Late last week I received a batch of photographs taken in 2010 and 2011. The sender wishes to remain anonymous. This was something of a relief as I had been scouring the web looking for high resolution images taken of the rear of the wall – a mesmerising task. So thanks, whoever you are. Thanks also to the two others who have previously provided privately-held images of the wall.
This photo, from a window high in the old maltstore, shows the September 2011 installation of super stops adjacent to the wall.
After staring at these new photos for a while, I wondered if the southern part of the wall was leaning a bit. The photographer remembers, “a slight outward lean of the wall at the time.” So I extended some vertical lines to vanishing point from several nearby buildings to see if I was right.
That showed the South end of the wall was on a lean, but I wasn’t convinced. As the adjacent lamp post is shown on a similar apparent lean I thought the lens was interfering. So I started again and used Photoshop’s new adaptive wide angle lens filter to horizontally correct the horizon, then vertically straighten the lamp post and the wall beneath it.
Having manipulated the perspective so that the lamp post was true, the Southernmost pilaster is still showing a bit of a twist or lean, of about 25mm. This probably isn’t surprising given the lack of restraint, brick expansion, and the three-sided exposure this part of the wall was receiving.
The following photos were all taken in late 2010.
The Northern end of the wall, demolished on the night of March 28th.
The Southern half, after some site preparation work (removal of asphalt).
The brick panel next to the gate
The next panel down, the northern end of the collapse. The gate bracket may have prevented further collapse, but it also caused local cracking. This panel was over-sprayed with new graffiti in early 2013.
A zoom, showing cracks under the gate bracket (red arrows), and the extent of the wall collapse (blue zig-zagged line).
Southern panels. Note the missing capping bricks on the closest pilaster.
Far Southern panels, note the capping brick that’s fallen away on the left.
Zoom of previous pic, to 100%. The cracks to the pilaster and end panel mentioned in the Herald Sub existed in 2010.
Closer inspection of this new photo shows more cracking and lost mortar, especially in the last panel.
The vertical columns are pilasters, not piers as I’ve previously described them. The U.S. Brick Industry Association defines a pilaster as, “simply an increase in effectiveness of a wall at a specific location”. Its effectiveness extends only six times the thickness of the wall (about 1.4m in this case), measured from the edge of the pilaster. The distance between each pilaster is about 4.4m, which would mean that the pilaster thickenings were not providing any benefit to a 1.6m span at the centre of each panel.
A series of proposals for the site never came to fruition, being stymied by the economic jitters of October 1989 and October 2008. Things came close to happening in 2008, when the asphalting behind the wall was scraped up, and an archaeological dig took place.
The Capital City Zone 2 C126 amendment was issued that same year by the then Minister for Planning, Justin Madden. Apart from exempting the development from public notice and review (in the interests of speeding things up), it stated that a planning permit was not required for, “site preparation and retention works including security fencing, site offices, bulk excavation and piling, footings, ground beams and ground slabs”.
The site was the first major development in town to be “taken in” by the Minister for Planning, in 1989. After several permit applications in the 1990s and 2000s, in May 2012 the current minister issued another permit with conditions for Building 5, then going with the name “Portrait”.
The permit required the lodgement of a Construction Management Plan explaining how the developers would go about demolition and construction in a safe and considerate way.
“Prior to the commencement of the development, including demolition or bulk excavation, a detailed construction and demolition management plan must be submitted to and be approved by the Responsible Authority.”
Five months later in October, an updated planning permit was issued for the same development, in response to a new application by ARM Architecture on 5th June. Oddly, the revised requirement for a demolition management plan did not need to be lodged before demolition took place. Perhaps this had been deemed to have taken place already, or that it was too minor that it didn’t require a permit?
“Prior to the commencement of the development, excluding demolition or bulk excavation, a detailed construction and demolition management plan must be submitted to and be approved by the Responsible Authority.”
Grocon completed a Construction Management Plan for Stage 1, which is behind the maltstore and doesn’t include the street frontage.
The only hoarding application I could find was lodged in April 2003, at the City of Melbourne. It was withdrawn four days later. It was for the “erection of advertising on the existing hoarding.” No further details are available online.
The council released a carefully-worded statement on Tuesday. Here’s an excerpt:
“We can confirm that the City of Melbourne has not issued a permit for the structure attached to the wall… There are four relevant legislative frameworks – Planning, Building, Occupational Health and Safety and Local Laws. There are intricacies in the way in which these interconnect and overlap. These complexities are likely to be considered by the investigating authorities.”
The council doesn’t say if the billboard should have required their permission, only that they didn’t issue a permit. They go on to underline that they aren’t responsible for the site, noting that the building site was private property, and that the Minister for Planning issued the planning permit. The Minister has previously said he hasn’t ever issued a permit for a hoarding either. This is a bit of a worry – the Minister is responsible for building sites all over the CBD which may have similarly confused boundary jurisdictions.
Signage normally falls under regulation 52.05 of the Melbourne Planning Scheme. Clause 52.05-4 mentions the sorts of signs for which permits aren’t required.
“A sign with an advertisement area not exceeding 2 square metres concerning construction work on the land. Only one sign may be displayed, it must not be an animated or internally-illuminated sign and it must be removed when the work is completed.”
There is other advice from the City of Melbourne saying that two advertising signs are permitted, each 2m by 1.2m. Hoardings are to be between 1.8m and 2.4m high. As the sign was approximately 3.2m high and 200 square metres in area, with another sign of about 29 square metres on the stacked containers, this one definitely required a permit from someone. As part of an application, the owner has to lodge details of the, “height, width, depth of the total sign structure including method of support and any associated structures.”
Clause 52.05 does refer to safety, but only to say that a sign shouldn’t distract or slow drivers. This perhaps doesn’t fulfil one of the clause’s purposes: “To ensure that signs do not cause loss of amenity or adversely affect the natural or built environment or the safety, appearance or efficiency of a road.”
I’ve read here and there that I’ve been overdoing it a bit, that sometimes walls just fall. I have overdone it, at some cost, but partly out of fear that no one else would and the issue would quickly fall out of the news. So I’m glad that the mainstream media picked out several items from the first post. Depending on where you read, different final conclusions have been made already. The wall fell because of the strong gust / the hoarding / the cracks. It was a combination of all three, and many more reasons that have their roots in events decades ago. This wall did not “just fall”.
The brick wall was an inbetweener. Not quite of the site and not quite of the street, it became invisible to owners and authorities. It was nobody’s business, a forgotten relic poorly built and not maintained. But it was a useful relic for keeping the curious out of the CUB site, for their own safety. Not that it stopped them – most of the useful photos of the wall were taken by urban explorers and graffiti enthusiasts.
The wall’s context has changed out of recognition since the closure of the brewery in 1987. Firstly Elders demolished the brewery behind it in 1989, exposing it to Westerlies it had never had to deal with before. The buildings that abutted the wall at its Southern end were also pulled down.
In more recent times, a large apartment building was built directly across the street, tram works and a super stop installation have taken place, and the bitumen area immediately behind the wall was dug up then used as a tip for mountains of spoil. Then it was all removed. There was also a decade long drought and a number of half decent earth tremors. That’s a lot to deal with for a wall that had been ready to fall for quite a few years.
Competing and overlapping jurisdictions have led to confusion about who was meant to be doing what and when. There are quite a few aspects that any inquiry will have to cover. Rather than having multiple internal inquiries, some held by bodies that may be partially liable, a better way would be to have one independent public inquiry. It is the general public who have been let down here, so they should be able to have faith in the inquiry and know what is going on during it.
