There is an interesting opinion piece in today’s West Australian by UWA’s Dr Stephen Neille on how we need to design our cities. It is something I and others have written about on this blog as it is in my opinion absolutely essential for Fremantle to only erect new buildings in the inner city that are distinct in architectural design and high building quality.
Dr. Neille quotes US urbanist Michael Sorkin that “each city has the right to elaborate the basis of its own distinctness” and he argues that “in order to maintain urban vitality it is necessary to elaborate on the design of the city and its evolving form”
I don’t believe we do that well in Western Australia, and Fremantle does it even less than Perth. There is a sense of piecemeal haphazardness in the way our cities evolve with little respect or reference to existing streetscapes and buildings. Urban planning should be about the whole, not individual buildings, because a single inappropriate building can do infinite damage to the urban landscape and identity.
As Dr. Neille writes in the West, it needs careful curation to create consciously designed environments to explicitly connect the city to its settings, to help celebrate the city’s character.
For me that balance of old and new, heritage and modern, but always exceptional buildings, is vital to Fremantle’s growth and progress and to maintain the uniqueness of our city.
The CARRIAGE CAFE on the Fremantle Esplanade is an institution. With the Youth Plaza skate park now next to it, the owners want to make the cute little cafe even more attractive, so they have applied for development approval. Public submissions are invited by the City of Fremantle, so here is how the owners want it to look in the future.
The article below by City of Fremantle Heritage Coordinator architect Alan Kelsall is a bit long for a blog post, but I believe it is important we understand why the City does certain ways of maintenance on heritage buildings, so here it is in full. Thank you Alan for the detailed explanations!
The building in question is on the corner of High and Henry streets and home to Brooker Furniture and the relocated New Edition bookshop.
Urgent conservation works were recently undertaken to the parapet and gables of the Union Stores building at the corner of High and Henry Streets in the West End.
The external walls of the Union Stores building were constructed using what are now described as traditional construction. As with nearly all 19th and early 20th century buildings in Fremantle, the conservation works in part consisted of doing what was necessary to allow the fabric of the building to perform as originally intended. In other words, removing the well-intentioned but damaging ‘repairs’ of the past 30 years that had been carried out using modern materials often hoping to reduce the need for regular maintenance.
The mistakes of the recent past stem from not recognising the benefits of allowing the walls of traditionally constructed buildings to breathe, which in turn led to the importance of the contribution made by traditional materials to this process being undervalued. Traditional materials, such as lime-based mortars and limewash, are permeable whereas modern building materials, such as acrylic paints, sealers and cement render and mortars are not. Traditional materials allow the walls to breathe and bring about the natural evaporation of any moisture and, importantly, cause the salts carried by the moisture to migrate slowly towards the surface and accumulate there.
The removal of the low permeability acrylic paint and cement render from the parapet has allowed this process to begin at the Union Stores building. As a result, a large amount of salt has come to the surface in a very short period. This is a good sign because previously the fine pores of the brickwork could not accommodate the increasing accumulation of salts and were eventually broken apart by the expansive forces of salt crystallisation. This led to the slow but severe deterioration of the bricks as can be seen in the photograph of the inside face of the parapet. .This deterioration is caused salt attack and it is the principal cause of decay in masonry buildings in Fremantle.
A further benefit of lime mortars and renders is that they are softer than the original masonry and tend to decay over time rather than the masonry. Hence the sacrificial decay of lime mortars and renders is a useful way of managing salt damp because it protects significant fabric and in the long term it usually proves to be the most cost effective way of caring for a building because it is cheaper and easier to re-point at regular intervals than it is to replace the brickwork.
Fremantle’s maritime environment means it will not be possible to completely cure the salt damp. Instead Council’s strategy is to adopt a maintenance approach to manage the problem by ensuring that the salt concentration occurs relatively close to the surface and, as with any maintenance programme, it will require periodic renewal of decayed fabric. Given the severity of the problems caused by the long-term build up of salts within the walls this is going to take time and further repairs before the walls are effectively desalinated to a point where the cycle of wetting and drying causes little decay of the fabric.
