Freo's View


Posted in architecture, city of fremantle, development by freoview on October 21, 2016



With the rumoured sale of the Fremantle Manning Estate in High and Market Street to Fremantle property developers Silverleaf the debate on what is good and bad development for Fremantle will continue.

Silverleaf have been criticised for the buildings along Queen Street, opposite Target and also for the Atwell Arcade development, and will be developing the Woolstores shopping centre site in the near future and also the former Court House site in Henderson Street.

The Manning Estate site is clearly prime development opportunity and it is likely the developers will want character-changing additional height in the centre of Fremantle, so how can State and Local governments legislate for beautiful architecture to protect cities from inappropriate and boring development, who will be the judge on beauty?

I was thinking about this the other day when an architecture lecturer at one of the universities told me she hates the new MSC building in Cliff Street, designed by Murray Slavin Architects, while I really like the building. Who is right? Nobody clearly as we all have different tastes and that makes legislating for aesthetics near impossible.

I thought about it again when I read the Fremantle Society attack on the Atwell Arcade and Bank building by Silverleaf, as I don’t mind the new Atwell building that blends in adequately. I also like the corner of Cantonment and Queen streets building but not the corner of Queen and Adelaide street that is more suited to O’Connor.

Beauty is extremely subjective but somehow we need to have stronger guidelines on what is appropriate for specific sites. The west end needs to be treated with extreme sensitivity and care while east of Kings Square I am happy to see a bit of height and density, but that is just my opinion that no doubt will be challenged by others.

It is not easy to be a Councillor or planner at local government!

Roel Loopers

4 Responses

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  1. freoview said, on October 21, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    I like weeds. They fill up empty spaces. ; >)


  2. freoishome said, on October 21, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    I think what might help is the reasoning from your architecture lecturer, about why she hates the MSC building. Lecturers of all people should be able to articulate their professional opinions. To give us the criteria to use when making such judgements.
    I suspect it is a bit like weeds, which aren’t bad plants, just the wrong plant in the wrong place, hence, might have an inappropriate habit, colour, form, size in a metro garden but be perfect in their ‘natural’ regional environment.

  3. freoview said, on October 21, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    yes I agree Carl and the community debate needs to continue and intensify so there is more ownership of new buildings and the recognition of the importance of streetscapes as well, and long-term plans for the entire city on infill so that people who buy houses will know if new planning laws will allow higher density near them in the future.


  4. Carl Payne said, on October 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Legislation won’t create beautiful buildings – what it tends to achieve is the minor improvement of the poor ones; and the reduction in quality of the potentially excellent. Do we want bland uniformity? Or do we want the occasional jewel? What we really want is uniform excellence, but achieving this ideal has proven difficult. Part of this problem is touched on in your comment about the Archi lecturer who hates the Slavin building. Famous examples of much-loved buildings that were once hated include the Eiffel Tower; the NY Guggenheim; Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and many of his other works. And then there’s buildings like the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Equally loved and hated.

    As in many areas, education is still the key. Architects are still not brilliant at recognising the value of heritage works; and in recognising the value of context and cityscape. But all great, beautiful, and much loved buildings are the work of architects. As a tribe, we are the dominant players in the urban landscape. We have to encourage excellence; not cut it down by introducing overly proscriptive regulation. But important cities – much loved cities – like Fremantle for example, don’t survive as intact and important centres, unless there is a mix of relevant control and design excellence. It’s a matter of sound planning policies to encourage good – great design; and continuous vigilance. It continues to be a hugely-important community debate.

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