Heritage How Do You Value It?

Shell House, Spring Street, Melbourne. Wikimedia.

The CBD of Melbourne is short on one thing – space. There is a continual battle to achieve useable space by developers, the reason is simple – you can only go up! Going up means one thing – profitability. In this case we are not speaking of a moderate profit, we are looking at mega profits. Now we get to the latest conflict in the CBD – the dispute over the Heritage listed Shell building on the corner of Flinders Street and Spring Street designed by the late Harry Seidler, the famed modernist Architect. The space in question is the two sections of the Shell Plaza opening onto Flinders Lane and Spring Street. The Shell Building and its Plaza are heritage listed. Note it’s not just the Shell Building itself but the adjoining Plaza is also included. The Plaza is an integral part of the overall design and, as such, is covered by the heritage citation of 2017.

For your interest here is a recent article Clay Lucas published in The Age April 5, 2021.

Plonked on a plaza: Skyscraper plan puts spotlight on heritage laws

Marcel Mihulka and his family chose to live near Shell House – the skyscraper on the corner of Flinders and Spring streets – in part because of the heritage listing stopping redevelopment of one of Melbourne’s most decorated pieces of architecture.

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

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

The tower’s owners, the Besen and Roth families, want to dig up its rear plaza in Flinders Lane and build a 33-storey tower, standing apart from Shell House but linked via a sky bridge at the 15th level.

“If they can do that to this building, what’s next? Why have heritage laws if they can just plonk this tower here?” said Mr Mihulka, whose property is not overly affected by the plan but who is angered by what he sees as its brazen nature.

Ultimately, Planning Minister Richard Wynne, whose office for a time was in the tower, could decide on the plan.

Two integral parts of Shell House’s design, according to its 2017 heritage citation, are the larger Spring Street plaza and a smaller one in Flinders Lane, about 1200 square metres in size.

The plazas were designed to complement the tower, completed in 1989 by the Shell company. Seen from above, the skyscraper is the shape of a nautilus shell.

In 1994 Shell sold the tower for $135 million to its current owners, the Roth family from Sydney, and a Melbourne company with Daniel Besen among its directors.

The group wants to replace the Flinders Lane plaza, referred to in one of the company’s submissions as “underdeveloped land”, with a tower they argue will complement Shell House.

Shell House is Melbourne’s only tower designed by Seidler, a controversial pioneer of modernism in Australia and one of the country’s most influential architects. It won both state and national architecture awards.

Proposed development area

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

The plan for the rear plaza of his Melbourne tower has been supported by Seidler’s firm, now led by his wife, architect Penelope Evatt Seidler. The firm worked on recent renovations to Shell House.

Also in support is architectural historian Philip Goad, from Melbourne University, a leading modernism expert.

In a submission to Heritage Victoria, he argues the larger Spring and Flinders streets plaza is unaffected by the plan, and a new building on the Flinders Lane plaza would be sympathetic to both Shell House’s heritage and another building on the site, the art nouveau Milton House. It was built in 1901. The new tower would project over Milton House.

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

Other experts, though, have questioned the plan.

Another Melbourne University architecture academic, Rory Hyde, said while the proposed new tower was respectful and “seems to be of high quality and considered”, the entire site was heritage listed, not just the Shell House tower.

Harry Seidler’s legacy

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

Professor Hyde argues the plaza should not be built over.

“We need more of these public spaces, not fewer,” he said.

The National Trust has submitted a strong objection, with Victorian chief executive Simon Ambrose saying the proposed tower will “completely undermine” the integrity of Seidler’s original design.

“The approval of this proposal would set a dangerous precedent for all places provided with the highest level of heritage protection in our state,” Mr Ambrose says.

The building is almost entirely leased to government departments, including the Department of Transport, Public Transport Victoria, the Taxi Service Commission and VicRoads.

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

Its owners spend $1.3 million a year “maintaining and conserving” the tower and Milton House.

Heritage consultant Rohan Storey made a submission opposing the plan on behalf of lobby group Melbourne Heritage Action. He says the tower is a fantastic example of a free-standing Seidler tower.

“Modernist towers tended to be free-standing and surrounded by open space,” he said, adding the tower’s plaza’s were “landscaped with materials that are Seidler signatures; it’s not just a plaza, it’s a Seidler plaza”.

Melbourne City councillor Rohan Leppert, chair of the city’s heritage committee, says the proposal could not be approved by Mr Wynne even if heritage authorities allow it to proceed. “The lack of setbacks render the proposal prohibited under the Melbourne Planning Scheme,” he said.

If Heritage Victoria approves the plan it will go to the Planning Minister, Mr Wynne, for approval. His spokeswoman said the application was only now being assessed by the heritage body.

Harry Seidler in his own words

The late Harry Seidler talks about his career. From a 2004 documentary, with footage and images of his buildings as they stand today.

Mr Mihulka says Shell House is “a great example of modernist architecture and one Melburnians are rightly proud of”. He says the new tower, designed by architects Ingenhoven and Architectus, “looks world class – but [Shell House] is heritage-listed for a reason”.

The skyscraper’s owners argue the project should be allowed to proceed because it will improve pedestrian access through the city block. “If they want to improve pedestrian flow, you can do that without a tower,” said Mr Mihulka.

Also to clarify the matter further here is the Statement of Significance from the Victorian Heritage database.

Statement of Significance

What is significant?

1 Spring Street, Melbourne comprising an office tower and northern podium, main foyer with Arthur Boyd mural ‘Bathers and Pulpit Rock’ and external plazas including a large external plaza at the Spring Street corner containing the Charles O Perry sculpture ‘Shell Mace’. The building was originally known as Shell House, and is referred to as such below.

History Summary

Shell House was the third headquarters building erected for the Shell Company of Australia Ltd in Melbourne. Constructed in 1985-89, the building replaced earlier headquarters constructed in 1933 and 1958 and was occupied by Shell until 2003-2004. The company commissioned the highly regarded commercial architect and leading Australian modernist, Harry Seidler, to design Shell House. Seidler was trained by Modernist architects in the United States before arriving in Australia in 1948 and throughout his career his work continued to display the ideals of this movement. This included the use of basic geometric shapes, sculptural and simple form, visual expression of structure and generous civic spaces. Seidler continued to explore skyscraper design from the 1960s to the 1990s, producing a series of office buildings in Australia and overseas. Shell House is the only example of these built in Victoria. Shell House won a number of awards including the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Victoria Merit Award in 1991 and the National RAIA Award in the same year.

Description Summary

Located on a sloping L-shaped site at the south-eastern corner of the Melbourne city grid, Shell House is a late twentieth century International style office tower with side podium, basement carpark and external plazas. The building is a concrete structure with granite-faced lower facades and a repetitive floor construction system of clear span beams of equal length. With an interest in geometry, simplicity of form and clear expression of structure, Harry Seidler designed the building using two counterpoint curved sections to maximise views to the south and east, to accommodate existing underground railway tunnels and to present a commanding entry point to the city. The core of the building, containing lifts and amenities, is located on the off-view north side and the office floors wrap around this core.