The Western Australian government plans to take more local governments decision-making power away and wants the State Planning Commission to take over as the sole body to decide on planning, developments and sub-divisions.
Single houses that comply with design codes will be exempt from local council approvals and on-line applications will be the way to streamline the often tedious and lengthy process.
While this will delight property developers and architects, it should be a concern that local communities will lose considerable power to decide on the future of their suburbs to the State. We could get an Elizabeth Quay development at Fremantle’s Bathers Beach if Premier Colin Barnett fancies it.
I am surprised to hear from the Member for Fremantle Simone McGurk that the State Government released a masterplan for the former South Fremantle Power Station site, as I was not aware of it.
Landcorp wants to develop the building and surrounding land into residential with 900 new dwellings and the Power Station at the centre of it. The previous plans for a large marina have been dropped.
The idea of residential apartments in the heritage-listed building is good, but the proposal to build more apartments on top of it, to match the scale of the old stacks, is a worry, as that would drastically change the architecture of the impressive historic building.
Landcorp also plans for a rapid bus route to the area that could be changed to light rail, but that would require changes to Hampton Road.
Simone McGurk rightly points out that the relocation of the still in use switchyard on the northern side of the power station would cost well over $ 100 million, so is the State Government prepared to make that investment in what could become a great new asset to the enlarged City of Fremantle, once the council amalgamations have been implemented?
Good news for the east CBD of Fremantle with the fences going up, to start demolishing the buildings, at Point/Queen Adelaide Street for the construction of the Hilton Hotel on that site.
The development of that area of inner city Freo will be very welcome to retailers there who have been subjected to anti-social behaviour for many years.
With the refurbishment of Clancys and the restoration of the former Boys School/FTI one can envisage Princess May Park becoming a true green open space with seats, barbeques,public artworks, etc.
With Fremantle progressing to a bigger and more modern city, we often hear from those who want development at any cost and at any height that embracing our heritage is detrimental to the future of our city. I believe the exact opposite is true and want to shout it out loud.
HERITAGE IS NOT BAD FOR PROGRESS, IT TEACHES US THAT THE PRICE OF PROGRESS IS BEAUTY!
The clock is ticking fast for the Fremantle Kings Square development, with Sirona Capital being quoted in the Fremantle Herald that they will soon be announcing who their major tenant(s) will be.
I checked out the Sirona info screen at Many 6160 today and the “Project Delivery Time” was November 2014, July 2015, September 2016 and December 2016. It would deliver over 30,000 sqm of prime office space, plus retail.
If all this goes to plan Freo will have received a massive CBD facelift by the end of 2016 that will hopefully revitalise the city and be a huge boost to retail. I know two years is a long time, but hang in there and don’t give up yet!
Read the article on ugly buildings in today’s West Australian by visual artist, urban planner and architect Malcolm Mackay. It is a good read that should be a wake up call to us all, especially in Fremantle and other older suburbs, that we don’t have to, and should not, accept modern buildings that lack elegance, class, and design excellence.
Mackay points out the stunning architecture at I’on in South Carolina, USA, and laments that Perth demolished so many of its beautiful old buildings.
We in Fremantle are fortunate to have retained many of our heritage buildings, thanks to the tireless efforts of the 44 year-old Fremantle Society and passionate individuals, but some of the new building proposals signed off by the City of Fremantle are just not up to scratch.
Fremantle does not need or want big bland and uninspiring concrete Lego boxes. We want great modern architecture that compliments our heritage buildings and that emphasises the very unique Freo lifestyle.
It is very important we stay alert and don’t let mediocrity creep in and that we accept ugliness under the guise of progress.
The former Matilda Bay Brewery site on Stirling Highway in North Fremantle has been sold for $ 36 million to a Chinese group, who intend to develop it into residential apartments.
The property is 2.9 hectares and the plot ratio would allow for 60,000 sqm of apartment-space there, with the probability of buildings between 4-8 storeys.
It’s obviously a prime Indian Ocean location with panoramic views from Scarborought to Fremantle port, and not far from the train station and busses on the doorstep, so no doubt it will be pretty popular, as long as traffic and train noise is controled with double-glazing, etc.