Cornelius Mahoney, J.P., a resident here for 63 years, and a mason by trade, gives us the following particulars respecting Manor House:-John Dorricut was the carpenter, with two others whose names I did not know. The mason who did the ornamental work in freestone, &c., round the windows and doorway, was Robert Rhodes. The owner when it was built was Mr. W. H. Bacchus, son of Captain H. Bacchus—both long dead. It was built in 1850 or ’51. When Bacchus sold out, Aitkin- & Clark became the purchasers, who subdivided the land, and sold it in lots at auction. The Manor House, and 12 acres of ground attached, was reserved at the price of £1,000. The Government rented it then as a Police station for a time. Subsequently Mr. J. E. Crook became the purchaser at £1,100, and he occupied it, with his family, during life. It was subsequently let to Mr. Jeremiah Ryan, at £100 a year, for a term of 10 years, with the option of purchase at the expiration of his lease, but he only survived six years of his leasehold. The freestone used in the house came from Matson’s quarry, which is a continuation of the present Bald hill. The stone was largely used in building the Treasury, Melbourne, but was condemned because some did not stand the weather-an unjust decision, because the defects were due to careless quarrying of surface stone. Had the men gone deeper the stone was of most excellent quality; and if ever the quarry is re-opened will, I am sure, prove a most reliable asset. An evidence of this fact may be obtained by any person examining the doorway, &c., af the Manor House, as hewn by the late R. Rhodes, who was an excellent mason.

Source: trove.nla.gov.au

Bacchus Marsh became a significant gateway to the Goldfields of Ballarat, Castlemaine, Clunes, Daylesford and Bendigo.

The Former Leahy’s Residence (quaint!) was originally a domestic residence, originally constructed in the 1840s, then converted to a hotel to take advantage of the passing trade heading to the Goldfields. It represented a strong connection with the local Irish enclave and with local sawmilling, flour milling and cheese making industries.



We move on to Banyule. Banyule is one of Melbourne’s largest municipal councils, and the Banyule Homestead, located at 60 Buckingham Drive Heidelberg, was the very first substantial home in this part of what is now greater Melbourne. The Council takes its name from this hilltop property.


Banyule was built in 1846 for a Mr John Hawdon, to the design of Colonial architect John Gill. Hawdon was an Englishman who with John Gardiner and John Hepburn drove cattle overland from New South Wales to the Port Phillip District in 1836. The property he selected had splendid views of the Yarra River. At the time Heidelberg in the 1840s was a popular rural retreat for the landed gentry. Architect John Gill determined this property was to be constructed in an Elizabethan style with french gables, crenellated oriel, pepper pot pinnacles and chimney groups. The building of two storeys provided a most pleasing visual vista and its original part-shingled roof was replaced with slate entirely by 1867.


The 1846 house had three main rooms asymmetrically arranged on the ground floor and a fine staircase leading to the six rooms on the first floor. Gothic forms were used for interior details such as mantelpieces, cornices, doors and architraves. The detached two-roomed kitchen block to the north-east might have been built in c1843, before the main house. In 1908 there were major additions, designed by the architects Klingender & Alsop: a two storey wing, in a style sympathetic to the original, was added to the south-east, and on the north side the kitchen block was linked to the house. In 1922 repair work was done under the supervision of A & K Henderson. In 1975-7 the house was altered by Yuncken Freeman Architects for use by the National Gallery of Victoria. This involved the removal of internal walls and doors, filling in of fireplaces, and the removal of a chimney. It is now again a private residence.


The grounds have been reduced in size, and later development, including the building of a tennis court and swimming pool, has altered the landscape. Remnants of the early garden planting, including cypress trees, paths and walls remain. The main feature of the garden is a very large and prominent Blue Cedar, (Cedrus atlantica f glauca) in the front garden.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au


Banyule is architecturally significant, again as one of Victoria’s earliest grand residences, but also importantly for its sophistication and style.

It is a rare remnant of Pre Gold Rush Victorian Architecture that has remained remarkably intact. And it is the only known rendition of Elizabethan style executed by John Gill still remaining.

Currently, the Banyule Council has taken the present owners of Banyule to VCAT. The owners desire to use Banyule as a Wedding Reception venue. This has met with strong objections from the now very gentrified surrounding suburb, which represents some of the most expensive real estate in Melbourne.


An update from Banyule Council will be available soon.


From our perspective, properties like Banyule should not be left to chance. We have a very new history, and buildings such as Banyule play in integral role in mapping our ‘DNA’ as a city – so to speak. It would be sensible for the National Trust or similar to eventually purchase places such as Banyule, as it has done with other very important heritage listed properties. The National Gallery of Victoria appears to have ‘modernised’ the building in 1975-77. Perhaps now is a great time for them to ‘make an offer’ and restore to its original glory one of Melbourne’s grandest homes, yet best kept secrets. It would be a remarkable location to profile the Heidelberg School of artists. Food for thought.


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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.