The building integrates dramatic level changes for public access from the south, south east and north through a central control point located in the main Spring Street foyer. This foyer is accessed via stairs from Flinders Street or directly from the primary external entry plaza at the corner of Flinders and Spring Streets. The main entry plaza contains a dominant structural and sculptural building pier and a specially commissioned sculpture, ‘Shell Mace’ by American sculptor and architect, Charles O Perry (1989). The foyer has soaring ceilings, with a mural, ‘Bathers and Pulpit Rock’ by Arthur Boyd (1988) and sets of escalators which lead to the mezzanine and conference centre level. The conference centre provides access to meeting rooms arranged around a circular light well, an auditorium and a narrow secondary pedestrian plaza entry from Flinders Lane. The mezzanine level provides access to a former cafeteria space, with built in seating arranged around the base of the light well, a servery and adjoining commercial kitchen.

The office tower uses a repetitive floor construction system of clear span beams of equal length, resulting in a uniform 15 metre wide column-free space from the services core to the external windows. This, along with the concealment of computer cabling and electrical wiring under a 250 mm access floor, creates an interior aesthetic which is open, light and spacious. All office floors have expansive views to the south and east of the city. The top two floors of the office tower contain an executive suite with external terrace garden, garden court and spiral granite staircase between levels. A variety of quality finishes have been used throughout the building for paving, floor and wall cladding, including Italian granite and travertine, and much of this has been retained.

Some changes have been made to the office floor configurations and fittings, including the executive suite.

This site is part of the traditional land of the people of the Kulin Nation.How is it significant?

Shell House is of architectural and aesthetic significance to the State of Victoria. It satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:

Criterion D

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

Criterion E

Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics.Why is it significant?

Shell House is significant at the State level for the following reasons:

Shell House is architecturally significant as an outstanding example of a late modernist office building in Victoria, designed by one of the style’s most accomplished proponents, the renowned Australian architect, Harry Seidler. Late modernism, as expressed in Shell House is demonstrated principally through sculptural form, use of solid concrete and other massive materials, and a variety of textural finishes. Shell House is also significant for the clarity with which it expresses particular themes and motifs characteristic of Seidler’s work. These include the use of opposing curvilinear forms and the generous planning of public areas, both externally an internally.

Shell House is one of an important series of high rise tower projects designed by Harry Seidler both nationally and internationally from the 1960s to the 1990s, and is the only one located in Victoria. Shell House is of architectural significance for its innovative design response to a difficult site and for its integration of dramatic level changes for public access from surrounding streets through a central lower foyer control point. Shell House won a number of awards including the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Victoria Merit Award in 1991 and the National RAIA Award in the same year. Seidler is considered to be one of the major talents in Australian architectural history who made a substantial contribution to Australian architecture. [Criterion D]

Shell House is aesthetically significant for the sculptural effect created by the interlocking curvilinear form of the building that is reflected in the interior planning. The quality of the interior spaces and their relationship to the extensive outdoor terraces at several levels of the building is of high aesthetic value, both visually and experientially. The location at the south-east corner of the Hoddle Grid is highlighted by elements such as the large tapered pier at the Spring Street/Flinders Street entrance.

The aesthetic qualities of the place are enhanced by the incorporation of large scale artworks which complement the architecture and were selected by Seidler for the building. Significant pieces include the foyer mural ‘Bathers and Pulpit Rock’ by Arthur Boyd (1988) and the external plaza sculpture ‘Shell Mace’ by Charles O Perry (1989). [Criterion E]

The ability to appreciate the relevant aesthetic characteristics is enhanced by the high degree of intactness and integrity of the Place, both internally and externally.

TO SUMMARISE:

Let’s get to the nub of the problem. Developers are prepared to take great financial risks to overcome heritage listing and overlays. The Corkman Cowboys stood to make a huge profit on the twelve-storey apartment block they proposed to build. The promoters of the Metro Nightclub development which saw irreplaceable decorative mouldings and a Melbourne icon destroyed were motivated purely by profit. In the case of many such CBD developments the aim to create apartment complexes is at odds with the current glut of unoccupied apartment buildings within the area. But development is often a long term strategy so when the market turns? – it’s profit all the way. 

It comes down to what we value as a community and as a society. Do we want to become another Shanghai or Kowloon with not a millimetre of open space available for recreation, for trees, for greenery? 

Why is this happening? Quite simply it’s made possible by the impotence of the current heritage system. Heritage Victoria is somewhat underfunded by the Victorian government and complicating this is its reliance on local government maintaining both local heritage overlays and to some extent policing heritage laws. In a number of municipal areas it would seem the preference would be for increased rates and planning fees from developers. There is little public understanding of what heritage values are and why there is a value placed on heritage. Only a few weeks ago on the Balance Facebook page we have had comments from people decrying the Eastern Freeway heritage listing and more recently the difficulty of owning heritage properties in Brunswick.

There is little or no knowledge of the heritage grants available in various locations and little appreciation of some of the magnificent architecture that has been and is still retained via the Heritage system.

Now is the time for genuine action and response. We feel for the Besen and Roth families and their dire need for more profit, but frankly, we would like to see a plan brought forward to bring the Shell Plazas to life for public usage. The last thing Melbourne’s CBD needs is another multi storey tower adjacent to parklands. It really is time for a heritage summit, bringing together local government, State government, the National Trust, Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Council of Victoria as well as developers and property owners. There must be an acknowledged and accepted recognition of what heritage values are and why heritage preservation is so very important. In the UK heritage protection is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This funding is substantial and guarantees heritage action where and when required. 

We would like to see some of Britain’s laws on heritage introduced here. For instance, if you demolish a heritage building in Britain you are forced to rebuild it to the exact specifications of the original building and, at the same time, suffer heavy fines for having demolished the building. 

In Australia, it seems that heritage listing is seen as a challenge (to overcome) by developers and their advisors. 

Well, no more – heritage is who we are, where we have come from and what we hold in true high esteem.  It’s time for a change. Right about NOW

Heritage Protection 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,

Federation Square – Heritage Listed – An Extraordinary Project

In Melbourne nothing stimulates discussion on the relative merit of the architecture of new landmark sites as does the mention of Federation Square or Southern Cross Station. People either love them or hate them.

In the case of Federation Square we are definitely admirers… Let me give you our reasons.

Over the last 200 years the site has had a range of somewhat unpleasant uses. It hosted the City Morgue and the trains that transported the dead to the Kew Cemetery, the original Fish Market, Corporate offices of the most unsightly building that ever graced Melbourne and massive Railway Yards, rolling stock and workshops, an atmosphere of dust, metal noise, smoke exhaust and oil.

With many planners keen to link the Melbourne CBD with its river the Yarra, these plans were always undermined by the conundrum of what to do with the then required extensive and extremely busy Railway yards and facilities.

Perhaps one of the biggest bug-bears was the ridiculous situation where the incredibly ugly Gas and Fuel Towers blocked the view of one of Melbourne’s most iconic and beautiful buildings – St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Gas and Fuel Corporation Towers were somewhat representative of the times in which their construction occurred – 1967. Brown brick, aluminium windows, a pale green and brown monstrosity, commissioned and built over what was originally the Princes Bridge Station and Rail Yards on the South side of Flinders St. What a contradiction it was to the surrounding cityscape.

