Coles Woolstore development – please make a submission today however brief
The photo above top shows Fremantle when Frank Hurley flew over it at the time the Coles woolstore was still in place and before council allowed it to be demolished in 1986.
Comment closes today on a major development application for this site, seeking 38.9 metres height, higher than anything else in the town.
Please make a submission, however brief to: planning @fremantle.wa.gov.au
This is a once in a generation chance to redevelop a run down site well. What happens here will influence surrounding development sites.
Below is the submission by Ken Adam, award winning architect and head of CityVision, which you are free to use if you like.
WOOLSTORES CENTRE: PROPOSED MAJOR REDEVELOPMENT, CANTONMENT STREET, FREMANTLE
SUBMISSIONS & COMMENTARY prepared by KEN ADAM LFAIA, LFPIA, LFAIUS
If the application were approved, in my opinion the game, for the future of Fremantle, will have been lost, and the detail hardly matters.
This document is in two parts. The first part comprises a set of succinct submissions in relation to the proposed development. The second comprises support and justification for those submissions.
These submissions and commentary represent solely the professional assessments and opinions of Ken Adam. They have been prepared both personally and for the Fremantle Society, for submission to the City of Fremantle and the Joint Development Assessment Panel charged with considering the proposed development on its merits.
PART ONE: SUMMARY SUBMISSIONS
The comprehensive redevelopment of the Woolstores Centre site is extremely welcome as an important contribution to the future of Fremantle.
In general the mix of uses proposed for the site is appropriate.
The most important benchmark for the height, scale and massing of the development is set by the adjoining Woolstores building and, to a lesser extent, the newer building at the SE corner of Cantonment and Queen Streets.
The appropriate benchmark for the height of the development is the level set by the adjacent Goldsborough Mort Woolstores building, and that level should best be maintained consistently over the whole site. No protrusions above this level, other than minor necessary protrusions, should be accepted. It is accepted that the 21m height limit approximates this level.
This level should not be exceeded, even were the architectural design to be judged “distinctive” and of “exceptional design quality” or representing “excellence” in design. Even at the highest level of design quality any extensions of the kind proposed, above this level, visible from the public realm, would not be acceptable.
Regardless of any other considerations, it is my professional opinion, based on a lifetime experience of architecture, urban design and planning, that the proposed development, while unquestionably of an acceptable design standard, falls well short of either distinction or exceptional design quality.
For the reasons given here, it is my professional opinion that the development application should be refused.
The appropriate benchmark for the height of the development is the level set by the adjacent Goldsborough Mort Woolstores building, and that level should best be maintained consistently over the whole site.
PART TWO: JUSTIFICATION AND SUPPORTING COMMENT
Ken Adam is an architect (retired), planning consultant and urban designer. He has directed a practice in those disciplines since 1974. He is a recipient of the prestigious Architects Board Award. Prior to private practice he had headed the Urban Design Section of the Town Planning Department. He was a founding member of CityVision in 1987 and has been Chairman since 2001. He has taught urban design at Curtin University.
Ken Adam has acted regularly as an expert witness in the Supreme Court and the State Administrative Tribunal and its predecessors, in relation to matters of architecture, urban design and planning, for both private clients and local government authorities.
He is a fourth-generation Fremantle person, and lives in North Fremantle. He is a member of the Fremantle Society. He was the consultant responsible for the most comprehensive study of Fremantle, carried out in 1979-80 for the purposes of establishing a comprehensive strategy for the City and the preparation of TPS3.
This submission is necessarily brief and does not pretend to be fully comprehensive. It focuses on the major urban design issues of scale, form and character of the proposed development, in relation to its surroundings and the city centre as a whole. It should not be read as necessarily agreeing with those aspects of the proposed development not specifically covered here.
In preparing this document I have studied the report and drawings accompanying the application and held brief discussions with the officers responsible for reporting on the application. I have revisited the site and its surroundings. I have not had access to the applicant’s Design Report (Appendix A to the applicant’s report).
This document tries to go to the heart of what really matters for the future of Fremantle. It is not just a simplistic exercise in checking whether all the boxes have been ticked.
