Post-war heritage on show

The City of Melbourne’s Hoddle Grid Heritage Review is leading an overdue change in atti- tudes towards post-war heritage, according to the Felicity Watson of the National Trust of Australia.

The council’s heritage review is aiming to secure heritage protection for 137 buildings and is open for public exhibition until December 17. Fifty-five of the 137 buildings are examples of post-war architecture.

Felicity Watson is the National Trust’s Victorian executive manager of advocacy and will be speaking on a panel discussion as part of the public exhibition.

“We’re really particularly interested in the focus the review has on post-war heritage,” Ms Watson told CBD News.

“As a general rule post-war heritage is not well represented in local heritage protection, or even at the state level.”

“We’ve been advocating for a long time for more recognition so we’re really excited about the work done in this review.”

Ms Watson said there was a change in attitudes towards heritage occurring more broadly. “Attitudes about heritage and what heritage is change over time and I guess the longer that you have to reflect on a period of architecture the more you can get an appreciation of its significance,” she said.

Photos by Wolfgang Sievers, on show as part of the Hoddle Grid Heritage Review. Right: the AMP building, 402 Lonsdale Street; Left: the Royal Mail Hotel. Source: National Library of Australia.

“We see now a real growing appreciation for places from the post-war period, for historical and architectural significance and the de- sign aesthetic of that period.”

Ms Watson pointed to the example of the Royal Exhibition Building, which was built in 1879-80 and in 2004 became the first building in Australia to gain UNESCO World Heritage status.

But Ms Watson said the building was considered unfashionable for a long time and was almost demolished.

She said the Hoddle Grid Heritage Review was significant because of the way the city was often associated with its 19th century heritage and the Gold Rush period.

“We have all this amazing architecture from that period when it was one of the fastest growing cities in the world, but similarly the post- war period was a real boom time in Melbourne’s history,” Ms Watson said.

“There was a renewed optimism and new ideas about design and architecture. Immigrant architects were coming to work here and bringing influence with them from Europe.”

“So, the architecture of that period really became a new layer of significance in the city.”

Ms Watson said one of her favourite buildings in the review was the Hoyts Cinema complex on Bourke St – a brutalist building described by the former Minister for Planning Matthew Guy as an “upturned spaceship”.

“The building was designed by Bogle and Banfield and it’s a really great example of brutalist architecture, another style of architecture gaining in recognition,” Ms Watson said.

“It’s a reminder of the changing social trends of that period, it was a period where multiplex

cinemas were just starting to be developed and becoming an important recreational activity, so that’s a really great building and quite visually striking.”

“The National Trust has for a long time recognised the significance of that building but there has been resistance to the protection of brutalist buildings, but I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder and brutalism is becoming more popular now.”

Felicity Watson will be speaking at Melbourne Conversations: Postwar Architecture on December 3

For more information: engagement-activities

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