St Paul’s, Flinders St Station, Young and Jacksons Hotel, the Forum Theatre – all delightful and interesting buildings, constructed to be somewhat timeless – and the Gas and Fuel Building – plonked like a huge hideous misshapen Lego block. When it was finally demolished in 1997 it was to make way for Federation Square and Birrarung Marr, an extensive, beautiful addition to Melbourne’s parkland.

The Railways had occupied the land since 1859, and over the years it became the driving hub for the Melbourne Electrified Railway System.

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Prior to this for thousands of years the site had been the meeting place for indigenous tribes of the Kulin Confederacy. The Wathaurung, the Bunarong and the Woiworung peoples occupied the surrounding lands to the North, South and East with the swamps and salt marshes West to the Marybnong River and beyond being considered communal hunting grounds. Tribal people still camped on the Yarra banks, both sides, stretching from this area down to the MCG and Government House during the early years of European settlement.

Federation Square and its development leading up to the Centenary of Federation in 2001 gave rise to a perfect opportunity to celebrate the ideas of ‘identity’ and ‘place’ in providing a much needed civic and cultural space.

The Victorian Government had commissioned the architecture to Lab Architecture Studio, a firm based in London and Melbourne firm Bates Smart with whom they formed a partnership. Lab Architecture had originally been one of five finalists in the Victorian Government two stage design competition commenced in 1996. The partnership with Bates Smart, a premier Melbourne Architecture firm was required to proceed to the second stage and the consortium was awarded the contract for the design of the new area..

The Fractal Facade is an extraordinary feature. “Three cladding materials: sandstone, zinc (perforated and solid) and glass have been used in a circular pinwheel grid. This modular system uses five single triangles (all of the same size and proportion) to make up a larger triangular panel. Following the same geometrical logic, five panels are joined together to create a large triangular ‘mega panel’ which is then mounted onto the structural frame to form the visible facade.” [from http://www.fedsquare.com]

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For the public the controversy was fanned by ‘shock jock’ radio personalities and tabloid journalists who simply ‘didn’t get it’. The criticism went so far as to see the Glass Shards planned for the North Western corner removed from the plan and the finished result. It was claimed the Government did this to appease critics who believed it would again block the vista of St Paul’s Cathedral however many believe it was an unnecessary political intervention to ameliorate ongoing criticism from more conservative voices in the community.

It is now recognised as an extraordinary contemporary work lauded and praised internationally as changing the overall look of the Melbourne CBD and its entrance. The public have adopted it and its features with enthusiasm and it plays a huge role in Melbourne’s Cultural and Civic Events.

As well, as of 2019, Federation Square enjoys Heritage Protection, having been listed as a Heritage site by the Heritage Council of Victoria. This process was hastened by an ill-advised attempt by both the management of Federation Square and the State Government to demolish part of it and replace it with an Apple Store. With objections from the National Trust, the City of Melbourne, and one of the original architects, the modification was rejected and the square remains intact. Currently the South East corner is off-limits whilst the new Melbourne Underground is constructed.

This in no way encroaches on the visitors experience as most of the works are occurring beneath the ground.

Federation Square is well worth a visit. It provides a gateway to the Melbourne CBD and is an eclectic creation that offers a wide range of activities. From Bars and Cinemas, restaurants and expansive outdoor spaces, it is truly magnificent.

And everyday thousands of Melbournians commute on trains to and from the city beneath the structure. The cinemas, galleries, radio and television studios barely experience a vibration. It is in fact one of the largest expanses of railway decking ever built in Australia taking twelve months to complete.

Next week we revisit Melbourne’s latest Heritage battle – from Sandringham to Black Rock where the wonderful modernist homes of the 1950s and 1960s are under real threat. Already homes built and designed by Robyn Boyd and his contemporaries have succumbed to demolition. The latest challenge is a property located at 372 Beach Rd Beaumaris. The developers have applied to build two new dwellings on the site. Stay tuned.

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

Maritime Beginnings – A Time for Reflection

Holiday times – a great time for reflection, for contemplation. Australia is a nation based on maritime immigration. Originally individual colonies, the 6 Colonies each supported their own navies. You could say we came by boat. But what of the heritage, the historical locations and buildings of those times? Are we really ensuring those significant locations are adequately protected and maintained?

Sydney Harbour features some of our oldest Maritime history and heritage locations. The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust manages much of this. It manages Cockatoo Island and the nearby Spectacle Island is managed by the Navy. The small island called Snapper Island however is not. It’s currently managed by, believe it or not, the Commonwealth Department of Finance. With a seemingly impassable block between this Department and the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, the island is slowly decaying through neglect.

Sydney’s tiny heritage-listed Snapper Island in sorry state

It’s the smallest island in Sydney Harbour, once a training ground for sea cadets but now shuttered up and home to a gently deteriorating collection of heritage-listed buildings and a raucous seagull colony.

But Snapper’s relative obscurity should be no reason for a large company, now seeking to demolish one of the island’s structures, to confuse it with an identically named island 200 kilometres to the north-east.

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Sydney’s boat-shaped Snapper Island, just 1.65 hectares in size, sits 200 metres off Drummoyne. Credit:Mark Merton/Sydney Images

And that’s just the beginning of Commonwealth-owned Snapper Island’s woes. An impasse between the federal Department of Finance and the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust has left the tiny island in bureaucratic limbo, while its heritage structures lapse into decay.

Broadspectrum, the company that, in a previous incarnation, ran offshore detention centres on Manus and Nauru, last month applied to knock down an ablutions block on the island under a management contract with the Department of Finance.

But in documents lodged with the federal Environment Department, Broadspectrum nominated not one but two sets of co-ordinates to pinpoint the island’s location.

The second set appear to identify not the Sydney Harbour island but a Snapper Island off Port Stephens. So far, the company (which admits undertaking no public consultation on the project) has offered no explanation for the confusion, despite repeated approaches from the Herald.

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The tiny island is in bureaucratic limbo, while its heritage structures lapse into decay. Credit:Deborah Snow

Sydney’s Snapper Island, just 1.65 hectares in size, sits 200 metres off Drummoyne and is close to nearby historic Cockatoo Island (owned by the Harbour trust) and Spectacle Island (owned by the navy).

All three islands are woven into the rich nautical history of the western harbour, and it was long envisaged that Snapper would eventually pass to the trust, set up by John Howard in 2001 to manage former Defence lands around the harbour. Indeed in 2013-14 it appears the trust did carry out some rudimentary preservation works on Snapper.

But the Herald confirmed this week that negotiations between Finance and the trust have ground to a standstill over a lack of funds for remediation.

Finance, meanwhile, has included Snapper in 77 Commonwealth sites it has subcontracted Broadspectrum to manage on its behalf.

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Between the wars Snapper Island was converted into a youth nautical training facility, its surface flattened by rock-blasting, and stone seawalls sculpted to create the shape of a ship. Credit:Peter Morris

The company concedes that demolition of the ablutions block will “result in significant impacts to identified heritage values at Snapper Island” but insists there is no alternative because of threatened asbestos and lead-paint contamination.

