Your Square, soon to be a Triangle? New Campaign Launch

Your King’s Square

The Fremantle Society has launched another campaign to save King’s Square. We want change – for the better. ie a true Town Square. We will send you the full page ad we have just launched in the Fremantle Herald.

We would like to share with you some more of the drone shots we commissioned of King’s Square, now that the administration building has been removed.

Few towns in Western Australia have a town square. Fremantle’s King’s Square has never been implemented as a town square. Over the years it has been over-filled with buildings and clutter.

Council commissioned experts to advise on the BEST outcome for King’s Square.

The $60,000 report was helped by Adrian Fini (Mirvac), Geoffrey London (then Government Architect), Dominic Snellgrove (green building specialist), Patric de Villiers (ex CEO of Fremantle), and Richard Weller (Head of Landscape Architecture at UWA).


They said: “This is the concept that speaks of the City’s confidence in its future, that recognises the enduring value of public space, and refuses to bow to the short term exigencies of problematic social elements and a conservative market-place. It celebrates the original structure of the space.”

Please go and look at the space and tell us if you agree with the experts.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society


New High Street Art Installation- Inner City Beach Created

New Public Art Installation?

Felice Varini has long since departed Fremantle with the $150,000 he was paid to stick yellow aluminium foil over High Street heritage buildings. Many people enjoyed the clever optical illusion, but it was only supposed to be a short term temporary art work, for 3 months.

Over a year later our premier street is a mess, and the clean up bill of over $115,000, which could have funded a dozen heritage projects in the street, will instead go to a clean up.

The clean up is being done by a building contractor who is sand blasting his way up High Street, creating another mess as he goes. The sand (pictured above) from the sand blasting has not been cleaned up. This week council will no doubt announce another art project – the installation of an inner city beach along High Street, to save people from risking their safety transiting Arthur Head to get to Bathers Beach, a headland now at risk of collapses, and covered in scaffolding due to a lack of maintenance by council at that A class reserve.

On the first day of this year the West Australian’s advertorial writer for developers Kent Acott wrote a full page piece on High Street, named by Mayor Pettitt as “WA’s most historically rich street.” The reason given for this laudable assertion was that “it was only made possible through the demolition of dozens of buildings.” This is code for “The Fremantle you love will change rapidly as developers are allowed to build whatever they like.”

Anyway, enjoy the inner city beach.

God at One End Looking at the Devil at the Other

Your High Street

In the 1800s the Anglicans had a church plumb in the middle of their King’s Square facing down High Street to the Round House Jail at the other end. God looking at the devil.

That church was demolished to make way for the current St John’s Church and to allow the Fremantle Town Hall to be built. High Street was extended through the Square and, at the other end, the Round House stopped functioning as a jail and became a tourist attraction. God no longer was keeping an eye on the devil.

Pity, because High Street at the moment needs a lot of help. At the King’s Square end, the “Green” council has just flattened a solid 50 year old building in order to spend $50 million it doesn’t have building a new one no-one in the community asked for. Rumour has it that because council has never paid their peppercorn rent in King’s Square to the church, that is why the church is seeking Victoria Hall for just $1.

At the other end of High Street, after wasting years trying to turn Arthur Head, where the Round House sits, into an alcohol venue, council is now faced with serious issues about the current state of the area due to a lack of maintenance. The scaffolding there gives some indication of just how much work, time and money is going to be needed to get Arthur Head back into good condition.

Meanwhile High Street itself is suffering jaundice from the yellow lines of Felice Varini. Whatever fun and joy was generated by spending $150,000 putting  yellow lines over the buildings in High Street, the resultant mess that is still to be cleaned up is not good for trade, tourists, or heritage. The cleanup will be done by one painting company working its way slowly down High Street, one building at at time.

Council has allocated $115,000 to clean up private buildings, but that amount will increase if any owner is unsatisfied with the standard of repairs and demands more. The amount will increase if owners succeed in legal action. One owner is taking the council to court, as a trial. Offered $6,000 by council to remove the yellow lines, the owner’s view is that a simple patch and repair will not work, and that the whole building needs repainting, at a cost of over $40,000. Ratepayers will wear the cost of the court case, and any decision against council.

Out of this catastrophic immaturity in civic affairs down the length of High Street between King’s Square and the Round House, some good could possibly come – if council held off the building of a new administration centre, and if High Street got some serious restoration and not just patchwork as a result of the  yellow line debacle. Look at 7 High Street pictured above. Underneath the plastic paint sits a dramatic tuck pointed building. If all the paint was removed from the building, it would never have to be painted again, and the result would be a sharp, original and dynamic gem on a prominent intersection, not just another heritage building covered in plastic paint.

This is the time for council to go beyond the bare minimum, and seek to have good heritage outcomes where possible down High Street in partnership with the owners. The aim should be to get the best possible result with each building affected by the yellow lines, and to have our premier street looking as good as possible, and significantly better than it was before the fiasco.

