The Streetwise column in the West Australian property section by architect and lecturer in architecture Dr Simon Pendal should be a must read for Fremantle Councillors and planning officers because Pendal’s expert opinion is significant for the way Fremantle develops.
Pendal writes that In an increasingly global world, we should not be afraid to be provincial and to work with an awareness of our individual and shared mental space. This is important to keep certain areas ‘proudly identifiable’ he argues.
This strongly applies to retaining Fremantle’s unique character and is even more significant in the West End and in regard to the, in my opinion unacceptable, development proposal by Notre Dame University for the corner of High and Cliff streets.
Dr. Pendal argues that design that renders all places equal fails to recognise the ‘local mental space’ of a street or suburb, and he writes that we have a kind of common spatial understanding that we shape and that shapes us. The historic West End of Fremantle no doubt has done that for many decades and needs to be protected from inappropriate architecture.
I believe people connect to these spaces, relate to them and feel a sense of belonging and proud ownership. That is why many want to live in Fremantle because it is unique, has a special character and connects us to our roots of history.
Community is not just about people but about lifestyle, a common ground and the awareness that we are sharing this exceptional city and are the custodians of it, to pass it on to future generations; changed, improved and developed, but with deep respect and consideration for the past.
That is not happening in Freo at the moment, where ugly and mediocre buildings are being approved and many more proposed, to the detriment of our city’s character. We can and must do a whole lot better than that!
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.
It was interesting to hear, while I was being interviewed on RTRFM radio yesterday morning about unacceptable mediocre development in the Fremantle inner city, that the 5-storey development proposal for 18-22 Adelaide Street has now become a significant development and that the period for submissions will therefore be extended.
It is beyond me that the City of Fremantle Planning Department believed that a five-storey development in the heart of the heritage city, opposite Freo’s oldest church St John’s and the historic Townhall could be of low significance to the community.
I was the first on Freo’s View on September 27 to report about this under the headline “Outrageous ugliness proposed for Kings Square.” I followed that up with an article two days later about the unacceptable mediocrity of most buildings proposed for the Fremantle CBD.
Interesting to note in that regard that the Fremantle Society claims the front page of the Fremantle Herald and two letters from FS to the CoF changed the mind of the City of Fremantle planners, when they should have given credit that it was Freo’s View who disclosed the plans first.
Because it is now a significant development we can now also show an artist drawing of the proposal that shows three storeys of set-back square boxes with balconies, above the heritage facade, that make no reference to the vertical lines of the neighbouring buildings and the general vertical character of heritage buildings in Fremantle. It’s not good enough and the plans should be withdrawn and redrawn!
If only all architects had the values of Perth architect Jean-mic Perrine who states on his company’s website that he tells his co-workers that they have a duty to create beauty and that mediocre buildings are not an option. Amen to that!
In my never-ending quest to get more exciting and beautiful buildings in Fremantle, and Perth in general, I want to make developers and planners aware of this stunning building in Rio de Janeiro in Brasil.
I saw the Museum of Tomorrow on TV during the Olympics and love it. How great would it be to see something similar on Victoria Quay complimenting the Maritime Museum. It would make for a fantastic convention and function centre, or a new Immigration Museum.
Two interesting articles about city development in the West Australian property section drew my attention this morning.
The first one “Giving residents first priority” is something I have been calling for for many years, as I believe proper community consultation about new development at the earliest possible stage will take a lot of negativity out of the process, and does not force community groups to be reactive when it is often too late, and subsequently being branded as nay-sayers.
The West reports that RobertsDay‘s studio leader Duane Cole said “Developers tapping into a community’s values and culture should start with genuine collaboration to build trust.”
Duane Cole told the West “…residents needed to be first in the process, not an afterthought.” and I could not agree more with that sentiment.
I do realise that Councils and developers might be reluctant to take this on as often the NIMBY attitude makes collaboration with the community difficult and frustrating, but building resentment by ignoring the wishes of the community is definitely not the way to go.