Total Redevelopment of the Site is Welcome and offers a Great Opportunity
It should be clear that, in my opinion, a total redevelopment of the site is not merely welcome; it is well overdue. The replacement of the original woolstores building by the existing banal shopping centre, car parking and open servicing areas was, in urban design and other terms, a complete and unrelieved disaster. The decision to redevelop the entire site offers a wonderful opportunity to undo that mistake and create a very positive development that will serve and greatly enhance the city centre. The opportunity must not be missed, nor should it in any way be compromised by confusing what may be permitted with what is best for Fremantle
The issues dealt with here are:
- whether the general character, including proposed use , scale and form, is appropriate;
- whether the building heights proposed are appropriate and whether the development meets the criteria for design excellence; and
- whether the more detailed architectural design aspects are appropriate.
Context is Everything
The site occupies a pivotal position in the city’s townscape and activities, mediating between the major woolstore buildings (now converting, appropriately, to residential use) and the central business (essentially retail, entertainment and office) district.
Both the uses and character of development proposed for the subject site must recognise this pivotal position.
There are two buildings that, in my opinion, set the benchmark for the height and scale of what should occur on the site. These are: firstly and most critically, the superb Goldsborough Mort and Company Woolstores building immediately north of the site, which, like the subject site, spans between Cantonment Street and Elder Place and extends for a long distance along Cantonment Street and Elder Place. The second is the relatively recent and modern building on the SE corner of Queen and Goldsborough Streets. Whatever happens on the site must recognise both the scale and character of these two buildings.
None of the other adjacent sites – the obsolete Point Street car parking building and the tired shops on the east side of Cantonment Street and the Wilson’s Car Park on Queen Street – is determinant of what should occur on the subject site, but what is built on the site will inevitably influence their future development.
General Character and Form of the Development
It seems to me that a mixed use development of the site is most appropriate, because the site does mediate between the essentially business and essentially residential precincts of the city.
For that reason, I support, in general terms, the mix proposed, including the replacement of the major supermarket, market hall, offices, significant active-frontage retail and other uses and housing for both active young adults and predominantly retired people.
Provision of active uses at the street frontages of Cantonment and Queen Streets is especially important, and supported. Goldsborough Street, currently a pedestrian desert, also offers the opportunity to become an active and very attractive street in future, especially with a future re-use of the Goldsborough Mort Woolstore building.
In general terms the most appropriate precedents for the overall scale and form of the redevelopment of this pivotal site lie with the adjacent Goldsborough Mort Woolstores building and in the memory of the site, itself a former wool store building of similar scale and mass to the Goldsborough Mort building and the other woolstores along Elder Place and Beach Street – the so-called “March of the Giants”. These suggest a strong, perhaps even monolithic, well-defined mass. The proposed development largely achieves this, were it not for the superimposition of the two tower elements, one at either end, and the excessive size of gaps in the facades, compromising the continuity of the facades.
The unusually large size of the site also strongly suggests the provision of at least one public pedestrian accessway through the site, in line with either the Westgate Mall entry, as proposed, or Point Street, or both. This access way, however, should be completely permeable at ground level, ie it should provide a clear view through between Cantonment Street and Elder Place.
Building Height and Design Excellence
In my opinion the most beneficial height for development over the site would be set precisely at the level of the very fine Goldsborough Mort Woolstores building, creating a beautifully proportioned streetscape in Goldsborough Street. This level would appear to be close to the level that would generally result from the 21m height limit.
At the southern end of the site a benchmark, but not such a precise one, is set by the building on the SE corner of Queen and Cantonment Streets. This building, of four tall storeys, may be a little short of the 21m mark, but development to the 21m level on the subject site would produce an acceptable outcome. The discrepancy would not be material.
Further to that, in my opinion the buildings on the site should maintain a consistent level, as the adjacent Woolstores building does.
The key issue is whether the additional heights proposed at the north and south ends of the development would be acceptable. This should be looked at from both a straightforwardly urban design perspective and from the more legalistic perspective of compliance with the provisions of the planning scheme.
From an urban design perspective the most desirable streetscape outcome is unquestionably to maintain a consistent building height/level based on the level of the Goldsborough Mort Woolstores building. The 21m height level appears to be a good approximation of this. No extension of height above this visible from the adjacent streets would improve the appearance of the building.