( This post is posted as a draft on Thursday night, and revised and completed on Sunday )
12.04.13 in buildings
A week ago three people died while they were walking down Swanston Street. One was a French research fellow at Monash. The other two were a young brother and sister on their way to the footy. I published a post about the wall that collapsed on Sunday, gathering together what I could find from publicly available web pages. I didn’t expect the level of reaction I got. I was contacted by all sorts of mainstream media outlets, many in search of speculative comment. My investigations were made not because I consider myself an expert in walls and wind, but because I knew how to do it relatively quickly, and because I wanted to do something.
This was an accident of the “waiting to happen” variety. No one wanted it to happen, but no one seems to have done anything to prevent it happening either. The organisations involved, the way they interact, and the regulations governing them all, could do with some improvement. But conclusions should be left to the inquiries. We should be watching these inquiries, demanding an independent one, and making sure they have all the information they can get to work with.
On Thursday I happened to pass the site again. Once again it had altered. A bulldozer was scraping up the debris while a man hosed the dust down. A WorkSafe officer was taking photos of what remained of the footings. A group of random people were gathered at the makeshift shrine, paying their respects .
Here are some further observations about the wall – they aren’t conclusions. The previous post is here.
Overlay showing ground (2009), contours, approximate wind direction, and approximate positions of the collapse (red line), the mounds on March 28 (green ellipses – about 1.5m high), and the 7.2m high stacked containers.
Wall from North East ( Red_Baron_012 )
The red hoarding was built in October 2011, after a rebranding of the development by Cornwell from ‘Portrait’ to ‘Swanston Square’. WorkSafe visited the hoarding on October 12th to inspect the installation, following up concerns about the lack of a pedestrian management system. NEWS
The height of the brick wall was about 2.5 to 2.7m on the street side, depending on where you count bricks. The hoarding extended above the wall by about 250 to 500mm. It varied as the top of the hoarding was sloping while the brick wall stepped down the hill at intervals. The land drops by about two metres across this 78 metre street frontage.
Rear view, January 2013. (supplied by R.Liao)
The bricks composing the wall were of two types – extruded “wire-cut” bricks with hollow perforations, and older pressed bricks stamped with “CITY BRICKS”. City Bricks, now absorbed into Boral, had been pressing bricks since 1923. This mixing of bricks suggests that the wall could have been built from recycled bricks of varying ages, compressive strengths, and abilities to withstand moisture.
The freestanding wall had piers at about four metre intervals along the rear side, which might have been useful buttressing against winds off Swanston Street. [ design guide PDF ] But these piers were not reinforced or tied into a footing, and were much wider (2 bricks) than they were deep (half a brick). It might be more appropriate to call them decorative pilasters, making the wall look more substantial than it actually was. The outer skin of the wall was apparently not bonded to these piers at all. A photo shows how one pier failed in the gust of wind.
Left: View from apartment block across street (crop). ( Meld Magazine / A. Ngo) Right: North end of wall – pier imprint on odd concrete upstand – perhaps this predated the brick wall? Also shows that the bricks continuing down in front of the wall were in direct contact with the concrete. (PJ)
These ‘piers’ ‘supported’ twin-leaf wall panels with all bricks laid in the same direction. There was no cavity between the two leafs at their base, though there appeared to be a small one further up. This could have allowed the internal faces of the bricks to trap damp lower down.
Possible cavity or bowing showing in distorted telephoto image, March 28th ( Herald Sun / H.Blair )
The Southern end of the wall ended at one of these piers. This pier once abutted a rickety timber paling fence. In late 2011 this fence was replaced with a new steel one for the red hoarding. This new fence appears to have butted into the brick wall, and may even have been supported by it as not much else appears to have been holding it up. The hoarding was fixed to both the new fence and the wall, so any wind load placed on the elastic lightweight wall could have transfered to the rigid brick wall through the hoarding. This has been covered in the comments below the first post, and since by media.
Left: Southern end of brick wall abutting lightweight hoarding. There is a noticeable bow in this pier, but this could be lens distortion. The horizontal member of the lightweight fence appears to be fixed to the top of the pier. ( Herald Sun / Jem Richardson ) Right: Metal framing of lightweight wall where it abutted the Southern brick pier (ADL NOW / Alex Coppel)
Another photo showing the lack of support at the North end of the lightweight hoarding. The supporting steel post is to the right. (ADL NOW / Alex Coppel)
North end of wall (9 News). Much blurrier inset: Google 2009
On March 28th, a 9News bulletin panned over a vertical crack visible at the North end of the remaining wall, without comment. News Ltd has also found photos of diagonal cracking along the rear of the southern portion of wall. News Ltd found this shocking, but as the wall had no control joints or reinforcement, probable moisture problems, and.. who knows what in the way of footings, it’s hard to be surprised. News Ltd’s photos also show black matter at the base of the Southern wall segment. Hopefully this was a damp proof course (which I can’t see anywhere else) and not some kind of mould. From the Swanston Street side, there is also black staining visible on the internal face of the wall which does look more like a mould colony, indicating rising damp.
TOP: Black stuff? December 2012 (Herald Sun / Jes Richardson) BOTTOM: Swanston street side, March 28 (SBS/AAP)
At the Northern end of the collapse, there is a suggestion of what may have prevented the collapse from continuing further. A sliding gate rail is fixed into the wall at the point the collapse stopped. Then again, the fixing may have caused cracking, weakening the wall so that it failed at this point.
Northern extent of wall collapse, showing rusted door rail and fixing ( ADL NOW )
This part of the wall also seemed to have succumbed more to mortar problems than elsewhere. The front face of the wall showed efflorescence between the paint-sealed bricks, and the local pier, taller than the others, was quite uneven and looks to have eroding mortar. The end capping piece is an extruded brick on end, allowing water to penetrate with ease.
Left: Google Street View 2009 showing pier at Northern end of failure. Right: Northern end of failure, 2010. ( twitterpic by @funkineering )
Until 2012 the brick wall was partly shielded from Westerlies by a mound of earth and overgown grasslands. This was replaced with a much larger mound in February, after the overburden scrape. By March 28th, all mounds had been shifted and the area was flat. Clear new photos showing the location of this mound last December, and the nature of the land around it, have been sent in by Rita Liao.
Rear of wall, January 2013, affected area in rectangle. This also shows the asphalt and fencing that were removed in March. (R.Liao / butterpaper)
Rear of wall, January 2013, taken from beside the malt house (R.Liao / butterpaper)
Some time after 1967, a brick wall was built from the Queensberry Hotel right along to the remaining two terraces (557-561 Swanston Street, but shown as 45-47 Madeline St in the plan below). Terrace houses used to stretch the whole way up to the Queensberry Hotel, but had been gradually done away with bu CUB. A timber fence later replaced the two last buildings, which were demolished soon after the brewery closed. The removal of these buildings exposed the end of the wall to the elements and removed a boundary wall that may have been acting as a return.
1896 MMBW plan overlaid on Google map, red line showing collapse area, blue shaded areas indicating 19th Century cellars. (SLV)
Trade Quality Control Office, at 557 Swanston Street, shown as 45 Madeline Street in the map above. This building contained an 8 foot deep cellar. The doorstep and the bluestone pavers in front of this office at the right of this photo still exist. (1987 CUB video, 2013 PJ)
Here are some further images describing the history of that part of the street.
