LET’S TALK ABOUT THE NEW FACE OF FREMANTLE
The development boom in Fremantle is positive but it is also a timely reminder that we need to have a discussion in Freo about what sort of development we want because it is too general to say we want to protect the unique heritage character of our city.
There should not be a blanket approach to density, hight, building design, etc. because to have a real positive impact we need to localise planning laws more so that there is more emphasis on the streetscape and specific areas.
Even in the heritage West End there are buildings that should never have been erected and disappointing streetscapes, so we need to have a community debate on how we can avoid ugliness and inappropriate architecture.
I talked to a well-known architect the other day who said he liked the new building on the corner of Pakenham and Bannister streets, while I think it is awfully mediocre. Another architect does not like the new MSC building in Cliff Street, but I love it, so how do we find compromises that are more acceptable to the wider community? Clearly personal taste won’t do.
We often talk only about the hight and human scale of buildings, but we should not generalise there because east of Queen Street a bit of extra height will do no harm in my opinion, while west of it we should not compromise above four storeys. There is no need for extra height in the West End but it is acceptable in the East End, I believe.
The planning requirement of set-back above certain heights can also be counter productive as it often has a negative impact on the design and the cohesion of a building. Set-backs often look like an after thought that does not fit in well with the rest of the building.
Fremantle’s Design Advisory Committee seems to be a bit of a lame duck when one considers some of the buildings approved by the City of Fremantle. The fact that Notre Dame University has been working with the DAC and planning staff for many months, but is still seeking approval for an inappropriate and boring five-storey building on the corner of High and Cliff streets, shows that the process is flawed because UNDA should have been told much earlier that their plans are not acceptable.
I agree that not every building can or should be iconic, but if we are serious about wanting to build heritage of the future buildings in Fremantle we need to do a whole lot better than what we have been doing in the last three years.
There is also a flaw in the percentage for the art scheme when developers can just add art to the new building facade to satisfy that requirement, as we see in Pakenham Street at the Quest Hotel. I don’t believe that was the initial idea for the art scheme, as it should be true public art and not a clever way by developers of avoiding it.
Open-minded and mature debate is needed to decide Fremantle’s future look, so let’s have some public forums in 2017 with architects, city planners and place makers, ideally from outside Freo, so that we don’t hear the same opinions we have already heard before. I would be very interested to hear State Architect Geoff Warne’s thoughts about Fremantle for example.
The community needs to be able to have input on what the new face of Fremantle should look like!
I put this artist impression from the UK here to show why we need to talk about development in Fremantle. This zero energy affordable residential development is considered low-impact high density there, while I believe it is very high impact. Something like this would be too over powering even on the Knutsford Street CoF depot site.