Prominent Sydney business identity Joseph Carrozzi, who chairs the trust board, accepts that the island is “an important site and we have been in discussion about the potential transfer to the Harbour trust. However it is [our] view that the transfer should not proceed unless it is linked to the required funding to remediate the land and open it to the public.”

Source: smh.com.au

In its earliest days right up to Federation the fledgling Victorian Colony operated its own Navy and a series of defensive forts.

Victorian Naval Forces

The Colony of Victoria commenced construction of its first armed vessel in 1853, HMVS Victoria which was launched on 30 June 1855 and arrived in Victoria on 31 May 1856. Victoria carried out a large variety of tasks during its life, including taking part in the Maori Wars, assisting in the search for Burke and Wills, delivering the first trout eggs to Tasmania, as well as numerous surveying and rescue tasks.

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The torpedo boat HMAS Countess of Hopetoun, 1919

In 1859 the first Naval Brigade was formed. The Brigade was re-organised in 1863 as a half-militia, re-formed in 1871 as the Victorian Naval Reserve as a full militia and re-formed again in 1885 as the Victorian Naval Brigade.
The Victorian Naval Forces comprised the permanent force known as the Victorian Navy, and a 300-strong Victorian Naval Brigade consisting of the Williamstown Division and the Sandridge (Port Melbourne) Division. Combined the Victorian Navy and the Victorian Naval Brigade were known as the Victorian Naval Forces.

Following the success of Victoria, the Victorian colonial government ordered an ironclad ship, HMVS Cerberus and was gifted the composite steam-sail warship, Nelson.

In 1884 several more warships were purchased by Victoria, these included the first-class torpedo boat Childers and second-class torpedo boats Lonsdale, and Nepean and the third-class gunboats Victoria and Albert. In 1886 the turnabout torpedo boat Gordon was acquired. In 1892, the first-class torpedo boat, Countess of Hopetoun arrived in Victoria.

To supplement the ships of the permanent force a number of government vessels were modified so as to serve as gunboats or torpedo boats. The hopper barges Batman and Fawkner were modified so as to mount a six-inch breech-loading gun at the bow of each ship. Two machine guns were also fitted. Strengthening of the bow, the fitting of a magazine, shell room, crew quarters and some armour protection for the crew added two more gunboats to the fleet. A compressor fitted to Fawkner meant that the torpedo boats could be serviced at sea. The tug boat Gannet and steamer Lady Loch were likewise modified.

The Harbour Trust boats Commissioner and Customs No. 1 had two sets of torpedo dropping gear fitted to each boat thereby adding two more torpedo boats to the fleet. In 1885 the government steamers Lion and Spray were fitted with six-pounder Armstrong guns. Spray was later fitted with two sets of torpedo dropping gear.

Supporting the Victorian Naval Forces were the fortifications located at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay and other sites around the bay. In the years leading up to Federation the Victorian Naval Forces were considered the most powerful of all the colonial naval forces.

Source: wikipedia.org

One of these fortresses still exists. The Pope’s Eye was an early attempt by Colonialists to block a perceived threat from the Russian Navy.

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The Pope’s Eye

The fort has been protected as a marine reserve since 1979 and is now part of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park. It is located about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) inside Port Phillip Heads, 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) east of Queenscliff, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north of Portsea, and is less than 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) south-west of the former Chinaman’s Hat. It is named after a naval midshipman and has no religious connotations.

Construction of Pope’s Eye began in the 1880s, under the supervision of Sir William Jervois, by dumping bluestone boulders on a submerged 12-metre (39 ft) deep sandbank until they formed a horse-shoe shaped artificial reef, open to the north-east, just above high-water level. Construction ceased before completion as a fort because improvements in naval gunnery enabled the entrance to Port Phillip (The Rip) and the associated shipping channel to be protected by guns at the nearby Swan Island fort, as well as at Fort Queenscliff and Fort Nepean, making Pope’s Eye redundant for military purposes. The reef now hosts a navigation beacon.

Source: wikipedia.org

Ultimately, Victoria commenced as a Maritime state with a high dependency on its British origins. For your interest, at this time of year, take your time to stroll down to Williamstown on the shores of Port Phillip Bay to get a feel for what those times were like. The guide included here offers the full gamut of colonial architecture and the historical development of a ‘seaside town’. Williamstown in the past had a very busy port, railhead and facilities such as a Racecourse, Botanical Gardens, Military Barracks and a Rifle Range. Let’s start.

Syme Street

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Jetty at Williamstown in Summer.

  • Williamstown Landing Place (Syme Street). The eastern end of Commonwealth Reserve was used as an early landing place to unload stock as early as 1836, and was probably near or on the subsequent site of Gem Pier.

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HMAS Castlemaine berthed at Gem Pier

  • Gem Pier & Commonwealth Reserve (Syme Street and Nelson Place). A 30-metre stone jetty was built by convict labour in 1838 where Gem Pier now stands at the end of Syme Street. Permanently stationed at Gem Pier is the Bathurst class corvette HMAS Castlemaine (1942) – a World War II minesweeper which was built at the local shipyards. It is now used as a maritime museum. Aside from the ship itself there is a collection of nautical memorabilia and exhibits within its confines. Another historic ship the Enterprize sails from Gem pier every month. Bay cruises and returns trips to Southbank also depart from Gem Pier. Commonwealth Reserve is located in the heart of historic Williamstown, on the foreshore adjacent to Gem Pier. The park was originally a mudflat adjacent to the Bay, before being reclaimed. The planting style consists of formal avenues of elms. A number of heritage items are located in the reserve including the Tide Gauge House (formerly at Point Gellibrand), the anchor of HMS Nelson and the Wilkinson Drinking Fountain.