The second article is by Dr. Anthony Duckworth-Smith of the Australian Urban Design Research Centre in Perth who writes that AUDR has been working with the City of Fremantle to explore ways of finding the right balance for infill.
Duckworth Smith writes in the West that if Fremantle wants to keep its diverse social mix it should be looking at building smaller homes in suburban areas, because in the past two decades the vast majority of new homes in Fremante were four or more bedrooms, although households have become smaller and more diverse.
He warns however that the suitability for small houses is limited and does not cater for those who want to own. a house.
Modified local planning and design guide lines that respect the character of suburban areas could be developed to achieve urban infill the community accepts.
The City of Fremantle is willing to lead to find solutions to fill the gap between single residential and high density apartment buildings, Duckworth-Smith writes.
I believe that good infill in suitable targeted areas is the way forward, not just random infill and higher density because a property becomes available for development. That requires long-term planning and a vision for the ‘burbs’.
It has become quite clear that especially in older character suburbs many residents are against substantial change, infill, high density and medium and high rise buildings. That does not make the task for local and state government any easier. Some people believe the urban sprawl is inevitable to continue the great Australian dream of owning a large house with front and back garden, even when we have limited water supplies and urban sprawl is very expensive because it requires ever expanding roads, rail, power, water and gas to suburbs many tens of kilometres away from the CBD. This of course also causes traffic nightmares during peak hours.
Like with most things in life there are no easy solutions that will please and satisfy everyone, but I believe tough decisions have to be made now because future generations will suffer from the lack of foresight and leadership of our state and local governments.
The City of Fremantle is one of only a few metropolitan councils who have not yet joined the call for the abolishment or drastic reform of the W.A. Joint Development Assessment Panels(DAP).
Only a few days ago the Town of East Fremantle joined the 21 of 30 metro councils who called for the State Government to have a serious look at what is wrong with the DAP.
Councils and communities claim the DAP erodes local government democracy and removes the opportunity for them to be part of the decision making process, which results in buildings of inappropriate height being approved by DAP, threatening the local character and amenity of place, especially in the older suburbs. The building next to St Patrick’s and the Australia Hotel, rejected by Fremantle Council but approved by DAP is an example of it.
Fremantle Councilllor Rachel Pemberton put a Notice of Motion to Wednesday’s FPOL Committee and appeared to have support demanding changes to the DAP system, but committee wanted the wording tweaked and the CEO and Pemberton will now work on that. The item will then go back to FPOL at the September meeting.
It was interesting to hear FPOL Chair Councillor Andrew Sullivan stating he believed less robust councils than Fremantle were more affected by DAP decisions, but that Fremantle Council should become even more robust in its planning policies. I fear Councillor Sullivan means that Fremantle Council should introduce substantially more height in future scheme amendments.
Councillor Pemberton claims that there is bipartisan support for the DAP at state level, but I hope that is not true. With so much outrage in so many communities reform of the DAP system could become an election winner for the Labor Party if they promise to overhaul the process or scrap the DAP.
It is interesting to note that the 3D images for the McCabe Street planning scheme amendment were done by architects CODA and not by the City of Fremantle.
Some years ago the City reportedly bought software for $ 50,000 to do 3 D imagery with, but it is not used.
I have been told that the software is very difficult to use and time consuming and cumbersome and that makes it expensive because of the amount of time needed to do it properly, hence it is not used and the City pays consultants to do it.
One has to wonder who was responsible for investing $ 50,000 in this software and why it wasn’t it tested to see if it was suitable for the needs of a local government before it was purchased.
I believe it is essential that 3D images and even scale models are produced for every proposed major building in Fremantle, so the public can actually understand what is proposed. Not everyone can read 2D plans and imagine the scale and proportions of buildings, so maybe it’s time to pay someone to train staff on how to use the expensive software that is dormant at COF.