But, better results in Kings Square, High Street and at Arthur Head will not come unless ratepayers ask for them. It is Christmas after all. Santa’s email is busy, but the mayor and councillors can be reached at:

Barcelona Brilliance or the Usual Sorry Silverleaf Style?

These four images show architects in Barcelona hard at work currently refurbishing a modernist building, the Casa Buros.

Architects from Barcelona visited Fremantle 10 years ago to show their plans for the Coles Woolstore building. The plans were too ambitious and council sent the architects packing. A few years later, architects from Barcelona visited Fremantle to put forward (less) ambitious plans for the Point Street site owned by council, but they were sent packing too.

Now, you have 24 hours to comment on plans for the Coles Woolstore site, not put forward by architects from Barcelona, but by Gerard O’Brien’s company Silverleaf.  We sent you the plans last week, with a report from planning expert Malcolm Mackay.

If you want brilliance for the brilliant little town of Fremantle you have 24 hours to ask for it.

Here is a summary of key points you can ask for:

a) No approval until Silverleaf have complied with plans passed for their Atwell Buildings.

b) Seek to have the 6 small shops in Queen Street removed and the design altered to give that north west corner opposite the railway station a strong, coherent and welcoming architectural feature.

Fremantle Society committee member and inaugural Chair of the Heritage Council Ian Molyneux points to the need to an overall strategic plan linking the railway station to the centre of town, instead of the ad hoc approvals being meted out time after time.

c) The overly dominant and horizontal band of glass of the office area of the new building is alien to and at odds with the Fremantle character.

d) The design of the entrance to the hotel and offices is clumsy, with nothing entrancing to the visitor.

e) The full height shop glazing is more akin to a car showroom along a busy highway than a traditional town centre setting with raised sills and indented openings.

f) Coles should provide a much higher quality supermarket in line with 21st century ones overseas.

Comments to:

Also send to the mayor and councillors:

If you see Gerard O’Brien around town measuring up the next site he is going to buy, ask him for a good building.

If you see the mayor, or your councillor, as them for a good building.

The mayor did comment on the Fremantle Society facebook site pointing to good readaptive work promoted by council by showing a picture of the highly successful Fort Knox woolstore development. What he failed to mention is that when the plans first came to Council, he voted against all the heritage reports and heritage experts and allowed the developer to have extra storeys on top which would have destroyed the saw tooth roof and the heritage integrity of the building. Thank goodness the developer didn’t have the money to build the extra storeys of penthouses there.

The Fremantle Society vision for Fremantle is for a quality environment that sustainably develops the high quality assets we have. Mediocre is not good enough. The “Let’s get on with it brigade” need Fremantle Society members pointing out what could and should be aimed for.

Please get on with your submission.

Your Future – Once in a Generation Chance to – GET IT RIGHT

Expert Advice to Guide Your Submission

The last Fremantle Society post we sent you (about seeking good quality development) went viral on facebook, as it raises a subject dear to the hearts of many people around the world – what is happening to our beloved town?

The picture above shows what you will be getting on the Coles Woolstore site – a large hotel  with a smaller Coles inside. Will it become a place good enough to be a genuine destination to hang out in, or will it continue to be a dismal unwelcoming box where people scurry in and out of as fast as possible, because of anonymous architecture and mediocre shops? The plans out for comment give little detail about the quality of the finish or the interiors, so we employed one of the State’s top experts to give his views -to guide yours.

We ask that you ask for good quality.

Malcom Mackay’s report below picks up on Fremantle Society concerns about lack of detail, lack of resolution of issue of the 6 little shops on Queen Street, and over use of glass for frontages.

The six mediocre shops on Queen Street should go. They appeared during the mayoralty of Jenny Archibald and have no history or significance and detract from any attempt to improve Queen Street.

Given the quality of previous works by this developer, Silverleaf, will council finally ask them for quality and delivery? Council held a special council meeting for Silverleaf to deal with the Atwell Buildings development because the developer said time was of the essence and that a national chain would not come to town if they didnt get what they wanted. Well the national chain never arrived, and the building still has not been built according to the approval. Approval for this new project should not be given until the Atwell development complies.

You have until August 20 to sub a comment or three (to

Please ask for a decent hotel – not the Amana cringe worthy quality they gave Perth.

Please ask Coles to give us a 21st century supermarket instead of a 20th century one (they would love to hear from you at Customer Care: 1 800 061 562).

Here is the expert report:

“Clumsy” and “Alien”

Woolstores redevelopment, Fremantle

Thank you for your request for comments in regard to the revised proposal for the Woolstores site that limits new development to the southwestern end of the site and retains and refurbishes the remainder of the site. My comments are as follows:

General comments

The proposed design appears to be mostly appropriate for its location and appears to be largely compliant with the local planning framework. However, it is noted that the quality of information provided for advertising is limited with the elevations containing no annotation on materials and the only 3D image being on the cover of the accompanying report. This is unfortunate because a number of the architectural devices uses to articulate the building are not readily apparent on the elevations.

