Friday, December 16, 2016

Richmond Malting silos

With continuing controversy over the Richmond Malting Site - which seems to hover around replacing the 1950s/60s concrete silos and what to do with the Nylex clock on top, I am still unconvinced of the significance of the silos, and think their importance should be re-examined.
Bulk grain storage was well underway by the 1920s, and the norm by the second World War. Innovative construction methods were tried and proven by Monash/Monier, Stone and Siddeley, and others early in the 20th century and also standardised by the war. Grains other than wheat were regularly stored in the same silos and there is no particular distinction between a barley silo or one intended for other gains, apart from their history of use. obviously barley silos tend to be associated with maltings. The first concrete silos were built in about 1907 when John Monash was commissioned to erect silos at Rupunyip flour mill. This was prior to bulk transport, so the purpose was to stockpile summer harvest grain at mills for use over the year, with shipment of whet to the mill and flour away from it, still manhandled in bags. Numerous flour mill associated silos were then built across Australia. The destruction of massive stacks of bagged wheat by mice plagues gave encouragement of silos for other stages in the handling processes, particularly at ports, and for wheat-board controlled stockpiles.
Stone and Siddeley's patent for prefabrication of panels which formed the silos, was put into effect in 1910 at the Albury Flour Mills (recently demolished), while Monash again used a panel system at Minnifies mill in about 1914. The use of slip form cast reinforced concrete became fairly standard by the 1920s, and progressed to larger installations.
There has been no detailed history or comparative analysis of bulk grain handling or concrete silos in Victoria (apart from Alan Holgate's and Geoff Taplin's work specifically on Monier silos), although some work has been done in NSW. The railfans have done some work on categorising, along with railway modellers who as always have a great understanding of the intrinsic values of railway places.
The statement of significance for the place focusses on the actual malting works. The silos are considered as 'supplementary to the "...1939-40 building for storing barley..." and "...represent an early surviving example of this form of barley storage system on a sale maltster site in Victoria", for its "landmark status", its "distinctive industrial aesthetic", and "... a significant cultural iconic feature..."
However, there are more economically important, older, taller, larger capacity and equally prominent grain silos around Melbourne, while the social significance, based on a pop song and a shared folk memory of being stuck in a traffic jam on a monotonous commute and recalling the time (too early in the morning or running late to get home) and temperature (freezing winter mornings or scorching summer afternoons), has never been tested or substantiated. Equally, engineer Bruce Day's Punt Road overpass and elevated freeway could qualify as the source of motorist frustration and creator of the South-Eastern Carpark.
There are now examples of silos converted to other uses around the world, including Melbourne. Some pretty wild results have come from the understanding that one large concrete structure can provide the basis for a range of new uses. In South Africa for example a combination of converted silos and stacks of shipping containers on top has helped deal with an accommodation shortage for students.
While another set is earmarked for conversion.

Further afield even in Ecuador they are doing it.
In Holland, squatters took over a set of silos before a conversions created one of Amsterdam's most expensive sets of housing blocks -

And closer to home a recent conversion in Bunbury WA sees a very Post Modern - looking hotel -
In Ballarat -
and Hobart -
Even the very large sets, with difficult to use internal drums are finding new life such as these at Akron University.
and the Silo Student Dorms, Norway -
And as for the clock; there was another one that was demolished with little fanfare in Mentone.

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