Colin Nichol finds good and unacceptable in the design for an upcoming major central city building project.
FOLLOWING a series of council decisions and actions toward the “revitalisation” of the centre of the City of Fremantle and the unwelcome effects of some of those, comes the test case of the fearfully anticipated disaster of a design for a forthcoming building encompassing half a hectare of the CBD. Referred to as the “Point Street development”, the site is actually bounded by Point, Cantonment and Adelaide Streets, with at least seven floors looming over the Victorian-era former boys school, now FTI, on its north side.
This is not the beginning of visual pollution of an 18th century treasured city; that has been insidiously creeping over it for several years and especially recently, but it is a manifestation of the beginning of the end, should it be constructed as now threatened. Is ugly to be the new heritage? Large and high and sticking out as it will be, it will become Fremantle’s “sore thumb”.
Striking at the heart of the city with small blows has been wearing away at its vital force. No new buildings constructed over the past few years has been unique or contributing to the city’s architectural heritage, they are uniformly ordinary. Those in Bannister, Norfolk and Leake Streets for example, are obviously constrained by having to maximise small sites, with concrete more in evidence than originality.
“Point Street” represents an approach to the difficult challenge of so large a site. It demonstrates outstanding lifestyle, design and finish ideas within a sheer bulk mitigated by being broken up with variations in examples of currently fashionable façade styles to each of four frontages. Those exterior presentations exhibit some innovative touches but with the dominance of boxiness. It could well find a suitable home, but not in central Fremantle.
Cynics expected a building for that site would never offer a satisfactory external design, it was anticipated to be inevitably unsuitable and unsympathetic to the existing built environment of the city, but a vestige of hope was treasured that it would not be as entirely unacceptable as it now reveals itself to be. It has no reference to existing Fremantle, unless to Westgate Mall – and like it, has no soul.
Fremantle’s mayor has identified himself closely with this project, it is his own and he explicitly, emphatically and publicly promised good design. While this is a curate’s egg, the exterior is not good enough, suitable or acceptable. It is up to the mayor to put this right, it is on his head, it is his legacy.
by Colin Nichol
Point Street and 64-86 Adelaide Street, Fremantle DAP application (DAP80008/13)