Nelson Place

  • Tide Gauge House (Nelson Place). Built by convict labour at Point Gellibrand in 1857 to house one of three tide gauges that arrived from England in 1855, the bluestone Tide Gauge House is associated with the origin of the Australian Height Datum.
  • Former Bank of Australasia (189 Nelson Place). Designed by Reed and Barnes and constructed by Pearce and Murray in 1876–77, this was the eighth branch to be constructed for the Bank since its incorporation in 1835 and is believed to be the first suburban example.
  • Former Bay View Hotel (175 Nelson Place).
  • The Wilkinson Memorial Drinking Fountain (Cnr Syme Street and Nelson Place).
  • Former English, Scottish and Australian Bank (139 Nelson Place). Also known as the Mission to Seaman, and now occupied by Breizoz Crêpes, this building originally housed the second suburban branch of the fifteen ES&A banks known to have been built in Victoria. It was the first major purpose built bank branch in Williamstown.
  • Williamstown Customs House (Cnr Syme Street and Nelson Place). A stuccoed structure erected from 1873, to designs presumably by the Public Works Department of Victoria, the building is architecturally significant as a fine and relatively intact example of conservative Classical revival style architecture. It served as a Customs House, offices and residence.
  • Jacks & McIntosh Boat Repair Facilities (120 Nelson Place and 36 Syme Street). One of the first private boatbuilders in Williamstown, Jacks and McIntosh boatbuilders and shipwrights were located at the end of Thompson Street in 1841. The site is now occupied by the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria.
  • Williamstown Immigration Office and Depot (120 and 123 Nelson Place). These offices were established in Nelson Place near the corner of Thompson Street in the mid to late 1850s to process new arrivals during the gold rush.
  • Craigantina (125–129 Nelson Place). Comprising three two storey shops and residences, Craigantina was constructed in 1886 for John Harker Craig.
  • Former Royal Hotel (85 Nelson Place). The grand scale of the Royal Hotel is a consequence of change to Victoria’s licensing laws in 1877, which required hotels to have a minimum of 30 rooms of minimum dimensions to be licensed. The architect of the brick hotel, completed by 1893, was hotel specialist T. Anthoness and the builder was Henry Hick.
  • The Old Morgue (Ann Street). Now situated in the old Port of Melbourne Authority site, the former morgue is one of Williamstown’s early structures, important architecturally but more especially for its role in Williamstown’s history. The Georgian style building is believed to be the first morgue erected in Victoria (at its original location near Gem Pier in 1859) and was constructed in bluestone with convict labour. The building was subsequently relocated three times. Access to the Morgue is by appointment or through historical tours.

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CSS Shenendoah at Williamstown Docks, 1865

  • Williamstown Dockyards, including Alfred Graving Dock (Ann Street and Nelson Place).
  • Former Oriental Hotel (55 Nelson Place). There has been a building (Skelton Oriental Building) on this site since about 1850 when Benjamin Skelton built his corner building after purchasing land from the Crown in 1849 – Section 1, Allotment 8. The large three-storey flat roof with ornate parapet building was built before 1852 when it appears in a drawing of Williamstown by the famous artist, engineer and surveyor Edward Snell (designer of the Geelong Melbourne Railway). The drawing was later printed in 1854 by Quarrill as a Lithograph. With Benjamin Skelton taking a mortgage in June 1851 to develop the land with second substantial building on the Nelson Place frontage of Allotment 8, it seems that the Skelton Oriental Building is in fact pre the mortgage of June 1851 making it importantly one of the few pre-separation buildings. Pre-separation is an important heritage period which is before the Colony of Victoria separated from the Colony of NSW on 1 July 1851 and that period is pre Gold Rush too (September 1851). It is a unique building in design as well as age—the oldest remnant three-storey building.

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Restaurant themed after the RMS Titanic, 1 Nelson Place.

  • Former Prince of Wales Hotel (1 Nelson Place). Originally constructed c.1857, possibly to a design by Charles Laing, this is one of the oldest hotels and public buildings in Williamstown. It was first owned by the surgeon John Wilkins.[citation needed] Today it is occupied by the Titanic Theatre Restaurant.
  • Battery Road
  • Gellibrand Pier and Breakwater Pier (off Battery Road).
  • Williamstown Lighthouse or Timeball Tower at Point Gellibrand (Battery Road). Built in 1855 by convict labour, this bluestone tower originally operated as a lighthouse and still operates as a timeball. The tower is part of the Point Gellibrand Coastal Heritage Park, which is managed by Parks Victoria.
  • Fort Gellibrand (Battery Road). A 2.8 hectare site located near Point Gellibrand at the southernmost tip of Williamstown, Fort Gellibrand is of historical importance to the State of Victoria for its association with the development of defence strategies for the colony in the nineteenth century and for its association with the convict hulk period of the penal system in the colony. The Point Gellibrand shore batteries were first developed as part of an immediate defensive system for the city and port of Melbourne, prior to the establishment of batteries at the Port Phillip heads. The fort site contains the only remaining visible physical evidence of the system of four battery positions at Point Gellibrand from this period. The batteries at the fort were upgraded in the 1870s and 1880s, and the fort remained an integral part of the defensive system for Port Philip up until the late 1880s and 1890s. Today, the Fort is home to a reserve commando regiment of the Australian Army, the 2 Commando Company of the 1st Commando Regiment.[IMG View of Williamstown Beach from Gloucester Reserve car park, Williamstown]

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Shenendoah Hotel

The Esplanade

  • The Williamstown Dressing Pavilion (The Esplanade). Constructed at Williamstown Beach in 1936, the pavilion is an architecturally significant early example of European Modernism applied to the design of a pavilion structure by two then relatively unknown architects Arnold Bridge and Alan Bogle.
  • Former Lawn House (92 The Esplanade). In 1889–90 Williamstown’s prolific contractor, John Garnsworthy, built this house for his own use and lived there for at least the following fifteen years until the construction of his last residence, ‘White House’, at 5 The Strand. Mr Garnsworthy performed a number of large civil contracts throughout the State as part of the firm of Garnsworthy & Smith. These include the first contract for the costly formation of the entrance to the Gippsland Lakes (1883 for £13,328) and the Warrnambool breakwater (1884). Locally, his firm constructed part of the MMBW pumping station and the Melbourne Glass Bottle Works complex, both in Spotswood. Mr Garnsworthy was also on the first ‘election’ committee for the Williamstown Cottage Hospital after its incorporation in 1893.
  • The Williamstown Hospital (Railway Crescent). The Williamstown Hospital was opened on its present site in 1894. Enlarged and extended many times over the years, only part of the original building still survives and is only partly visible from Stewart Street.
  • Williamstown Croquet Club Pavilion (Victoria Street). Designed by Morsby & Coates and constructed in 1930, the Williamstown Croquet Club pavilion illustrates the development of Victoria Street as a fashionable middle class enclave in Williamstown during the Interwar period.
  • Williamstown Station precinct (Ann and Thompson Streets). The Williamstown railway station building and platform canopy, brick toilet block, timber and corrugated iron shed, platform, the Ann Street footbridge and the Thompson Street road bridge are all listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as it is the only substantially intact station precinct remaining from the original construction period of the Williamstown railway line.

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Williamstown Mechanics Institute