Swanston Street in 1938, with the Queensberry Hotel at the right. Terrace occupants included residents and a diverse set of businesses: the Swanston Battery Service, a Chinese herbalist, a silver-plater, the Maternal and Infant Welfare Division, the Air League headquarters, Peter Kaye’s appliance shop, and the CUB Personnel office at No. 561. ( SLV / Lyle Fowler )
Aerial photograph from 1946 showing two storey terraces the length of the frontage. ( SLV / Lyle Fowler )
Buildings adjacent to Ballarat Street & Malt Store, 1963. At the time, these buildings at 557 – 561 were used by the Manufacturers Bottle Co. ( SLV / Lyle Fowler )
The adjacent malthouse has been in a state of neglect for decades. Built in 1904 and out of use since at least 1987, it too has moisture problems. Moisture is trapped and spreading behind the paintwork added some time before 1988. Demolition of the abutting pier in 1989/90 without any remedial work didn’t help things. I hope that the deteriorating condition of this building is quickly examined in case it too poses a risk to passersby.
Water penetration at the Malt Store
The first brewery on the site was established in 1858. In 1907 a merger of six breweries formed Carlton & United Breweries who then operated from the site. Numerous owners performed building works on the site over its 129 years of production.
The brewery was used only for keg production after 1949, and was closed in 1987. A three part video documents the closure, which makes reference to an outdoor ‘top yard’ used for empty keg deliveries. It had an entry from Swanston Street. From a process of elimination, I’m assuming this to be the yard behind the fallen brick wall.
Rear of wall and ad containers, showing old asphalt, now removed. January 2013 (R.Liao / butterpaper)
The Australian asserts that there is a “squabble” between the City of Melbourne (CoM) and the Ministry for Planning over who is responsible for the wall. It comes down to a matter of definition – whether the wall is a free-standing hoarding (ministry resposibility), or a street advertisement (council). This wall is both.
The Minister says he didn’t approve the hoarding, and the council was “unable to locate paperwork relating to any application”. The Australian believes the council approved the immediate demolition of the rest of the wall. LINK
In its report of 14/03/13, Heritage Victoria list what is included within the site’s heritage registration.
On Tuesday 2nd April, City of Melbourne issued a press release stating that would not comment further, “at this time”. CoM
This section will be updated as any new photographs are found. The photos at the linked Flickr pages can be clicked on to see much larger versions.
Architecture graduate Paul Morgan, on behalf of a group, describes loss of podium as “architecturally regressive”. “Responsibility for the symbolic sense of the city has been abrogated by the State Government… The character of the city is being left to the developer and the architect.”
This post has been continued: PART 3 is here
EDITS: 10/4/13: add new image links, minor corrections, 12/4/13 lens distortion note.
07.04.13 in buildings
Hi again Peter. Great work on this. Keep it up.
A few general thoughts after reading some of your latest updates. Hope these can add to the discussion:
- a cavity? Yikes! Substantially weaker than a solid wall. – mounds and other obstructions can slow the wind but can also accelerate the flow locally – damp can weaken certain types of brick. Particularly if underfired. But.. – a membrane type damp proof course can substantially weaken a wall by providing less friction and less bond than a mortar joint. An over fired, pressed brick can have a very smooth surface, which can also reduce bond.
Hi Greg, great to have your struct. engineering input.
I’m not sure that was a cavity – may have been the lens – it didn’t look like one in some other pics but all too far away to properly see.
I was thinking along the lines of a mortar DPC – what was the norm back in the ’70s?
Can the level of firing be gleaned from the darkness of the brick?
by peter on 8 April 13 ·#
On Thursday afternoon two young pedestrians were killed by a falling brick wall in central Melbourne, and another 18 year old was ferried to hospital in a critical condition but died on Easter Sunday.
This article tries to assemble some of the publicly available information on this wall, it isn’t trying to point the finger anywhere. The initial reason for doing so was that the newspapers missed quite a bit and got some things wrong. Please note that this article contains imagery and descriptions which may be distressing.
Grocon, the police, WorkSafe, and the coroner are all launching investigations into the collapse. But on the night of the accident, the full length of the partially-collapsed brick wall was removed and thrown in a heap. The stacked advertising containers next to the site of the collapse were also pulled down and rotated so that the Swanston Square branding didn’t show. The site in no way resembles what was there before the incident.
In the haste to remove everything to do with the sad event, the tidy-uppers neglected to remove the blood stains on the footpath. They were not even cordoned off on my visit a day later. Such haste at what is possibly a crime scene is troubling. I hope it was all with the permission of the council, police, and coroner. They have hardly had any time to make a detailed investigation into the structure of the wall that was left, and now they can’t.
Interactive imagery from Google Street View, dated 2009:
View Larger Map
There has been misinformation in the news. The brick wall in question was not heritage-listed, nor was it a century old. It was not even there in 1967, when the area was occupied by a row of shops. The brewery was unfortunately not well photographed by CUB, whose sole set of publicly available online photos was taken from the rooftop in the 1920s – not very helpful. The wall was probably built as part of major rebuilding works that took place in the Sixties – a photo shows what might be the continuation of this wall into the malt store.
Malt store in the 1980s, showing brick arch over laneway matching fallen wall. ( SLV image )
1945 view South down Swanston Street, showing CUB and buildings where fallen wall was. ( SLV image )
Across CUB rooftops in 1920s, showing Swanston Street shops circled at location of fallen wall. ( SLV image )
The Adderley Smith Blues Band posing in front of the Queensberry Hotel, 1967. Some shops at the location of the wall are at the left of the photo. (credit: Len Weigh )
Looking at the wall on Good Friday, what remains of it, the rear two-thirds sat along a badly poured concrete strip footing, the streetside third of it continuing downwards in modern wire-cut brick for several courses. The wall appears in news photos to have fallen forward off its concrete perch.
Area of collapsed wall, March 29th 2013. (PJ)
Zoom in to 7News footage, March 28th
The wall fell for a length of at least 15m. It was anchored at the Northern end of the fallen section by a hefty Parallel Flange Channel with ties into the wall. This PFC is one of two still flanking an old vehicle access way in the wall that was covered by the new hoarding. There was nothing holding the all in place at the Southern end.
Northern end of collapsed wall – bricks now removed. (PJ)
Unrestrained Southern end of collapsed wall. (Google 2009)
The wall may have been laterally supported at some stage if it was part of a larger structure continuing on towards the Malt Store.
Photographer Len Weigh, who graciously supplied the Adderley Smith Blues Band photo above, provided me on Sunday night with 174 images he took of major tram works in Swanston Street in 2008. He wonders whether the integrity of the wall may have been affected by the tram works, which involved four jack hammer vehicles working together. Following are a few of his images showing the then black wall in the background. Further major road works occurred over two weekends in late 2011 when a tram super stop was installed and the road realigned.
All photos Len Weigh, 2008
Grocon bought the site from RMIT in 2006. At that time it was covered in ageing and weedy bitumen. Until this year, not much was happening. There has been a lot of activity on the back side of the wall in recent months. Grocon have stated that there was no construction activity happening at the time of the incident, but site preparation has been taking place in earnest.
In January, the asphalt and topsoil (“overburden”) was scraped up, including asphalt very close to the wall. [ 2007 2013 ] In February, a large mound of fill appeared behind the wall, presumably consisting of this overburden and tailings from the La Trobe archaeological excavations which finished at the end of last month. This month most of the mound disappeared. Heavy machinery would have been required to put the mound there, then to take it away. The ground around the stack of containers, immediately North of the collapse, appears to be flooded in TV helicopter footage.
