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Facadism cont...
Citizen #381277

The main problem associated with facadism is the destruction of the interior of old, often heritage listed structures and replacing them with out of character interiors. Take the GPO redevelopment for example. Baker, in this article raises the very valid point that the GPO's current use doesn't cater for the majority of the population. Unless the majority of the population wear high end fashion, then the argument against the GPO stands.

Of course, this isn't to accuse facadism of being incredibly evil, it's a hihgly legitimate, and quite sensitive form of urban renewal. However, it is the use of the internal areas of the rejuvinated building that should be the focus of discussion.

Obviously, any facadist development that excludes the general public (in any form, economic, social etc) should be discouraged, especially in the case of public buildings. Actually, this should only apply to public buildings. Private developments should be able to work within the planning controls to produce something that is both sensitive to urban character and heritage. Naturally, specific use is quite hard to control with statutory measures.

I guess the crux of this somewhat rambley post is that facadism can be a boon for urban character and heritage, but the use of the interior of the building is pretty much up to the owner to decide, within a reasonable statutory context, naturally. Old public buildings should remain that way, albeit with a new edge. Old private buildings, as long as they keep the facade, the use of the interior is up to the developer.

Planning 15th March, 2005 23:11:46   [#] 


Was the GPO a "public building"?
Tom, while there's certainly something to be said for the idea that public space (including buildings) should remain, well, public, I don't see that the specific case of the GPO development invokes this kind of issue. It was just a bloody post office; it's now a collection of fashion shops and a coffee shop out the front. Big deal.

In my (obviously highly expert) opinion, what our friend here is *actually* complaining about is a combination of three things; one, he doesn't like highrises (like a certain friend of ours); two, he doesn't like much architecture done since 1900; and three, he doesn't like his favourite places changing.

Do you guys have a technical term for this kind of sentimentality - and what part should it play in planning decisions?
Robert Merkel  17th March, 2005 17:18:01  

Public Space / Use
Good point, this sentimentality is sort of catered for in the planning schemes under the Neighbourhood Character Overlay. Although, this is generally applied to established residential areas in the inner east 'blue belt' of Kew to Malvern. As far as I know, it isn't widely used in the CBD, as that is a special case.
Tom Anderson  17th March, 2005 20:16:24  

Wanting decay
Since I am being trolled I may as well take the bait...

The boundary between public and private is increasingly blurred these days. One could actually make a case for arguing that any heritage building is public - in the sense that by asserting heritage controls over it, the public is claiming ownership of it. So the post office was public at least in that limited sense.

One of the issues that has been overlooked is that many of these buildings are chronically underused - Flinders St. Station comes to mind, but I am sure many of the town halls in amalgamated councils are similar. Because the postal services had largely moved out, the post office was only really the hall area, whereas now there are several levels and the outer areas where cafes are, and much more. If commercial opportunity encourages the public owners to open these buildings up to activity them I am all for it.

But that gets me to another point. I think you are harsh Rob, saying 1900 and all high rises. I think he is mostly an objector to modernist and post-modernist architecture, which is reasonable in many cases. Their greatest weakness to many though, is that they don't age well. Take Baker's description of the interior of the Post Office as a "whitewashed cavern"; a charge also levelled against the domed reading room in the State Library. Once, presumably it was white and gleaming, but Baker delights in the comfortable, weathered look. In this country we seem to positively crave old looking buildings - something that is not true of Europeans - and so having let modernist buildings decay we decry them as abominations. I'm reminded of those 18thC landscape paintings of Roman ruins where tourists lounge for picnics beneath crumbling facades and admire their heritage. It's a waste of valuable buildings.

Russ  18th March, 2005 03:00:26  

That was unintentionally harsh...
Russ, I only meant point to describe point 3) as sentimentality, not points 1) and 2). And I'm not saying that sentimentality is an invalid basis for planning, either; I'm genuinely curious how you can incorporate the widespread desire for stasis into sensible urban planning in a growing, changing city.
Rob M  18th March, 2005 11:34:36  

I disagree
The boundary between public and private is increasingly blurred these days. One could actually make a case for arguing that any heritage building is public - in the sense that by asserting heritage controls over it, the public is claiming ownership of it. So the post office was public at least in that limited sense.

I'm not sure you can generalise the divide between the public and private realms so brashly, Russ. Applying a heritage controls doesn’t automatically give the public a claim to ‘ownership’, rather it recognises the importance of certain buildings as intrinsic to the history of a certain area, period or style. Asserting importance doesn’t automatically bring a building to the public.

Tom  18th March, 2005 15:35:18  

To clarify
Rob, I realise that. I merely meant that disliking modernism is not the same as a dislike of post-1900 buildings. Not least because it includes buildings like Flinders St. station and the Mercantile building - but also attractive high-rises like the Rialto, or 330 Collins.

To your other point, which I didn't address - apologies - Tom is right that it is generally part of the largely unimplemented neighbourhood character guidelines and heritage restrictions. Sentimentality is one of the major weaknesses in the way we do planning. Anyone can object to a proposal but only legitimate planning issues - as addressed by the scheme - need by addressed. Thus, sentimentality is largely ignored, except where it can be legislated for, or where sufficient numbers of protesters can produce a backdown by the developer/government. Victoria has a basically confrontational legal planning framework though, so increasing sentimentality in the process is only likely to bring greater uncertainty and greater angst. More on this after a brief diversion...

Tom, this is where the concept of rights comes in. Most owners of buildings own the right to demolish said building. By removing that right, and placing it into the hands of public bodies, the right to demolish becomes a publicly owned right, not a private one. Hence my assertion that heritage buildings are in part public buildings.

Returning from whence I just came. What this implies is that sentimentalists have an interest in preserving heritage buildings and facades; and therefore, should be willing to purchase - either through a public body or through private funds, or both - the right to demolish and modify. The money then being available to help preserve them. However, this model is fundamentally incompatible with the current way we do planning in Victoria.
Russ  18th March, 2005 16:20:47  

For the benefit of Rob and others not familiar with the Victorian planning scheme. Or for pedants wanting to correct me. There is no 'right' to demloish as such in Victoria, it always goes through the local planning authorities. They however don't have the ability to reject an aplication without good cause - such as a heritage listing - so a partial right does exist for the owner. Hence my statement on fundamental incompatibilities; all applications are looked at through the lens of permit grants and therefore legal - not economic.
Russ  18th March, 2005 16:28:04  


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