  • Williamstown Mechanics Institute (Electra Street). One of Hobsons Bay’s most historic sites, the foundation stone of the present building, originally a Mechanics Institute was laid in 1860. The institute now houses the Williamstown Historic society and a wealth of memorabilia about the local area and its development through the years, in addition to the thriving Williamstown Musical Theatre Company (WMTC) which has a vast history itself and stages various Musicals, Revues and Festivals throughout the year. http://www.wmtc.org.au
  • Excelsior Lodge of Industry Masonic Temple (Electra Street). Located close to the Mechanics Institute, this single-storey, red brick hall with a symmetrical Classical facade provides a powerful illustration of the importance of Masonic associations in the development of the Williamstown community during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
  • Park House, former Presbyterian Manse (27 Lyons Street). Designed by architect David Ross and built in 1856, this two-storey bluestone Georgian building was purchased in 1886 by Henry Hick and renamed Park House.
  • Former George Hotel (Lyons Street). An original timber building established in 1863 was replaced by the present building in 1872. The first licensee was George Gobal, a local councillor who served as Lord Mayor in 1879–80. The hotel was delicensed in 1927 and became a rooming house until 1978.
  • Former City of Williamstown Municipal Offices and Town Hall (Ferguson Street). The former Williamstown Municipal Offices uses an austere form of Italian and French Renaissance typical of the 1920s in Melbourne, were opened by the State Governor, Sir Arthur Stanley, in May 1919, almost one year after the foundation stone had been laid by the Mayor of Williamstown, Cr C Knowles on 5 June 1918. Following the amalgamation in 1994 of the City Williamstown with the City of Altona (and parts of other municipalities) the majority of municipal and administrative functions were transferred to the civic centre at Civic Parade, Altona. The buildings are currently undergoing restoration.
  • Former Williamstown City Council Electricity Supply Department (Bath Place). A near original example of an Interwar industrial building, the Williamstown City Council Electricity Supply Department building was designed for the Council by architects Frederick Morsby and HF Coates and constructed in 1929. This building in one of only two identified in the municipality that were directly associated with the Electricity Supply Department; the other is a former substation building in Stevedore Street.
  • Former Punshon’s Store (Ferguson Street). Designed by C. J. Polain, construction of this General store with cellar and roof garden was completed in 1890.
  • Former Melbourne Savings Bank (Ferguson Street). This building, now a residence and Dive shop, was opened as a branch of the Melbourne Savings Bank on 14 February 1887. It became a branch of the State Savings Bank of Victoria or ‘State Bank’ in 1912. In 1991 it became a branch of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia until 30 June 1995.
    The Strand
  • The Williamstown Rowing Club (End of Stanley Street, The Strand). Whilst the Rowing Club began in 1869, it did not purchase this site until 1875. The boathouse was added in 1876.
  • Ruffle’s Pier (The Strand). Pilot Thomas Ruffle built a stone jetty on the Strand, angled to the shore to reach deep water, sited nearby the present Anchorage Restaurant. His residence, Maxwelton, was located across the road from it. Ruffles advertised a ferry service in September 1856 and 1860, established at North Williamstown, to ply between his pier and Dalgano & Co. wharf, and to service steamers plying the Yarra. Ruffles died after an argument with locals over theft of stone from the pier structure. The wooden upper section of the jetty was removed sometime after his death in 1863 and before the construction of Barber’s Pier in 1879.
  • Mandalay (24 The Strand). This two-storey, colonial, Georgian derived style house was erected to the designs of surveyor William Bull in 1858 for ships chandler captain William Probert. Constructed of stuccoed bluestone, Mandalay is representative of the substantial houses which lined Hobsons Bay in the nineteenth century, many with their own piers across The Strand.
  • Craigdoon (14 The Strand). Constructed in 1876–77 for Peter Murray, who sold groceries, wine and spirits at his shop in Nelson Place, three doors west of Ann Street, from the late 1860s. Mr Murray remained in this house until at least 1910, adding five rooms from 1885 onward.
  • William Thomas Liley’s House (12 The Strand). This stone house with six rooms was built in 1862 for one of the longest serving pilots on the harbour, William Thomas Liley. He owned the house and resided there until after 1896. John Garnsworthy lived here for a time early this century prior to building the ‘White House’.

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  • Terrace Houses (10–11 The Strand). These two brick houses, each of six rooms, were built in 1881 for Samuel David Thomas, who had earlier been a successful gold miner and property speculator. He retained ownership of both houses until at least 1896, living in 10 and leasing 11 to various professional gentlemen, including Alex Wilson, an engineer; Richard Dowman, a Councillor; Robert Williams, a contractor; and a sea captain, Walter Vincent.
  • Cast iron fence and gates of Maritimo (8–9 The Strand). On this site in 1885, William H Croker, a local solicitor who specialised in maritime law, built his impressive boom-style towered mansion. He named it ‘Maritimo’. It is presumed that the fine cast iron fence was constructed sometime soon after. Maritimo was demolished in 1973, despite a long and concerted battle by local residents and conservation groups to save it, but the early front fence was saved.
  • White House (5 The Strand). Prominent Williamstown builder, John Garnsworthy (by then retired), commissioned this initially seven room stuccoed concrete house in 1907 at a reported cost of £1100. The villa was designed by him and erected under his supervision. The foundations alone cost £200, apparently in a bid to defeat the uncertain footings which had caused severe cracking in most of Williamstown’s major masonry buildings. He employed a similar approach in the Modern Buildings.
  • Ferguson Street Pier (Intersection of Nelson Place, The Strand and Ferguson Street). Initially called the Rosny Pier, tenders were called to construct this pier in 1924. Due to a dispute between over jurisdiction, the shoreward bluestone section of the pier was built by the Williamstown City Council, and the seaward end was built by the Melbourne Harbour Trust. In 1965, the Hobsons Bay Yacht Club was granted permission to moor its vessels on the south side of the pier, and has since expanded to occupy both sides of the pier. The pier was reconstructed in 2002/03.
  • Harts boatbuilding yard (Nelson Place near Ferguson Street). Sandwiched between the Ferguson St Pier and The Dredging Depot, it constructed small boats and yachts. The boatyard was offered for sale in 1893, and the land appears to have been purchased by the Hobsons Bay Yacht Club, who still occupy the site.
  • Former Port Health Officer’s residence (231 Nelson Place). Listed in the Victorian Heritage Register, this former residence and surgery is a distinctive and important example of a classical Revival town residence. It was built in 1852.
  • Blunts Boatyard and Slipway (Nelson Place). A rare operating example of the many small scale boat-building and repairing businesses which have operated on the Williamstown foreshore from the 1850s on, the Blunt family boat building business has operated continuously on this site in Williamstown since the 1880s. The site is entered in the Victorian Heritage Register.
  • Williamstown Navy Sea Cadets depot (Nelson Place, between Pasco and Parker Streets). The White Brothers operated a slipway here from at least 1877. The slipway was built on the northern side of the site, with a jetty the same length to the south. The facility is known to have been still operating in 1894. Substantial land reclamation was undertaken at the site sometime prior to 1907. Early photographs show the long pier still standing on the site in c 1925.

Steam Packet Hotel

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Steam Packet Hotel

  • The Modern Buildings (213–215 Nelson Place). In 1909, on the former site of a timber auction rooms and wood merchant’s yard owned by John Morgan, two concrete masonry shops and residences were erected by Williamstown builder John Garnsworthy. His tenants included a boot maker, a boot seller, and a watchmaker. The site is now occupied by Hobson’s Choice, a restaurant.
  • Former Advertiser Building (205 Nelson Place). Built between 1885 and 1888 for the proprietors of the Williamstown Advertiser, it served as both a printery for the newspaper and a shipping exchange. The building features a richly decorated facade with a frieze depicting William Caxton.
  • Former Williamstown Post Office (Cole Street). Built in several stages, beginning in 1859 just after the municipality was constituted, the Post Office typified public works design of the period. Extensive alterations transformed the building in 1895.
  • Steam Packet Hotel (corner Aitken and Cole Streets). A two-storey Classical Revival structure built in 1863 (to replace an earlier building), the Steam Packet Hotel was first opened in the mid-1850s.