Late February, 2013. ( Credit Glenn Wilson )
February view Eastwards from archaeological dig towards the East, showing mound and hoarding. ( VHD )
Mounds gone, March 28th, 2013 ( Credit: 9News )
_Possible flooding around site of collapse, March 28 ( 10 News video )
The entire length of the wall was recently covered in a 12mm plywood hoarding, constructed in early 2012 or before [ May 2012 photo ]. It’s now lying in shards in the debris. This was fixed to the brick wall through thin vertical straps, possibly on ‘top hat’ furring channels which are present in the debris. The hoarding extended beyond the top of the wall, to even out the steps in it, but also creating a sail of sorts. The straps created open vertical cavities the length of the wall. All of this would be visible had the remainder of the wall and hoarding not been removed on Thursday night in the interests of what – safety? cleaning things up? Lateral braces would have done the job.
Zoom of the archaeological dig image above, showing the hoarding extending well beyond top of the brick wall.
Photo from a 7News helicopter showing the hoarding being lifted on March 28th.
Demolished hoardings from the remaining wall, and furring channels. March 29 2013. ( PJ )
The two stacked 40 foot shipping containers raise another possibility. At about 7.2 metres high, they act like a building as far as wind is concerned. The failed wall was one of the only stretches of the Eastern boundary without a structure to deflect the wind – and so took extra funnelled wind because of it.
Two images showing the location of the three stacked shipping containers used for advertising. Left: Late February (Glenn Wilson). Right: March 28th (news).
The containers disassembled and rotated so that the Swanston Square advertising is not visible. March 29th, 2013 PJ.
Lots of questions are raised and I hope they are answered by the four separate investigations. Hoarding collapses are not uncommon in Melbourne, though they should be. Last year I took photos of two in a single bike ride in February. Luckily they didn’t hit anyone. They weren’t reported.
Fallen hoardings in Elgin Street and Wellington Street, February 5, 2012. ( PJ )
From an admittedly quick reading of the current regulations, there seems to be a gap in hoarding regulations when construction or demolition has not commenced, and where hoardings are not the “over-the-footpath” type [ CoM Code of Practice PDF ]. The City of Melbourne encourages solid hoardings rather than open chain wire ones – “to secure a building site and
form a barrier against noise, dust and debris” – but for WSW wind gusts of up to 76kph, like Thursday’s, the more porous the fence the better. Before the new hoarding was installed, there were many gaps to allow the wind through.
Many Codes of Practice have become redundant following the advent of the new performance-based OH&S regime in 2004. Try finding one for the construction industry that hasn’t been archived: WorkSafe Victoria Search. There is a new federal code of practice for demolition , but it seems to cover states other than Victoria, and again misses this situation where there is no construction or demolition taking place. All these codes place the worker at the centre of attention rather than the general public – I guess that’s WorkSafe’s remit.
Compare this tangle of code in Victoria with somewhere like Alberta, where the safety of passersby is up front and central in new regulations. This is because three year old Michelle Krsek was killed by flying metal in 2009 while walking past a Calgary construction site with her family in strong wind conditions. It shouldn’t have to take a death… or
two three to wake people up to dangerous sloppiness.
[ article edited 31.03.13, three additions; 01.04.13 link added, wind speed lowered, minor amendments, further reference links added; 02.04.13 furring channels, super stop construction, and possible flooding added; 08.04.13 minor deletion ]
Part 2 of this post, dated April 7th, is here
31.03.13 in buildings
The wooden hoarding to the left of the masonry wall was fixed to the masonry wall. This section of plywood could conceivable have been blown by a gust of wind and acting as a lever pulled the masonry wall over.
As you have reported the City Council local laws require a permit for the construction of building site hoardings. The construction company should have applied for a permit to construct the new advertising hording and the City Council Engineering services should have inspected it.
If the wooden paneling was designed in such a way that the panels allowed for independent movement or a control joint they might not have applied levered pressure to the masonry wall causing to to tumble.
You need to look at the photos showing the parts of the wall left standing and the design and quality of the construction of the left wooden section.
The 2009 Google Street view photos show a fill in panel that was structurally separate from the masonry wall.
The city council, the developer, engineer and the company that built the hoarding share responsibility for this tragic accident.
by Archimedies Leverage on 31 March 13 ·#
Try building a wall to scale out of Leggo bricks and subject it to a wind load. (Grand design or Air-crash investigation style)
Next attach a piece of solid cardboard to simulate the hoarding and apply the same wind loading, The wind would catch the hoarding and lever down the wall from the unsupported left hand side. It only needs to move a few cm and the walls integrity is compromised.
If you look at the remaining concrete foundations there is no sign of rotation or foundation collapse. The most likely suspect is the hoarding.
Council by-laws require a building permit for the construction of a hoarding. The City of Melbourne should have plans and details of the hoarding and hopefully also inspected it.
The walls mortar may been weakened by the construction of the tram stop but the most likely case is the left hand edge of the wall and the open hoarding combined with the extra height.
by Stuctural Model Under Load on 1 April 13 ·#
You are right. The fact that the hoarding was fixed to the wall without a break joint would have added pressure and leverage magnifying the wind load placed on the unsupported masonry wall.
There was inadequate lateral support to the structure.
This should have been identified by the City of Melbourne who should have inspected the site as part of the building site permit process.
The hoarding on the western wall is stronger construction and had solid support, but it also has a large span that is unsupported. Ideally there should be support bracing every 5-10 meters.
The fact that the plywood hoarding was fixed to the brick masonry wall without lateral support on the southern edge most likely was the cause of the walls collapse.
The previous hoarding was a separate unit and as such allowed for independent movement.
The increase in height is another factor that would have contributed to the walls collapse.
The design and engineering of the hoarding needs to be inspected and subject to a thorough review and engineering wind load testing to determine if it met industry standards set down for the City of Melbourne.
I hope the owner, developer, engineers and city council have good insurance cover as the underwriters could conceivably not pay out in what will be a very expensive law suit and compensation claim against all parties involved. Watch them run for cover and avoid owning up to their responsibility. Shares in the project site will undoubtedly be effected.
by Anonymous on 2 April 13 ·#
I was just cycling home from the Bob Mould concert at the Corner Hotel, with an extra ring in my ears beyond the usual tinnitus, when I was reminded of something, that I dwelled on for the rest of my ride. It was just another rental truck…
20 years ago I was working in my father’s home office, while studying architecture in Auckland. One of his clients drove up onto the lawn, unannounced . He was called Duncan I think, quite a lovely man. He wanted to give his company’s logo a quick overhaul, and for some reason thought his architect was the best place to go. My father and I assisted him for about an hour, and then he was off, with some coloured pencil sketches on the back of recycled paper. He thought the current logo was a bit Seventies, heavy, and dated. We helped him add the colour and sense of distance to it that he wanted. Though I had my reservations, as the old Budget Rentacar logo was one of my favourites. I’m not sure who did what, as it was a while ago.
Even further back, in 1986, I was doing work experience in an advertising studio responsible for the local Ansett account. I can’t remember any stand alone graphic design studios at the time. They put me in a corner with coloured pencils and asked me to come up with an ad for Ansett. I went for something with a little perspective, a runway. Not too uncommon in the 80s, as I did like triangles. I’ve just realised how uncannily close to the ‘new’ Budget logo it was. There is some extra irony as Bob Ansett used to own the Budget brand in Australasia.