Even one additional floor would be detrimental. It is instructive, in this regard, to consider the outcome of a single additional floor, set back from the facade, on the Marilyn New building at the northern end of Cantonment Street, at and adjacent to Parry Street. The extra floor is both highly visible and destroys the otherwise clean lines of the facades. Go and look at it.
The two proposed blocks of additional height, one at each end of the development, almost doubling the height of the development at those places, create an awkwardly balanced and poorly proportioned architectural composition. Despite the (relatively minor) setting back of these blocks, and the conscious facade design effort to distinguish them from the main building mass (the so-called podium/floating tower effect) they remain simply obtrusive elements. Far from being a beneficial element, as claimed by the applicant’s report, they are significantly detrimental to the urban design outcome. That’s from a purely urban design perspective.
From the perspective of compliance with the provisions of the town planning scheme and other instruments, my conclusion is no different. In order to gain approval for the additional height it is necessary for the applicant to demonstrate that the outcome would represent “Distinctive Architectural Design and Exceptional Design Quality”. The architectural design of the complex as a whole, and of the additional floors, is competent, but no more so than must be expected of any architect. Architects are rightly expected, at the very least, to produce buildings that not only function well, are solid and don’t leak, respectful of their neighbours and compliant with the rules, but also are visually attractive and fitting to their setting. That is as a minimum. “Good”, even “High” quality design is expected of all buildings, especially those designed by architects.
“Distinctive” and “Exceptional Design Quality”, by definition, are terms that cannot be applied to any but a relative handful of buildings. It is frequently claimed that the practical application of those terms is (merely) a matter of subjective opinion, and one opinion is as good as another. That is not so. As in all fields requiring the exercise of judgement it is a matter of professional/expert opinion, based upon professional knowledge and experience. That is why the Council has an (expert) Design Advisory Committee. And that is why my opinion has been sought.
It is rare, and difficult, for a development such as this that is driven, quite properly and essentially, by financial imperatives, to achieve distinction (positive or otherwise) and exceptional design quality or design excellence. To gain some idea of what is required to reach these heights, one needs to look at examples of highly regarded contemporary buildings, notably those that have achieved awards of excellence. In the City of Perth Council House and the new City Library come to mind, as do 40 William Street and the Central Park development. In Fremantle perhaps the proposed Kings Square redevelopment might meet the test. Could anyone seriously argue that the proposed Woolstores redevelopment would stand proudly alongside these?
Competent and attractive as the proposed development may be claimed to be it is neither “distinctive” nor of “exceptional design quality”, and hence does not pass the bar for the additional height concession.
Detailed Architectural Design
Had time permitted, I would have prepared comments on some of the more detailed aspects of the architectural design, including the materials and articulation of the facades, the treatment of the corners, the entry points into the development, and so on. However, I have necessarily focussed on the critical issues of the height and form of the development.
In a sense the detailed architectural and design treatment can wait: in my opinion the application should be refused, for the reasons given. If the application were approved in my opinion the game, for the future of Fremantle, will have been lost, and the detail hardly matters.
it is neither “distinctive” nor of “exceptional design quality”, and hence does not pass the bar for the additional height concession.
Ken Adam 22 November 2017
Fremantle Society Nomination Form: Closes Today
The Fremantle Society Incorporated
Nomination Form 2017-2018
Office Bearers and Committee
Members are invited to nominate as Office Bearers and Committee Members.
The Positions being : President, Honorary Secretary, Honorary Treasurer, and to nine
The Committer will take office from the conclusion of the
Annual General Meeting to be held on Thursday 7th December 2017 at 6.30 at Fremantle Tennis Club
Only financial members are eligible to make and second nominations and to be nominated.
Financial membership requires that the annual subscription be paid prior to the AGM
I (print name)………………………………………………………………………………….
Nominate (print name of member being nominated)………………………………………
For the position of: President/treasurer/Secretary/Committee
Signature of Nominator………………………………………………………………………
I, (Name of Seconder)………………………………………………………………………..
Signature of Seconder………………………………………………………………………..
Am pleased to second the nomination detailed above
I (member being nominated) consent to the nomination as detailed above
Signature of member being nominated……………………………………………………..
Completed nomination forms must be received by
Wednesday 22 November 2017
Please post or email form to:
Fremantle Society Inc, POB 828, Fremantle 6959
or email to firstname.lastname@example.org