Scaffolding will gradually come down from next week on the Fremantle Townhall.
I was given an exterior tour of the conservation works on Friday by City of Fremantle heritage coordinator architect Alan Kelsall and heritage project officer Gena Binet and Zac of the building contractors and was very impressed with the very detailed and substantial work involved in the $ 3.1 million project.
The Townhall project is the largest conservation work the city has ever undertaken and was necessary because of the deterioration of the building due to paint that did not allow the building to breath and suffocated the building, hence salt and moisture had badly damaged large areas.
Don’t expect a brightly-painted building as it has been brought back to its original stucco look of 1887.
About the town hall restoration
Before current restorative works were undertaken it had been almost thirty years since the last major capital expenditure on the Fremantle Town Hall.
Since mid-2016 a large team of skilled stonemasons, plasterers, lead workers and slate roofers with specialist traditional skills have transformed the exterior of the town hall building using traditional building methods.
Key elements such as the roof cladding and drainage systems needed to be replaced urgently to protect the building from ongoing deterioration prevent the loss of culturally significant features and address concerns about public safety.
Gutters and downpipes were too small to cope with current extreme weather events and have led to ongoing damage to the interior of the building. These elements have all been enlarged.
There were also ongoing issues caused by inappropriate surface treatments and repairs to masonry elements carried out in the1950s–60s. At this time there was little understanding of best practice conservation which had unfortunately led to the ongoing deterioration of masonry, embedded steel and timbers and decorative stucco work in the town hall.
During the works, it was discovered some inaccessible parts of the building were in worse condition than expected and extra works were required. To prevent further deterioration of the building and to make use of scaffolding already in place for the current restoration works, it was more efficient and cost effective to complete these additional works now.
P.S. Stunning views from the top of the Townhall so I will post some scenic photos of Fremantle next week and have requested a rooftop bar and a granny flat for me to be included in the renovations.
It appears the Fremantle Society is on a mission to discredit award-winning City of Fremantle architect and heritage coordinator Alan Kelsall, with the announcement of yet another public event on April 20. The Society president claims that “Heritage staff and Heritage Council staff have spectacularly failed to ensure good outcomes for the West End…” and mentions the former Tarantella building in Mouat Street and the Boost retail outlet on the corner of the High Street Mall as examples.
Fremantle City heritage coordinatorAlan Kelsall was awarded the highest individual heritage award in Western Australia a few weeks ago.
I agree that the new white piping at the Mouat Street building is rubbish and should at least be painted in a colour close to the colour of the brick wall. The ugly B&B signs on the facade are far more of an issue than the pipes on the sides though.
I personally don’t have issues with the Boost shop as it is a modern outlet that does not do any damage to the beautifully restored heritage facade of the Atwell Arcade building.
But when COF staff demands from the B&B in Mouat Street to paint the white plastic tubes it might also want to ask the owner of the Adelaide Steamship Company building opposite in Mouat Street to do the same to the ugly white downpipes at the back of his building. Oops, that building is owned by the Fremantle Society president.
I am truly delighted that City of Fremantle Heritage Coordinator architect Alan Kelsall won the WA Heritage Awards ‘Professional Contribution’ category in the Heritage Practices by a Local Government category.
Alan is a very decent and professional man who does not believe in grandstanding in the local media, unlike his critics. This award has vindicated and endorsed the good work he is doing for heritage in Fremantle.
The judges cited Mr Kelsall’s dedication to promoting a positive image of heritage conservation in Fremantle as a major factor in him winning the award:
This dedicated professional has been instrumental in assisting the City of Fremantle and its elected representatives to develop and deliver a new positive vision for heritage. By working closely with owners and the community, Alan has demonstrated how adaptation and conservation are complementary objectives that can drive economic sustainability.
Congratulations, Alan. I am chuffed for you!
Fremantle has several finalists in this year’s State Heritage Awards so good luck to all of them.
The National Hotel, Fremantle Prison and Shipwreck museum, were short-listed, as was the City of Fremantle in the category Heritage Practices by Local Government. Freo City heritage coordinator Alan Kelsall is also in the final selection in the category Professional Contribution.
I have been thinking about how we preserve heritage and also had a talk about it with Fremantle Society president Henty Farrar. Our concerns are that developers are allowed to remove existing heritage to make new development easier and presumably faster, and hence cheaper, and then reinstall the former heritage parts. Is that really preserving heritage or is it pretend preservation?