Maybe I was more involved that I remember in the ‘renewal’ of one of my favourite logos. I would like to think I was at least responsible for the retention of the old font, which I vaguely remember arguing for. That was the beginning and end of my graphic design career. Anyway, now I am reminded of that sunny morning in a suburban Auckland office every time I see that logo, pasted on trucks all over the globe. Funny how the tiniest things you do can end up following you for a long while.
Googling for images of the logos, I found out that it was just been updated again, for the first time in ages. Now the font and the colour have gone. Looks a bit weak to me.
Budget 1970s – best I could find – it was black with orange strips representing tire tracks.
Budget 1993 – straight outta Milford, Auckland
Budget 2012 rebrand
13.03.13 in graphic-designers
“I want architectural excellence and height … I want buildings that inspire Victorians. If this can be done in the right place, and with beauty, then the sky’s the limit.” Matthew Guy, April 2012
Tower Melbourne – approved November 2012
Continuing in the Melbhattan vein… it’s mildly amusing if developers insist on adding cred to their towers of dogboxes by naming them after more considered New York locations. But what if the Minister for Planning was thinking along the same lines. A Manhattan of the South! It appears that he is. In early 2012 he announced a “Grand CBD”, stretching from Richmond to Fishermans Bend. The Herald Sun labelled it a “Manhattan-style” metropolis, and quoted Planning Minister Matthew Guy, who believes height restrictions need to go to, “make Melbourne an icon in terms of Western cities.” To be an icon these days must mean that a city has to be really big.
Some hint that the proposed relaxation of height controls, already relaxed in the ’90s by Premier Jeff Kennett, is aimed more at Chinese investors and developers wanting high density high-rise. The Age recently noted that, “some established Chinese business and political leaders in Melbourne caution against importing an Asian model of super high-rises and shaded city streets, of “ghost towers.” A ghost tower is one in which apartments are bought as an investment, and not occupied – land banking in the sky.
Is an ‘iconic’ Western city what Mr Guy thinks it is? Or is he building what an iconic Western city once was? James Howard Kunstler would think he is out of step. In this podcast (21 minutes in) he reminds us that apartment blocks had their beginnings in Paris and that their New York equivalent was the result of a craze, assisted by elevators, to imitate 19th Century Paris.
“I’m not a champion of towers and skyscrapers, and I tend to think that the really tall building, that is buildings over six or seven stories… that will really turn out to be a phenomenon of our time, of the 20th and early 21st Century, because you really needed a cheap energy economy to make that possible. But I think that the nett effect will be that we are going to end up with an idea of an optimum scale of the city, and it will be under seven storeys.” James Howard Kunstler
There’s more on the energy inefficiency of living in the sky at Fifth Estate.
Reading many of the minister’s press releases about recent tall buildings that he’s approved, you could be forgiven for thinking that he isn’t so much interested in the grand scheme as he is in more immediate objectives such as job creation and attracting investment to Melbourne rather than somewhere else.
This laissez-faire Brusselisation of Melbourne’s core is proceeding at a gung-ho pace. The 70-odd storey Tower Melbourne was approved by the minister in mid-November. No one in the media noticed for a month – perhaps because the ministry’s planning register is rather effective at burying approvals. While the site has no building height restrictions, it does have a plot ratio limit of 12:1. This building is more like 60:1.
Then on the Friday before Christmas, as the citizens of the metropolis shifted their focus to things sandy, Premier Ted Baillieu released Securing Victoria’s Economy: Planning. Building. Delivering. On page 39, he gets to planning. Its aim is deregulation, the removal of red tape and “green tape”. One item among many other eyebrow curlers is the, “making of new criteria for the Minister for Planning to act as the Responsible Authority to approve major developments with the potential to make significant contributions to the economic future of the state”. No details on what that means, but I think I get the gist of it.
“Continuing reform of our planning system to increase opportunity and productivity will maintain this advantage [in economic confidence] and ensure a strong construction sector.” Matthew Guy, November 2012
How his current powers might be expanded is hard to gauge, given that his department is pretty busy as it is. The following large developments have recently gained approval directly from Mr Guy in recent months, in the City of Melbourne alone. This is an incomplete list cobbled together from various online sources. I am imagining City of Melbourne planners sitting at their desks, glumly sharpening pencils while all the action (or vandalism) happens up the road. Maybe they’re reading the planning scheme’s urban design provisions for the central city[ PDF ] and remembering the good old days when they use to mean something.
It isn’t guaranteed that all these approvals means there will be a lot of construction coming our way. Some of these properties will be put back on the market at a higher price, with the permit. Because of the inflated price, the incoming owner needs to increase the number of floors, and so on. The AFR wrote about these phantom buildings in 2011, mentioning the Balston Street development which was again approved last December.
This free-for-all may soon run its course, considering the allegations of croneyism and racketeering at both state and council levels, and the upcoming state elections. But these flats will be well out of the bag by then.
Driving past Waiheke Island’s new library construction site last month, I raised a bushy eyebrow on seeing the hoarding announcing Mainzeal Group as main contractor. I hadn’t seen their name anywhere for a very long while. I had thought they had been laid waste to on Black Monday, 1987. But I am an infrequent visitor to Auckland, my old home town.
The other eyebrow was raised today, seeing Mainzeal Group has gone into receivership, finally. It was apparently the country’s 3rd largest builder, with many new builds in Auckland and repairs in Christchurch on the books. The company’s collapse came as quite a surprise to everyone except the board. So there will be an awful lot of collateral damage.. not only have subbies probably lost any money due to them, all their tools are locked into sites around the new Zealand.
Mainzeal emerged into my consciousness during the boom times in Auckland in the mid 1980s. It was a good time for architects, but an appalling time for anyone interested in the city beautiful. There was not much left of the pedestrian-friendly Victorian Auckland by the time I departed in 1995, it had all been laid waste to for cheaply built towers and at-grade Wilson’s car parks. I saw a few too many of my favourite buildings disappear, and this became on of the 16 reasons I left Auckland for Melbourne.
Mainzeal brought about a particular hatred in my teenaged self. I, and many others, thought Mainzeal were scum for illegally knocking down His Majesty’s theatre and arcade in Auckland in 1987. That arcade was something any city would kill for. I think they paid something like a $500 fine.
Robin Morrison’s beautiful photo of the lost arcade is linked to here as I can’t reproduce it. When questioned by police as to why builders were all over the site in the middle of the night, Mainzeal said they were removing some seats from the theatre. By morning the whole lot was razed, and for years after there was only an at-grade car park and pie cart to replace it.
A year later, the equally covert overnight demolition of Brown’s Mill was carried out without even bothering to turn off the power and water, or removing artworks stored in the building. I was so annoyed that I cut the article from the paper, and very weirdly happened to have it sitting on my table today, 25 years later…
Yay! I thought I was the only one be celebrating MainZeal’s demise due to their appalling behaviour in the 80s. They deserve only part of the blame though; they were acting under instruction of the building’s owners and no doubt another company would have taken the contract if Mainzeal had demonstrated integrity and/or a spine. In part it still rankles because decades later the site on Elliot St is still just an ugly hole in the ground instead of a gracious row of 100 yr old merchant buildings. That does not mean I don’t feel for the sub-contractors. I do. It tells me the core values at Mainzeal didn’t change much over the last 25 odd years.
by mark yelspal on 20 February 13 ·#
I recently watched cartoonist Oslo Davis’s Melbhattan. I wondered, from the awkward Anglo-Unami title, whether this might be a reflection of Melbourne’s spruikers’ predilection for magnifying the tiniest evocations of foreign places found in our midst. Come to Melbourne and imagine you’re in New York, Paris… anywhere but Australia. But Davis says he was trying to ridicule this mindset in his film, “to both charm and roast without being mean”. It is a charming piece of work. The roasting doesn’t quite eventuate, probably because Davis was recreating in Melbourne each shot of the brilliant opening sequence to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”, using locations here, so didn’t have a lot of room to move.