Source: wikipedia.org

So as you can see, it wasn’t always such an issue to arrive here by boat. The fact is that’s the only way you could get here for many, many years. Right now it’s still those Port cities clinging to Australia’s vast coastline that still define our character. For people to move to inland cities, there needs to be a re-imagining of how we can live here with sufficient water, comfort and infrastructure to survive another 200 years. Right now Capetown in South Africa has virtually run out of water. Large cities need to start developing sustainable practices in architecture and town planning to cope with the massive increases in population. Decentralisation is also imperative.

But look around in Sydney, in Melbourne, look where we have come from. Whilst strolling in Williamstown contemplate a very simple fact – a maritime dependent pastoral state would not survive today. What should be the design for the future? Where will we be in another 100 years? Can we afford to leave it up to profit driven developers?

We think it’s well and truly time to develop a ‘masterplan’. Welcome to 2019.

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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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

Banyule

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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An update from Banyule Council will be available soon.

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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.

Geelong – City of History, City of the Future.

Geelong has long been a gateway or Port town, now city. In days gone by Tall Ships sailed up Corio Bay laying anchor in Geelong Harbour. The very first of these was the Lady Nelson in 1802. Then Mathew Flinders explored Corio Bay and climbed the You Yangs in that same year. John Batman landed at Indented Head in 1835, and by 1838 the area known as Geelong had been surveyed with land sales commencing in 1839. This was a mere three weeks after Melbourne had also been surveyed.

Geelong is Victoria’s ‘second city’. Rich in history, it sits one hour ‘down the road’ from Melbourne. Currently its outer limit to the east is considered to be Lara and the Avalon Airport. With the Werribee District continuing to extend to the south west, there is now barely 20km between the two cities and it would seem a merger is inevitable eventually.

The City has a fascinating history. By 1838 there was already a church, hotel, wool store, general store and 82 houses. Keep in mind this was pretty well in line time wise with Melbourne’s development further north on the banks of the Yarra River.

It would appear that the area may have been explored in pre-British occupation times. Governor La Trobe was a keen amateur geologist. He ‘discovered’ a set of keys in a layer of shells in a lime kiln shaft (15ft down or 4.6m). The keys were handed to him by a worker on the project. He believed they were between 100 and 150 years old (1700 – 1750 AD) and possibly from earlier Portuguese explorers and their expedition. But in fact this saga may have been idle speculation with little or no evidence. The keys were ultimately lost and the theory discounted by the Royal Society of Victoria who theorised the keys were much older, say 200-300 years old. It’s a fascinating story but somewhat fanciful.

Gold was discovered in Ballarat in 1851. Geelong fought hard to identify its closer proximity to the Goldfields than nearby Melbourne. The Geelong Hospital was built and opened in 1852. The construction of the Geelong Town Hall commenced in 1855. The port of Geelong saw the first ‘shipping channel’ identified in Corio Bay in 1853.

The Geelong to Melbourne Railway Line was built by the ‘Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company’ in 1857. Bright and Hitchcock’s Department Store was established in 1861 and the Geelong Prison was constructed using convict labour, opening in 1864. A Clock Tower had been erected in what was known as ‘Market Square’ in 1856. An Exhibition Building was opened in 1879.

Geelong became known as ‘Sleepy Hollow’ with it being initially outstripped in population by both Ballarat and Bendigo. But Geelong was on a ‘slow burn’ and benefitted greatly from the Gold Rush.

It became the Industrial hub and port for Victoria’s Western District. The town became known as ‘the Pivot’ and its famous AFL football team, established in 1859 was originally called the Pivots.

Between 1886 and 1889, major banks and insurance companies of the time erected solid, ornate buildings. A new shipping channel, the Hopetown Channel was excavated, beginning in 1881 and completed by 1893. The Geelong Post Office was constructed in the mid 1880s – between 1886 and 1889, as was the Gorden Technical College. The famous Geelong Cement Works were also established around this time in 1890. Geelong wasn’t ‘flash’, rather it was a solid and dependable city.

Geelong drew its name from the local indigenous or Aboriginal language, ‘Djillong’, a word used to describe cliffs or land. It was not long before the indigenous occupiers of ‘Djillong’ made way for the European settlers and industries and ‘Geelong’ was declared a ‘city’ in 1910.

Over the next century it became an industrial centre for Victoria. The Ford Motor Company, Pivot Fertilisers, Shell Oil, International Harvester and the famous Geelong Woollen Mills all prospered in the early half of the 20th century.

Geelong had its own Tramway established in 1912. These were independent ‘Electric Trams’. The trams serviced the city from suburban locations until 1956. Port Phillip pleasure cruise steamers were based at Geelong and provided excursions for visitors and townsfolk alike up until the 1950s.

The last 70 years have seen a gradual demise of both Geelong’s industries – due to the removal of tariff protections in the 1970s. Without industry, the city floundered and a number of ‘interesting’ developments occurred. Westfield Plaza springs to mind, constructed in 1988.

More recent developments have been directed or driven in part by Government intervention. Deakin University’s Waterfront Campus is an example. Then there is the new Library and Heritage Centre. Past developments such as the Waterfront Geelong redevelopment of 1994 formed a base for these new projects. The new Library and Heritage Centre was awarded the Zelman Cohen Award for Public Architecture in 2016.

The city skyline is changing. New towers have appeared or will appear in the west on Mercer St. These are 16 and 12 floors respectively. An 11 storey apartment complex has been proposed next to the Deakin Waterfront Campus.

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Geelong Regional Plan – What we want to achieve. From g21.com.au

Cities like Geelong offer real opportunities for decentralisation. The G21 Geelong Regional Alliance is an alliance of Local Government and all levels of Government. Launched in 2007 by then Premier Brumby the alliance has produced a plan, ‘The Geelong Regional Plan – a sustainable growth strategy’. According to available information a further 13 priority projects are planned for the Geelong region, most achieving ‘major project’ status. Geelong is a city of the future, inextricably bound to Melbourne.

A city like Geelong needs infrastructure, integration and industry. Next week we look at both past glory and some new and current projects in Geelong. There are many treasures and quite a few secrets – so ’til then from Balance we bid you adieu.

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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.

South Melbourne – From Humble Beginnings to Celebrating 150 Years as Melbourne’s Oldest Market.

Emerald hill or ‘Old South Melbourne’ has an amazingly mixed pedigree. Originally the site of Melbourne’s first major orphanages and expansive network of workers cottages – some quite innovative as we shall see, it was also home to some grand residences and public buildings. But there is a no doubt that the original estate housed many workers for the industries located along the Yarra River – and some of these were the famous prefabricated Iron Cottages shipped from England for quick and effective assembly – one remains in the area. It is located at 399 Coventry St, South Melbourne (Two more have also been added from other locations).

Over 100 of these portable buildings were eventually constructed in the State of Victoria. These were simple constructions and almost anyone could complete the assembly. Consider that people at the time were living in so-called ‘Canvastown’, in tents and were paying five shillings per tent per week.

