Carmen Lawrence: “That is going to be a blight on the City of Fremantle for the next 100 years”

Garry Gillard – Great Fremantle Stuff

The Fremantle Society, and many others, are indebted to Garry Gillard for the amazing work he has done single-handedly constructing a Fremantle version of Wikipedia.

Garry has posted a plethora of interesting pages about Fremantle people, places, buildings, and events over recent years.

The most important is the recent posting of the complete speech former Premier Carmen Lawrence made several years ago to the Fremantle History Society about doing density differently. It was entitled “Is Increasing Density a threat to Fremantle’s heritage?

This important speech was made in 2016 at the Fremantle History Society’s Fremantle Studies Day. The speech was an important rejoinder to the damaging and undemocratic high rise path being pursued by Fremantle Council in developing the town.

The speech was so important it should have been released immediately to the media. Instead, the Fremantle History Society, who holds the copyright, disgracefully kept the speech hidden. The speech might have made a difference, and helped save KIng’s Square, something the Fremantle Society tried hard to do. The Fremantle History Society is not into advocacy, which is a great pity, but this speech by a former Premier backs up the concerns expressed by another former Premier, Colin Barnett.

The Fremantle Society asked the Fremantle History Society if we can reproduce the speech, but they have not responded.

Garry Gillard has gone ahead and posted the whole speech. It is available on his Fremantle Stuff site. A few extracts:

In struggles to preserve our heritage in the face of these economic goals, those goals may take precedence over what is really precious to us. So in a funny kind of way the metric of money because it is tangible and palpable – overwhelms the things that we cannot value so readily. Decisions about what matters and whether and how to protect heritage are often made without reference to the views of the public at large. It is only when people object that we find out what they care about. Those judgments are often made by experts and specialists and when they do ask people what they want it is often as not to ignore it once they have found out.

People know what Fremantle is about. It might consist of certain building materials, familiar here, colours, typical arrangements of scale and architectural form, building lot sizes, roof lines, the scale of public and semi-public spaces. I am sure we could all draw a picture of Fremantle that incorporated all of those elements and there would be a great deal of agreement between us about the nature, if you like the DNA, of Fremantle. The important thing here is that when you are thinking about increasing density, or building new civic buildings, or increasing the number of opportunities for people to have recreation on the waterfront, this DNA has to be respected. In my view. New buildings have to respect this genetic code, reflecting at least some of the existing patterns when they are being interpreted in contemporary form. There has to be a conversation; there has to be a relationship.

There is another one that you would be aware of in the old Spotlight site. I do not think that has come to anything yet, but the proposals being suggested are very like, as I understand it, the scale of old Johnston Court, which is one of those buildings that sticks out like a sore thumb. Similarly adding an extra storey here and there, out of sync with the streetscape, out of sync with the texture of the environment, is likely to have very significant effects as well.

I have on my thumb drive here an image of what is proposed for St John’s Square, which many of you will be familiar with. I find it hard to imagine that anybody could have looked at that place and said that that building, or those buildings, were the solution to the problem that we have there. Apart from anything else having a whole lot of office space is not likely to bring life to the city; you actually need people who live there and a big triangular building with all these grey facades plonked in middle of a square, out of sync with the town hall and the church is giving up what could be a wonderful opportunity. That is going to be a blight on the City of Fremantle in my view for the next 100 years and I think that is a tragedy.

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society
John.dowson@yahoo.com

0409223622

photo courtesy The Guardian

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