Not that New York hasn’t ever borrowed from the cachet of another place. In 1962 urban planner Chester Rankin christened the area south of Houston St “SoHo”. The reason for the name sticking is probably to do with its close resemblance to Soho in London, which in the ’60s became the swinging place to be thanks to Carnaby Street. Melbourne developers like naming after New York. It’s easy to find blocks of flats with names like ‘Madison’ and ‘Manhattan’. There’s even a ‘Tribeca’ even though it is not in a TRIangle BElow CAnal Street.
South Jersey (NJ) borrowed and transformed SoHo into SoJo. Now areas in Collingwood are becoming known as SoJo (South of Johnston), and NoJo (I’ll leave you to guess that).
The Eastern end of Collins Street has long been nicknamed “Paris End” since the establishment of a small clothes shop with a french name. Now we have a real estate-sponsored “New York End” of Collins Street too. Age contributor Julie Szego rightly thought “Bucharest End” might have been more appropriate.
Melbourne isn’t alone in selling itself as an “almost New York”. Canberrans can soon “wake up in Manhattan” at Manhattan on the Park. They might get slightly less of a surprise when they look out of the window at Penthouse Manhattan in Sydney, or at Manhattan Hill in Hong Kong.
I went looking for an apartment building named after Melbourne, but not in Melbourne. Google couldn’t really understand what I was talking about, but did reveal that a small wedge of Antarctica is named after a long dead Melbourne confectioner know for his white suits.
Well, it’s not an apartment building, but in Seattle’s downtown, we have this: http://www.melbournetower.com/
I stare at it often as I wait for the bus.
Thanks for Melbhattan, it’s beautifully rendered. Each new corner was a memory test and a reminder of home.
This man is making a clever and logical response
to a question that is naive to the point of triviality.
The proposition that the world’s bankers should
in effect buy a massive “world park” from a sovereign
nation for the safeguarding against environmental
degradation (which is the result of chasing profits first)
sounds like a similar idea from the R.C.L. classic
“Corporate Whores Design Utopia”.
by lipsiusr on 5 April 13 ·#
The Victorian Minister for Planning has issued the following statement to the AIA, following a meeting representatives from the ministry, AIA, and ACA last Wednesday. The AIA had asked for “further clarification on the reasons for the ARBV inclusion in the reforms and the process for consultation that the Minister is proposing to undertake.”
Reform of Regulatory Arrangements
“A strong and buoyant building sector is vital to support Victoria’s continued growth – our economic growth, our population growth and the growth of our cities and towns. The Coalition government was elected with a commitment to foster change and growth in a manner that respects the built form. One of Victoria’s greatest assets is the built form of our cities and towns.
In delivering on this commitment, the Government has announced a major reform to the regulation of the building industry. The new Victorian Building Authority will integrate the regulatory functions of Architects, Building Practitioners and Plumbing practitioners.
This change is important to support the building industry overall and consultation has commenced with all of the regulatory bodies that have a role to play in the delivery of our built form outcomes.
The Government wants to ensure that the new Authority delivers on best practice regulatory outcomes from day one. This means that we need to be very clear about how this organisation should be structured. It is important that we get all the details right.
An independent consultant will advise on the proposed structure and arrangements.
Detailed consultation with the AIA and the ARBV on the new structural arrangements of the new Victorian Building Authority will take place late January, early February 2013. This will ensure that the changes to the regulatory process of the State’s building system are holistic and cognisant of all relevant matters.
The key functions of the ARBV such as determining qualifications and experience required for registration, regulating examinations and accrediting courses in architecture will continue. Working with architects on continuing professional development and in developing mutual recognition models will also continue.
The ARBV will continue to operate as usual until the structure of the new Authority is finalised and the Victorian Building Authority is established which is expected to be in the third quarter of 2013.
Being part of a larger integrated Industry regulator brings exciting opportunities for all elements of Victoria’s building sectors. The opportunities start today.”
Okaaay. Once the spin is spun out of that statement, what are we left with that we didn’t already know?
In terms of reasons, this is about it..
In terms of proposed consultations
The retention of ARBV functions in the VBA
The Minister lists the “key functions” of the ARBV that will continue, presumably as architecture-specific entities within the new authority. Oddly the ARBV’s disciplinary role is not listed, and neither is its role in the investigation of title breaches. In fact everything post-registration has gone other than CPD and mutual recognition talks. Either they forgot, or these roles are “non key” and will be dropped, or they will be rolled into into the main functions of the VBA.
The Architects Act
No word what’s happening to this, but it looks like any future act will be rather lightweight and concentrate on education and CPD.
New South Wales
It looks like we’re being left in the dark here, with an opportunity to comment that comes a little bit late in the process to be of any use. Compare this situation with its parallel in New South Wales. There, the government’s Red Tape Review has put its anti-regulatory cards on the table very early in the process, and is calling for community input prior to making any decisions. [ NSWARB ]
The NSW Red Tape Review wants to cut $750M from administrative expenses by 2015. It applies to all types of licence authorities. In addition to cost-saving, that state government is quite plain about its views:
“Licences… also act as a barrier to new businesses entering a market, thereby stifling competition, potential efficiency gains and economic activity.
bq. The costs of licences are unnecessary if they are greater than those needed to achieve the regulatory objective or the objective is now redundant.
In NSW, stakeholder submissions and licence holder surveys end on Wednesday. In late February there will be a “public roundtable”, followed by a draft report in March with a six week response period, and a final report to government in mid 2013.
The Victorian government has skipped all bases and bounded straight to an announcement on legislative changes, that it initially hoped to pass within a few months. Vive la différence.
(The Minister for Planning’s statement above was sourced from the AIA’s Vmail service today)
10.12.12 in authorities
Well, Mr Guy did issue his press release, which read a lot like the Fairfax article discussed yesterday. It makes the same points, and avoids any discussion of the architectural profession other than implying that its registration board is one of an ad-hoc band of cowboy building industry entities that befuddle the consumer.
Guy does say though, that there will be industry consultation next month, ahead of the introduction of legislation in the first half of next year. Better too late than never. This is all the result of a report ( PDF ) which was also released yesterday. It’s fresh and green in design, and is called, “A fresh start for building industry regulation: Reforming Victoria’s building system.” It’ll be good for us, like a Granny Smith.
Inside, Matthew Guy introduces the report by talking about the need for building permit reform. He refers to the Victorian Auditor General’s report into building permits. He doesn’t mention that the current system which privatised building surveyors was introduced by the previous Coalition government in the ’90s. Because of recent PR problems at the Building Commission, where people were doing what they weren’t supposed to, Guy has decided that it needs to be closed down and a new building industry-wide authority needs to take its place. That decision just happens to sweep away the ARBV.
As a commenter to the previous post pointed out, deregulation of the profession has been on the creep for decades. Odd that an earlier spurt of deregulation by the Kennett government set up the environment for the current difficulties with the building permit system that have prompted this reform. Wheels and roundabouts.