The Iron House was deemed permanent so it was far more desirable than living in a tent. The portable cottages were commissioned by Governor Latrobe to provide accomodation urgently needed to house the Gold Rush arrivals who were flooding into Canvastown and other transient overflow tent cities around Old Melbourne.

The Coventry St Iron Houses are located at 399 Coventry St and are maintained by the National Trust. They are tiny. One sits upon its original allotment, the other two were removed from North Melbourne and Fitzroy to this site, to save them from demolition. The rear house at Coventry St is in fact a Bellhouse, one of only two remaining from the Bellhouse Iron Foundry. The other is situated on the Queen’s Balmoral Estate in England, originally ordered by Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert as a ‘royal studio’ (perhaps it was his ‘man shed’).

Another portable cottage – this time timber (and now a private residence) is located across the road in Coventry Place at number 17. These timber cottages were known as ‘Singapore’ cottages and this one is now listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

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Find out more about Melbourne’s Iron Houses on the National Trust website

So where did one shop in these bygone days? Where did you seek food – fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood, and general merchandise? In 1856 local householders petitioned the then Emerald Hill Council for a market. It took a further 11 years for the market – established on crown land in what was then the Borough of Emerald Hill – to be finally opened to the public in 1867. Situated on 10 acres it was bounded by the St Kilda Railway line, Coventry, Cecil and York Streets.

Initially it was leased under contract to private operators, but in 1904 the South Melbourne Council – as it had become – reclaimed control and the payment of Market Dues by stallholders.

It is Melbourne’s oldest continuing market celebrating 150 years of operation this year. The first sheds were erected in 1866, it featured a five and a half ton weigh-bridge purchased in 1872 and was lit up with electric lighting by 1924.

south melbourne market 1 copy

The market was virtually destroyed by fire in 1981 when the A and B sheds on Coventry St were lost at a cost of $150K. Two bombs were exploded in the same year damaging several stalls (there was something a-going on!). Gelignite bombs were set off at a take-away food stall and dress shop. 80 sticks of Gelignite were planted along the Cecil St facade although only 2 bombs of twenty sticks each exploded. Apparently no-one was responsible. Unbelievably no-one was hurt and damage was restricted to around $30K.

In recent times the market has seen some remarkable architectural initiatives. Original elements of the Victorian style facade remain in the Coventry St entrance and the full verandahs on the surrounding Coventry, Cecil and York Streets. Until around 2013 the market was covered by a rather dreary but necessary carpark roof constructed in 1972. Concrete, it was leaky and a heat trap for the market beneath.

In 2012 a new multifaceted rooftop was added to the carpark, providing shelter to shoppers, capturing rainwater, generating electricity from solar and regulating temperatures inside the market. Designed and implemented by Paul Morgan Architects it is a melding of Architectures, both past and present, sustainability and functionality.

It is seen as a sophisticated addition to the urban landscape. Does it work? You be the judge.

Find out more about the historic South Melbourne Market here

Next week we will continue our exploration of Emerald Hill. There are still treasures to come, and more from a very rich history.

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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.

History of the Federation Square site

In Melbourne nothing stimulates discussion on the relative merit of the architecture of new landmark sites as does the mention of Federation Square or Southern Cross Station. People either love them or hate them.

In the case of Federation Square we are definitely admirers… Let me give you our reasons.

Over the last 200 years the site has had a range of somewhat unpleasant uses. It hosted the City Morgue and the trains that transported the dead to the Kew Cemetery, the original Fish Market, Corporate offices of the most unsightly building that ever graced Melbourne and massive Railway Yards, rolling stock and workshops, an atmosphere of dust, metal noise, smoke exhaust and oil.

With many planners keen to link the Melbourne CBD with its river the Yarra, these plans were always undermined by the conundrum of what to do with the then required extensive and extremely busy Railway yards and facilities.

Perhaps one of the biggest bug-bears was the ridiculous situation where the incredibly ugly Gas and Fuel Towers blocked the view of one of Melbourne’s most iconic and beautiful buildings – St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Gas and Fuel Corporation Towers were somewhat representative of the times in which their construction occurred – 1967. Brown brick, aluminium windows, a pale green and brown monstrosity, commissioned and built over what was originally the Princes Bridge Station and Rail Yards on the South side of Flinders St. What a contradiction it was to the surrounding cityscape.

St Paul’s, Flinders St Station, Young and Jacksons Hotel, the Forum Theatre – all delightful and interesting buildings, constructed to be somewhat timeless – and the Gas and Fuel Building – plonked like a huge hideous misshapen Lego block. When it was finally demolished in 1997 it was to make way for Federation Square and Birrarung Marr, an extensive, beautiful addition to Melbourne’s parkland.

The Railways had occupied the land since 1859, and over the years it became the driving hub for the Melbourne Electrified Railway System.

Prior to this for thousands of years the site had been the meeting place for indigenous tribes of the Kulin Confederacy. The Wathaurung, the Bunarong and the Woiworung peoples occupied the surrounding lands to the North, South and East with the swamps and salt marshes West to the Marybnong River and beyond being considered communal hunting grounds. Tribal people still camped on the Yarra banks, both sides, stretching from this area down to the MCG and Government House during the early years of European settlement.

Federation Square and its development leading up to the Centenary of Federation in 2001 gave rise to a perfect opportunity to celebrate the ideas of ‘identity’ and ‘place’ in providing a much needed civic and cultural space.

The Victorian Government had commissioned the architecture to Lab Architecture Studio, a firm based in London and Melbourne firm Bates Smart with whom they formed a partnership. Lab Architecture had originally been one of five finalists in the Victorian Government two stage design competition commenced in 1996. The partnership with Bates Smart, a premier Melbourne Architecture firm was required to proceed to the second stage and the consortium was awarded the contract for the design of the new area..

The Fractal Facade is an extraordinary feature. “Three cladding materials: sandstone, zinc (perforated and solid) and glass have been used in a circular pinwheel grid. This modular system uses five single triangles (all of the same size and proportion) to make up a larger triangular panel. Following the same geometrical logic, five panels are joined together to create a large triangular ‘mega panel’ which is then mounted onto the structural frame to form the visible facade.” [from http://www.fedsquare.com]

For the public the controversy was fanned by ‘shock jock’ radio personalities and tabloid journalists who simply ‘didn’t get it’. The criticism went so far as to see the Glass Shards planned for the North Western corner removed from the plan and the finished result. It was claimed the Government did this to appease critics who believed it would again block the vista of St Paul’s Cathedral however many believe it was an unnecessary political intervention to ameliorate ongoing criticism from more conservative voices in the community.

It is now recognised as an extraordinary contemporary work lauded and praised internationally as changing the overall look of the Melbourne CBD and its entrance. The public have adopted it and its features with enthusiasm and it plays a huge role in Melbourne’s Cultural and Civic Events.

And everyday thousands of Melbournians commute on trains to and from the city beneath the structure. The cinemas, galleries, radio and television studios barely experience a vibration. It is in fact one of the largest expanses of railway decking ever built in Australia taking twelve months to complete.

Next week we continue our series on Melbourne Architecture as we move to the western end of Melbourne – Southern Cross Station and its adjoining Docklands precinct.