Building form

Leaving much of the existing building in place is not the best possible urban design outcome for Fremantle. However, it is a better outcome than the wholesale replacement of the existing building with a much larger one that is inappropriate to its context. Furthermore, the retention of the existing building leaves the door open to replacing it with a well-considered building in the future.

The retention of the existing shops to Queen Street is unfortunate as the north-western corner of the site is a prominent corner that is clearly visible to people arriving in Fremantle at the railway station; also, the corner would have offered an excellent opportunity to establish a strong and welcoming architectural feature. In the event that the shops are demolished at some point in the future, the design of the proposed building, dog-legging around the back with windows overlooking the shop roofs, inhibits the potential to establish an architectural feature of any significance. It would have been beneficial for the DA drawings to include, for information purposes, how the existing shops could be developed in the future.

The height of the building is consistent with a ‘human-scaled’ urban environment and, whilst it is taller than most existing buildings in Fremantle, it is not of a height that is likely to create significant visual intrusion to views of significance in the surrounding area, although the advertised documents would have benefitted from including some visual analysis material.

The planning of the new building is generally logical and functional.

The area over the car park ramp appears unresolved. On plan, it appears that it could function as an indoor performance space with a gently rising terrace. However, in section, it is clear that any such use would be unduly compromised by the level of the underside of the pool that is above.


The elevations generally exhibit a rhythm and a depth of articulation that reflects the existing grain of the city centre. However, the success of the articulation depends on being seen in 3D and this is not readily evident in the elevations.

In particular, the upper portion of the elevations looks weak and inconsistent with the strong cornice lines that ‘finish’ the elevations of Fremantle’s traditional buildings. However, in the perspective image, the upper horizontal member of the architectural frames does appear to lend strength to the top of the building, particularly on the Queen/Cantonment corner where it floats out over the return of the floors below. In this respect, it could be seen as a contemporary interpretation of traditional forms.

The treatment of the office area of the new building is unfortunate and is at odds with what is widely perceived as the Fremantle character. The band of glass to the office area sandwiched between two bands of vertical sticks is an overly dominant and horizontal composition that is inconsistent with the vertical and horizontal balance of the rest of the building, and alien to Fremantle as a whole.

The arrangement of the entrance to the hotel and office components is clumsy. The two entrances are squashed together with neither use gaining an entrance that is ‘entrancing’ to a visitor. Whilst, from a distance, the projection over the hotel entrance gives it prominence, it would be less noticeable to visitors on the adjacent pavement.

The full-height shop glazing is more akin to the off-the-shelf curtain walling of a typical car showroom along a highway rather than a retail centre in a traditional town centre setting. The shop frontage should take a cue from the existing and traditional shop fronts that often feature a raised sill and indented openings.

The application of the architectural treatment of the new building to the retained building will assist in ‘refreshing’ the retained building and help to integrate the new building into an overall composition.

The use of several canopy treatments rather than one homogenous canopy along the length of Cantonment Street contributes to the traditional rhythm of Fremantle’s streets.

Further attention needs to be paid to the design of the vehicle entrance to the site. It is unclear from the advertised documents as to whether there is a roller door or whether the vehicle entrance is a gaping concrete chasm. Either way, there is an opportunity to treat the vehicle entrance in similar materials to the rest of the building so that is integrated, rather than being left as unfinished concrete, as is often the case.


According to the report, the materials feature brick and Corten steel, although there are no cross references on the elevations. If these are indeed the feature materials of the elevations, then they provide an appropriate colouring and level of texture for the locality.


Architecture is a somewhat subjective issue, and there are differing opinions on what constitutes an appropriate architectural response to an existing place with historical value and character. For some people, nothing less than traditional forms and materials will suffice. However, others believe that new buildings can, and should be, contemporary with the times they are created, and the reality is that this is the prevailing orthodoxy in the planning arena.

It should also be noted that the degree to which buildings need to be sensitive to their context varies from site to site within the same place. If the subject site were in Fremantle’s west end, sandwiched between two listed buildings, it would require a more sensitive design than if it were on the periphery of the town centre.

Given its location and the prevailing orthodoxy of how new architecture responds to existing places, the proposed new building is a largely acceptable outcome for the site, subject to a few relatively minor changes as suggested above. Whilst the design is not one that could be described as ‘design excellence’ (which implies a quality that is far and above the norm) it is, nevertheless, of a quality that is better than average and would, with a few changes, be a respectable contemporary addition to Fremantle’s streetscape. It exhibits fundamental aspects of Fremantle’s character in respect to rhythm, colour, materials and proportion, although there is still room for more explanation or improvement or both at a detailed level.

It is also noted that as an interim development it doesn’t preclude the potential to redevelop the rest of the retail centre in the future and, in that respect, makes it a better outcome than the previous proposal.

by Malcom Mackay

John Dowson