In New Zealand, after some disastrous problems with shonky building work, the building permit system was renationalised. Guy isn’t opting for that here. Instead the Building Commission becomes the Building Authority and advances deregulation by sweeping the plumbers and architects into the new system, for reasons of competitiveness, transparency, soundness, and safety.
Architectural bodies are quite out of the picture. Next month’s consultations are described thus:
Throughout December 2012, meetings will be held with key industry stakeholders including the Housing Industry Association, Master Builders Association Victoria, Australian Institute of Building Surveyors and the Property Council of Australia.
In addition, existing government advisory forums such as the Building Advisory Council, the Plumbing Industry Advisory Council and the Building Regulations Advisory Committee will be used to provide industry with information about the proposed changes and seek members’ views on transitional and implementation issues.
Then, having spoken a lot about building permits, but without mentioning architects, architecture, or architectural registration, the report introduces the new authority.
The new VBA will integrate the functions of the Building Commission, Plumbing Industry Commission and the Architects Registration Board of Victoria to provide a single point of governance for building and plumbing practitioners and architects.
The reports other points, abridged.
While there are pages and pages referring to the practice of building surveying, there is no reference to the practice of architecture. The ARBV’s functions are some distance from building permits. It appears to have been scooped up in the rush.
There are about 606 building surveyors in Victoria. There are 112 registered architects with surnames beginning with ‘A’ (sorry my patience ran out). There are a lot more architects than there are building surveyors, yet the entire registration and educational accreditation system is about to be upended for no stated reason, on the back of building surveyor reforms. As a young person might say, “WTF?!”
/ ~ /
Reading this on the ARBV’s website today, I wonder if anyone in the profession was aware of the proposal…
“Victorian Building Authority
The announcement of the Victorian Building Authority and the inclusion of the Architects Registration Board of Victoria in it, has come as a surprise to the Board which has a long history of excellent work dating back to 1923.
We will try to keep people informed during the promised consultation period.
If you wish to have your views noted, please email registrar [at] arbv.vic.gov.au…
/ ~ /
Turns out now that even the Institute was not aware of the government’s proposal to kill off the ARBV. LINK
29.11.12 in authorities
To quote from the recommendations of the 1999 Review of Architects and Building Legislation
“Chapter 7: integration of the architects legislation and the building legislation.
We find that there are potential net benefits to be obtained from integration of
the architect legislation and the building legislation. We take the view that
integration, subject to any appropriate transition period, should procure
administrative costs savings and should allow consistent application of
construction industry policies for all participants. The experience and apparent
effectiveness of the ARBV should assist an amalgamated ARBV and BPB to
achieve higher levels of compliance with the building legislation.”
On the face of it it seemed to suggest that the ARBV works, the Building Practitioners Board doesn’t so lets move architects into the BPB. Didn’t make sense then, still doesn’t.
At the time Matthew Guy was a a protege of Rob Mclellan who was the minister responsible for the report and was on Premier Geoff Kennet’s staff taking a keen interest in planning and building regulation. Mr Guy is certainly persistent.
You never know though, there may be some benefit to the architectural profession and the public of their being inside the building regulation structure rather than outside. Perhaps mandatory endorsement of documents as in USA or Spain. Maybe architects could certify compliance of their designs with planning schemes? Now that would speed things up.
by David White on 30 November 12 ·#
tony arnell is an architect.
by info on 30 November 12 ·#
I’m not an architect, I’m an engineer – we don’t even get a mention in Mr Guy’s press release.
by Ross on 5 December 12 ·#
I don’t see what the problem is. As long as i can keep my title as Architect and practice on an unlimited range of buildings thats fine. Draftees can practice as long as they make the public aware of their limited qualifications and require certification from Architects on more complex buildings.
Just like the Building Surveying profession has two categories. Unlimited for those University educated. And Limited for those who have diplomas from TAFE.
by Anti-Narcissist on 7 December 12 ·#
If you’re not an Architect you must be called a Designing Drafts person not anything else .
by Anti-Narcissist on 7 December 12 ·#
The Age newspaper this morning revealed that Victorian Minister for Planning Matthew Guy will at any moment announce the disbanding of the Building Commission, the Plumbing Industry Commission, and the Architects Registration Board of Victoria. They are to be replaced, says The Age, by a new building authority.
The ARBV , in existence since 1923, is at the core of the Architects Act . The Act governs how architects are educated and registered, and how complaints against them are handled. The Age quotes Matthew Guy as saying, “The establishment of the Victorian Building Authority in conjunction with these other reforms is a critical step in ensuring the ad hoc approach to industry regulation over the past decade is brought to an end.”
It’s very early days, but if Mr Guy is serious about this there are many aspects that will affect the profession in Victoria. Here are a few to perhaps keep an eye on.
If the disbanding of the ARBV goes ahead, it’s going to be messy, and I suspect will leave many wondering what the point of it all was. Apparently it’s all about consistency and transparency. Hopefully Mr Guy will let us know a bit more than that.
29.11.12 in authorities
This was all done and dusted in 1998. Heres a link to my summary of the process presented to the Productivity Commission in 2000.
by David White on 29 November 12 ·#
Thanks David. I am working through this and your forum post now. I did not see this ‘reform’ as being a continuation of the recommendations of the PC report but I guess it is. Haven’t read it for years. I wonder if Mr Guy has read it.
by peter on 29 November 12 ·#
Parliament Square – original proposal (FJMT + Citta)
Six days ago, the Tasmanian government introduced a bill to remove Hobart’s Parliament Square project from the planning process, where it has been battled over since 2009 (at least). Late tonight, the fast-tracked bill was passed 10-4, according to Save 10 Murray spokesperson Briony Kidd.
The new bill removes all planning impediments and rights to appeal, and pulls all buildings on the site out of the heritage register. The bill was introduced soon after the Supreme Court, for the second time, overturned an approval handed down by the Planning Appeal Tribunal. Justice Blow said at the time that the tribunal had failed to consider “the prudence or imprudence of alternatives to [the] demolition” of 2-4 Salamanca Place. This was in response to the Planning Tribunal’s conclusion that retaining the heritage-listed Government Printer’s Office wasn’t “prudent and feasible”.
The threatened 10 Murray Street State Office Building (1967)
The new bill removes all rights of the Heritage Council to reinstate buildings to the Heritage Register under the Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995, unless the Planning Minister is in agreement – which is rather unlikely.
The bill received support from Labor, The Liberals, Citta, The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce, and was opposed by the Planning Institute and The Greens… and of course Save 10 Murray.
The bill states that any action or proceeding against it, or Judicial Review of it, is not permitted, by anyone. This short and hastily-written bill reads as if it has been written in a state of anger.
The renouncement of rights to object by any means to parliament’s approval of a scheme already rejected by the courts is not exactly unusual in Australia – the Victorian Planning Minister routinely does the same. This doesn’t stop it from being utterly depressing. The minimally-resourced Save 10 Murray group has been playing by the rules for three years, with a valid cause, and has now basically been told that any further noise from them and they’ll get smacked with a fine made just for them – up to $6,500, followed by up to $1,300 per day that they remain mischievous. I think it’s a sad day for Hobart, and any group there who thinks they might have the democratic right to question a development and be taken seriously.
[edited 23/11 – the Supreme Court action concerned 2-4 Salamanca Place, not 10 Murray Street, which does not have a heritage listing (it was nominated for one by the AIA but never assessed).]
