Featuristic Mediocrity, not Majesty, for Woolstores

re Woolstores 28 Cantonment Street Development Application (DAP003/19)

Like the shocking Atwell Arcade development submitted by the same developer, which was built differently to the plans passed, still has not had the restoration completed that was promised, and has damaged forever the goldrush roofscapes of that part of town, this featuristic design does nothing to enhance a critically important entry point from the railway station to the town.

The council’s Design Advisory Committee may have asked Silverleaf to articulate a form that retains a 2 to 3 storey profile with the upper floors set behind a continuous screen and thereby confirming in the lower floors reference to the predominant scale of the City. But, the proposal at first glance is like a giant wedding cake, is seriously lacking in detail, and should not be approved.

The Fremantle Society commissions experts to provide comment, and architect Sasha Ivanovich says:

The proposal would do well with further detail. It is a massive building and with the extent of red brickwork to the lower floors the proponents should demonstrate how the material could be further articulated with the application of different brick bonding, banding and similar. Though the screen clearly shows the overall intent, more detail would be useful in demonstrating how effective a screen it will end up to be visually, when it is covering a mundane rectangular form facade behind it and also practically, in relation to the sustainability goals which the City has been championing.

Where the project needs further review is in considering its civic value – a large project of this size, to be approved , should demonstrate what it is offering to the City for the concessions it is seeking. What it doesn’t give to the city is a convincing public realm and urban space.

There is an opportunity not to be missed in this approval for the development to cede more space to the public realm and to raise the quality of public space on its street frontages to Cantonment Street and in Elder Place, to the Queen Street and Elder Place corner, at least. More generosity with the streetscape interface and a more generous and positive urban space response would arguably also contribute to the commercial prospect of this development.”

Sasha Ivanovich’s comments add to earlier comments from Fremantle Society committee member Ian Molyneux, inaugural chairman of the Heritage Council, when he said that Fremantle Council urgently needs a masterplan for Queen Street instead of the ad hoc current approach, which means it is difficult to see how Queen Street will ever rise to the standard of its competitor and neighbour Market Street, especially if Queen Street is to become a well worn and attractive conduit from the railway station to the newly developed King’s Triangle.

The ad hoc approach can be seen in the current plans keeping the 6 single storey shops added in the 90s along Queen Street at the railway end. They should go, and the current design should make an effort to provide a strong and welcoming architectural feature on that corner.

This development was discussed with Architect Carl Payne, who said:

“What a frustrating development. We are in some kind of weird visual spiral.

The original woolstores were demolished and replaced with a dull and deceitful pastiche. Pretending to be a new commercial development in “the old woolstores”, they were just a very mediocre cheat.

We now have an opportunity to revitalise the block – this crucial railway-post side gateway to the city – and we get instead the demolition of Pastiche01, with a replacement by Pastiche02.

But trying harder. And so its failure is more spectacular; more long lasting; more frustrating.

Is the small commercial development on the corner of Queen and Elder Place on a separate title or ownership? The streetscape is now just awful, with a mis-match of scale and texture.

The Elder Place elevation is like two buildings built to different scales. Brick pilasters of similar widths, but varying in heights and distances apart. I would fail a first year architectural student if he submitted this.

The vertical elements on the extended large intestine that winds its way around the site like a half-demolished piano accordion, seem to be a camouflage after-thought.

And unlike the brickwork, these are a lazy non-resolution that come straight out of the 2019 cliché-book. Give us a freakin’ break!

The whole affect is reminiscent of Independence Day – the Movie, not the date. A giant accordion has colonised the innards of a South London housing estate from 1958.

It’s so much worse that I imagined it could ever be.

Wow, I really worry about my old town, if this is the best my Council can chaperone through the processes. The processes are broken. We are now officially out of control. “

After 10 years of low quality ‘revitalisation’ in Fremantle, we need the mayor and council to demand much better quality, and a sensitivity to the scale and character of Fremantle. This proposal is simply not good enough for a world famous town.

Fremantle Society members are asked to be involved and engaged. Go to the Fremantle Council website under Have My Say, look at the plans and make a comment by the end of the month.

The Fremantle Society will further study the plans and formulate a final submission. We will try to understand how the developer can argue that the extra height he is seeking is OK because the upper storeys are set back and not visible from the street, when they clearly are. We will try to understand the developer’s assessment report that states Coles Supermarket in the building is reaching for the sky as :

“The Supermarket has a requirement for 55.5 metres clear height throughout its tenancy.”

Email the mayor and councillors (members@fremantle.wa.gov.au) and demand that they stop giving us mediocrity. They will say that the Joint Development Assessment Panel is the determining authority, but council will make a decision first.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

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