Very few Fremantle architects are providing commentary on current plans for Fremantle. The Fremantle Society is thrilled that developers want to spend money in Fremantle, but we want good planning. Thank goodness, Fremantle’s senior architect Rob Campbell, active in Fremantle for half a century, is still involved. He has provided the Fremantle Society with the following comments to inform members ahead of their meeting with the Mayor next Tuesday [25 July] at 7pm at the Meeting Place to ask questions about the King’s Square Project.
The latest development of the proposed new administration building conforms to the old story of the Committee set up to design a horse.
Remember this? The architects describing their prize-winning design − “Materially, the building is conceived as a series of sandstone formations rising up to support a delicate glass prism. White planar elements hover above the streets and define a large verandah. The architecture is clear and coherent… the sandstone references the key historical buildings of Fremantle, the white planar massing alludes to the colour of the ocean liners that frequent the Port City…” Over the top?
Sandstone is not typical of Fremantle; the key reference here is the St. John’s Church limestone.
However, the architects had successfully used the white planar elements to pull together the difficulties presented them by the competition brief that demanded too big a footprint on the awkward triangular site. Clear and coherent? Not any more. I hear that Councillors decided that it began to look too much like the Myer building, so now we have a collection of awkward and unrelated spaces and an attempt to disguise this behind a metal curtain. A little old lady’s hat and veil trick, which may improve the wearer’s self-esteem but doesn’t fool anyone else.
This façade treatment is at its worst where it abuts and shows no courtesy to the Town Hall.
Perhaps Councillors should acquaint themselves with the public outcry that accompanied the arrival of the Queensgate building on William Street in 1989, particularly its streetscape relationship to the Town Hall. The Daily News headlined −
“Freo stands by its $10m. ugly duckling, doesn’t know if it will turn into a swan or a turkey”.
The Councillors and Officers who then thought that they were clever enough to produce a swan will now be breathing a sigh of relief and giving thanks to know that the turkey is soon to be gobbled up. The current crop of officials should prepare themselves for similar criticism of the present proposal.
The site is still being over-developed, but we now find that the top floor is surplus to Council’s requirements and will be leased out commercially. (The top floor is higher than the Federal Hotel in William Street that has always been the maximum height marker for the Square) Also, that ground floor space on William and Newman Streets will be leased out, leaving no civic function at street level, and ignoring the opportunity to locate the Library at Kings Square ground level. It begins to look as though Council is abusing its own Town Planning scheme to profit as a developer rather than to set civic standards in this sensitive area of the Town.
While there are several, the most awkward space in the whole scheme is the birdsbeak at the corner of Newman and High. At ground floor level, it is an acute triangle, with approximately seven metre sides and four metre base, behind the entrance doors to a restaurant. Imagine yourself − and the furniture − in this space. .Similarly, in the office spaces on levels one and two above. Useless floor space, and so un-Freo where corners are traditionally comfortably rounded. Worse, the metal curtain oversails the ground floor and leaves an unfriendly canyon of public space below.
It is difficult to imagine the thinking behind the two sunken pools on either side of the basement library, except perhaps that the current officials are too young to remember the pools that stood alongside the Town Hall in the 1970s − and what happened to them on most week-ends.
And where there should be some free space to allow the Town Hall to stand alone in its architectural strength, there is now none.”
(ii) Flawed Heritage Impact Statement
New Council Building gets Heritage Tick of Approval − Herald 1/7/17.
“This headline is based on a Heritage Impact Statement prepared for the City of Fremantle in April.
I am not sure what a Heritage Impact Statement (HIS) is for. It certainly is not a substitute for a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) which is the nationally and internationally recognised structure for assessing and managing the impact of new development on places of cultural significance. (ref.UNESCO; ICOMOS; AICOMOS etc.)
In my submission on the Kings Square development project in January, I pointed out this omission
and included a prototype CMP. Council staff thought so little of this idea that they did not bother to pass it on to Councillors.
