Thursday, May 13, 2010

Old versus new

I seem to have gotten some backs up in a recent post to a heritage list which I thought innocuous enough, but was rejected as too incendiary.

I think there is a serious argument to be had about the different attitudes of architects and developers wanting modern buildings in heritage areas, particularly where a new building has a negative impact on heritage, either because it creates a clash between old and new, overwhelms the old by drawing attention to itself, or under schemes like Port Phillip and the proposed Yarra heritage demolition policy (see below), becomes an argument for demolishing the old. I would doubt many architects would argue that their design does NOT display architectural design excellence, so if approved this policy would seem to be a free for all.

22.02-5.1 Demolition
Full Demolition or Removal of a Building
Encourage the retention of a building in a heritage place unless:
-The building is identified as being not contributory.
-The building is identified as a contributory building and:
-new evidence has become available to demonstrate that the building does not possess the level of heritage significance attributed to it in the incorporated document, City of Yarra Review of Heritage Overlay Areas 2007, Appendix 8 (Graeme Butler and Associates), or
-the replacement building displays architectural design excellence, or
-the replacement building positively supports the ongoing heritage significance of the heritage place.

The issue is one of aesthetics, which ultimately is an emotional response, and one also used in a highly political manner.

I was thinking a few years ago of doing one of Miles Lewis's subjects, to see what the new generations of architects look like. They seem a separate breed. I also wonder if the slab, blade and fracture style is simply a justification of the economics-driven factory-made process of new buildings - pre cast tilt slab, prefab welded portals and frames, slot in panels and the like. another option is the use of CAD programs, that are easiest to use with lines and planes, and even Perspex models. I reckon the ubiquitous saluting blade was originally a left over bit of Perspex that the model maker just stuck in at a quirky angle to give the big box some clout.

Third-year architecture students at Melbourne University had never heard of such a thing as a heritage consultant or even imagined that it might exist.

Is there a prevailing view among many architects that the community is too 'ignorant' to understand their 'art'. There are good philosophies in the Burra Charter which as one heritage practitioner described to me "mirror the centuries old "second architect principle" where a second architect's work respects and reflects on the best adjacent neighbouring works, and together they create great streetscapes and urban spaces."
He suggests "...the Windsor Hotel extension on the corner of Spring and Burke Street, was a marvellously successful building that respected the original work, and together with the old, created a successful streetscape and urban space opposite Parliament House.

"Similarly with the Melbourne Town Hall, and the adjacent Administration Building. And from an engineering point of view, the widening or duplication of bridges, where the works are many decades apart but are only subtly distinguishable, such as Hawthorn Bridge.

A similar effect was create when the BHP building (corner Burke and Williams Street) reflected the Shell Building, and other later buildings followed.

He and I await the "demise of the current wave of 'noisy' 'look at me, look at me' style (and 'no-style') and the arrival of the next wave of simple sensible solid grand designs (and designers) that just worked together perfectly."

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