Why Backyards are Important


This doesn’t look like a backyard, but it is. In the jaw droppingly beautiful heritage town of Colmar in eastern France, this is the view from a new rental apartment in a 400 year old building in the heart of town, a whole (compact) apartment rented for less than any little box in the new developments of Fremantle.

Colmar is full of these backyards behind thriving busy shops and streets in the middle of town. Just ten metres from the hectic life on the street, these serene spaces for residents abound. The plastic grass may be a touch too far, but most of the rest is real heritage, a survivor from two world wars, a town so beautful that the Germans, and even the Americans, did not bomb it.

Gerard O’Brien destroyed all the backyards of the Atwell Buildings in High Street with his new glass box, and will do the same with the backyards to the 28 Manning Buildings shops across the road. The inner city backyards of Fremantle, what little remain of them, are precious, and could be Colmar type spaces. In some places like Melbourne they graffiti them and turn them into laneway bars, and Fremantle Council is on an alcohol led recovery so could consider the same.

It is a tragedy that no councillor would listen to the Fremantle Society when we pleaded for the rear of the Manning Building shops to be treated as important spaces that could be turned into something wonderful. Instead, most of the rear buildings, including a level 1a listed building, ironically probably one of the first bicycle factories in Fremantle, will be demolished.

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