This lack of a rigorously argued and structured overall conservation plan and policies for Kings Square is acknowledged in this HIS; instead, the conclusions are a series of straw-man questions or statements on the impact that the new building will have on the existing Statements of Significance listed in the Municipal Inventory for the Town Hall, St. Johns Church, and Kings Square. eg. −
The Town Hall.
Q: Aesthetic value?The building is a fine example of Victorian Free Classical style civic architecture
demonstrating the civic pride and confidence of the Fremantle Community.
A: There will be no adverse impact.
The new proposal is probably not going to change the style category as defined by Irving&Apperly.
The real question is − will it enhance or diminish the way we see ‘this fine example’ on the ground?
Q: Streetscape contribution?The building occupies a strategic position at the intersection of William
and High Streets making a major contribution to the streetscape of the West End of the City.
A: No adverse impact.
The view of the Town Hall from the West End is its most important contribution to the streetscape,
and brevity required in the documentation of the Inventory leaves it at that. But it is not the only value it has to offer. It also demonstrates the Fremantle habit of comfortably turning around corners using curved facades, towers or turrets. This fundamental principle is flatly contradicted at the new building intersection of High and Newman where a most adverse impact on the townscape occurs. That question is not raised in the Heritage Impact Statement.
Q: The Clock Tower?The Town Hall Clock Tower is a well established landmark in Fremantle,
identifying the civic centre of the city.
A: The prominence of the clock will not be diminished.
Perhaps we will still be able to check the time, but in particular, the top floor of the new building will intrude on the architectural view of the tower as a whole on the approaches to the City, and in the closer perspectives from William, Adelaide and Queen Streets, as is well-illustrated in the drawings included in the Heritage Impact Statement.
On the impact of the new building on the townscape of the Square the HIS has not much to say. The latest set of perspective sketches are showing an entirely new and different character to the Square, but this question is not asked in the HIS. However, there is a positive contribution in the statement that − Reopening of Newman Court to traffic will also enhance the urban form of the original square. The reopened street should return to its original name − Newman Street. Yes.
In general, the HIS seems to examine the impact of the new development on the existing paper-work, not the reality of its physical and visual impact on the existing cultural landscape that is Kings Square.”
R.McK.Campbell. July, 2017.
Notes for Wednesday 26: Council Meeting 6pm
(i) 2 Henry Street 5 Storey Proposal: The key issue is 2 Henry Street, a massive and insane 5 storey proposal for the old Customs Buildings in the West End.
If Council had rented those buildings to house its administration instead of renting a football club’s facilities, this project may not have been spawned.
It is depressing that so much time and effort has to go into countering appalling architecture and proposals like this one, rather than supporting those who want to spend their money following the rules. The report recommendation is for refusal, but remember that the mayor and other councillors have recently damaged the West End with 5 storey proposals being supported at 8 Pakenham Street (Quest Apartments) and in Bannister Street (Hougomont Hotel).
In fact one of those councillors, Ingrid Waltham, said at a planning meeting she had no problem with 5 storeys in the West End, contrary to her own council’s policies.
A key issue about the West End is that new works should not project up above the old. The mayor and some councillors are trying to redefine heritage and to rewrite the heritage rules to allow new works which do significantly project up above the old. Thankfully, the council report on 2 Henry Street makes it clear:
- the proposed new building, where it projects above the parapet height of the existing heritage facades, is not supportable.
Please send your views before Wednesday to: email@example.com
(ii) There are many other important issues in the agenda. One is the tentative officer support for a look into third party appeal rights, an issue put to the council recently by the Fremantle Society.
Another is the dismal budget allocation to the urgent and pressing need for a greater tree canopy cover in Fremantle, the second worst cover of any council in WA. While council has spent millions on projects and consultants in other areas, it has only allocated $130,000 to try and meet its promise for a 20% tree canopy cover by 2020, a promise which has now been greatly watered down and which will be impossible to achieve.
Also see the discussion on sustainable cities (an important discussion on ‘doing density’ effectively), and new planning schemes for Beaconsfield and White Gum Valley.
John Dowson, President, The Fremantle Society