Both the Fremantle Pakenham Street Quest hotel and the East Freo former Lauder&Howard buildings were gutted and only the facades left standing, but we have been assured the developers will replace some of the heritage features. Is that good enough? I personally don’t think so.
Columns and roof trusses, heritage timber parts, etc. are removed and put back in but no doubt this will happen with modern means like welding, nail guns, new mortar, and so on.
City of Fremantle heritage architect Alan Kelsall replied to my queries about the Pakenham/Short Street development with this: “All the columns and roof trusses had to be removed for buildability reasons to allow excavation and construction of the new structure. The portion of columns and roof trusses that are to be reinstated will be done so in their original locations. The remainder of the structure is to be permanently removed as per the planning approval.”
Whilst I am realistic enough to acknowledge this is more practical for the developers, I believe the COF planning rules should change and heritage aspect of buildings that are to be kept have to remain in situ while the building activity is going on, otherwise we end up with mock heritage preservation and that is not a good thing.
P.S. I am the Vice President of the Fremantle Society
Facebook: ROEL FOR FREO! Truly Independent.
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.
It is disappointing that the exciting development of the Mediterannean Shipping Company(MSC) site at 13 Cliff Street is now receiving criticism, because the City of Fremantle‘s Planning Department failed to make an archeological inspection of the carpark site a requirement of approving the new building. Notre Dame University would like to do an archeological search of the site, and approached the City last year, but without success. The Cliff Street area is where the very first settlers set up camp when they arrived here in 1829. A dig by UNDA at the old Fremantle Hotel, just opposite the development site, discovered items from the early 1830s.
I was informed two weeks ago by CoF Heritage Coordinator Alan Kelsall that he is writing a report on the site, so hopefully that will be released soon. As a matter of course though, and with a council policy on archeology already in place, one has to wonder why Council approved the development without demanding a heritage survey of the site. This could have been done straight after development approval, so that the building development would not be delayed. Fremantle’s heritage is one of our main assets, so it is bewildering that the existing archeology policy was not implemented.
It will be some time yet until we see the run down Fremantle Town Hall getting a new coat of paint. One of our City’s most iconic buildings has been neglected by the COF for years, but it now appears just putting a new, and very expensive, coat of paint on our civic heart is not an option, due to previous paint jobs having used the wrong materials.
The acrylic paint that was used has been damaging the walls by causing damp, so the best option might be to remove all that paint, as was done with the Perth Treasury Building. To be able to assess what needs to be done, a large sample panel will be prepared this year where the paint will be removed, so that Fremantle Heritage Coordinator Alan Kelsall can have a good look at it.
It is great that Alan Kelsall is such a purist and stickler for detail when it comes to heritage preservation, but one has to wonder who at the City of Fremantle signed off on using acrylic paint on the heritage building in the first place.
Two fascinating events will be held in Fremantle this week.
Firstly the Fremantle History Society’s meeting at the Fremantle Railway Station on Tuesday 22 April. City of Fremantle heritage coordinator Alan Kelsall will take us on a tour of this beautiful 1907 building to explore its place in the history of Fremantle and its relationship to the newly constructed Fremantle harbour. The meeting will be followed by refreshments. Meet at the Railway Station for a 6.30Pm start.
On Wednesday 23 April the Australia ICOMOS lecture, Memorial Mania – the heritage of war commemoration in the present age will be held at the Fremantle Artillery Barracks. Prof John Stephens will explore the recent upward trend in war commemoration in the context of the impending major anniversaries. Further details on the attached flier. Please RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org. The lecture will be followed by refreshments. ICOMOS members $10, non-members $15. The lecture begins at 6PM.
Both events are part of the Western Australian Heritage Festival. For more information on almost 170 events across WA go to http://www.nationaltrustfestival.com.au or pick up a program at the City of Fremantle Offices or the library.
City of Fremantle Heritage Co-ordinator architect Alan Kelsall took me around the Round House this afternoon to explain why the colour of the mortar used on the well is lighter and whiter than the mortar used on the walls. Alan showed me old photos which clearly showed that the original colour was in fact a very light limestone and not anywhere as dark as it has become over years, so the right colour is the one used for the well and that will be used again when the Round House walls need more maintenance in a few years from now. One can also see the lighter colour inside some cells still and near the roof line of the prison.
At present the Heritage Department is getting roofs repaired and the Union Building back in better shape. We were also assured the Captain’s Lane Pilot’s Cottages exteriors would be painted this year, but since that has not happen we have to assume it will be done in early 2014.
Thanks Alan Kelsall for contacting me and explaining on location!