10 Murray Street architect Dirk Bolt’s opinion piece in The Mercury
the image of the proposed Parliament Square project currently used extensively in the media is in fact the first proposal that was rejected in the first tribunal hearing ironically because it had an adverse impact on the heritage values of Parliament House in particular and Sullivans Cove in general. Setback, height and massing changes were imposed to preserve views of Parliament House without the imposition of the new offices overbearing the symbol of Democracy….further irony as that was the principal criticism of the Ten Murray Street building…despite this circumstance being similar to many cities in Australia including Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
by Paul Johnston on 21 November 12 ·#
Thanks Paul, will alter the caption. I found the image on the front page of the Parliament Square website yesterday – maybe they didn’t want to believe it was rejected?
by peter on 22 November 12 ·#
they continue to use that image and we have yet to see the revised project from the same vantage point !
by Paul Johnston on 27 November 12 ·#
Someone tweeted to me the other week that the Green Square Library entrants are online. Must admit I was barely aware of the competition. The 167 entrants have been whittled down to a shortlist of five by the jury… here is the list for anyone who missed the coverage elsewhere.
But what of the 162 others, architects the world over slaving away, gladly endangering their lives with bad pizza and late night coffee, for the hope that they just might get picked, if the jury ‘got’ them. That last part is a bit of a lottery. The architects on this jury were John Denton, Glenn Murcutt, and Rachel Neeson, all celebrated for their back catalogues of important buildings, and all modernists of various flavours. There’s nothing wrong with that… but it is unfortunate that the jury was announced the day before registrations closed, six weeks after the competition launched, and four weeks before submissions closed.
I was delighted to discover that all the entries are online. This delight diminished when I reached the online depository, for it is a bandwidth-heavy mountain of PDF files. I almost gave up at that point (as many probably have), but thought that these may not last long online. Public websites have a habit of being rebuilt and spring-cleaned from time to time. Only having the stamina to download one file, as I’m bleeding onto the keyboard (bike mishap), here’s a quick walk through. Inevitably shallow, but better than nowt.*
Sooner or later we might see some of the entries appear here at kompete.com, a new initiative by Death By Architecture (I think).
The following images have no credits, as the competition was anonymous. If you know to whom a design belongs, please let me know in the comments or by email and I’ll add a caption.
06.11.12 in competitions
Tower Melbourne (left and middle), Abode 318 (right). Elenberg Fraser
“This is where Melbourne comes of age” Callum Fraser, Tower Melbourne architect
Elenberg Fraser’s elegant Tower Melbourne proposed for Bourke Street has triggered a couple of opinion page articles in The Age that quickly skew off to talk about other things – public housing towers and suburban sprawl, but what about the city itself?
The tower takes advantage of a rule stating that any development over 25,000 square metres tower-melbourne be referred to the state planning minister for approval, not the local council. These developments are are deemed ‘major’, therefore of state significance, no matter what the site area or intended use. It is a crude tool, meaning that there end up being two competing planning strategies for the same area. One is concerned with the macro – jobs and metropolitan density, the other micro – pleasant environments and a consistency of skyline.
The Tower Melbourne site is only 923 sqm, so the tower uses up as much as it can of it. Podiums and setbacks went out with Cona coffee. These devices gave some consideration to the surrounds, especially things like sun and wind. This tower has two shear elevations right on the street, 71 storeys high. Eureka Tower is only 18 storeys higher. Architects accept this now more than they once would have. I remember seeing a late ’70s cartoon by Barry Marshall (DCM) lampooning the design of IM Pei’s Collins Place. It suggested that the tall towers, set at 45 degrees, would cause people to have to walk at a 45 degree lean at a nearby intersection, due to the wind.
A few years ago I sat a Lyons Architecture’s presentation to the AIA jury, they were seeking an urban design award for their BHP tower at the corner of Lonsdale and Russell Streets. I was interested to hear the jury’s questions about the now windblown environment at street level. The council had even had to install wind breaks across the street so that people could sit outside the greek cafes without being blown away. There were no questions about this. Perhaps this was because the jury realised that the volume of the buildings on tight sites is determined by the developer, not the architect. What is the architect to do in such a situation other than to play along, or resign.
I had thought that this was the case with these new towers. That they are the inevitable result of a scarcity of larger sites, and the removal of height limits in the ’90s. But the AFR’s interview [ PDF ] with Shane Rothe set me straight. According to this, it’s an “architect-driven” typology that developers happily came on board with because the small sites are cheap. Advances in structural concrete have also allowed these heights to be reached on small footprints. These new towers are proving popular with Chinese investors.
The towers of the ’70s and ’80s were typically set back from streets with podiums or plazas. They had rear lanes for vehicle entrances. Nowadays the towers are more likely to be residential. They use all of a small site, rather than some of a large site.
Due to the planning minister’s state wide considerations, the urban design concerns relating to these skinny podium-free towers count for little. Other justifications like jobs and density gain prominence. Robert Nelson suggests in his article that if you’re against density, you are automatically for suburban sprawl. “Every time an inner-city development is foiled because of the visceral attachment of residents to low density, Melbourne is forced outward.” Sprawl is more complicated than this, but that’s fodder for another article. This point of view, commonly echoed by developers in planning applications, suggests that all inner-city intensification is a good thing, as it will further activate it, and put a belt on the periphery.
Commentators such as Richard Florida and Edward T. McMahon question this assumption that density is always good, even if it’s a high-rise. McMahon thinks that “Buck Rogers” skylines can be thrilling, but down on the street, they are “often dreadful”.
The problem is that many developers and urban planners have decided that density requires high rises: the taller, the better. To oppose a high-rise building is to run the risk of being labeled a NIMBY, a dumb growth advocate, a Luddite — or worse… Today, density is being pursued as an end in itself, rather than as one means to building better cities. Edward T. McMahon ( citiwire )
McMahon lists a string of cities where high density has been achieved without resorting to towers. A City of Melbourne report ( PDF ) also lists cities like Barcelona and Vancouver, and argues that six to eight storeys are more than enough to achieve, “high density compact cities of the future.” They also note that in these buildings, you can open the windows. Nice touch.
The counter argument, which I’ve read and managed to lose, would seize on that word “future”… Sure we could get a high density city at eight storeys, but that’s a long way off, and complicated by multiple landowners and heritage registered buildings. We can put up a smaller number of tall towers and address the issue quickly.
This does beg the question, what happens to all the neighbours of these towers. Will they run into trouble when they want to rebuild? Fraser believes that good design will get us around that one – everyone can have a view and light if it’s done right. But it isn’t always done right, as recent cases in Southbank and the city illustrate. A tower in Wills Street was recently rejected at VCAT because it would steal daylight from the adjacent residential tower. This is despite the proposed tower ‘sucking in’ in the middle to give a bit of space to the neighbours.
This surge of development in Melbourne’s CBD is largely occurring outside the local planning strategy. We have two planning strategies in use, with quite different aims, and they clash. One looks to Vancouver and Vienna, the other to Shanghai. We are starting to see a different sort of cityscape emerging. A city with many tall and blank concrete boundary walls that you won’t see in the renders.
Anyway, the developers must be pretty confident as they have apparently pre-sold Tower Melbourne. The planning minister is rumoured to be about to approve it, but we’ll have to wait and see. Once a project is “brought in” by the planning minister, transparency disappears. Once he decides one way or the other, there is no way to appeal at VCAT. You’d have better luck enlisting Miley Cyrus to help.
Crikey founder and City of Melbourne candidate Stephen Mayne thinks the Planning Minister’s powers are, “way too extensive”.
If the Minister wants to play God, there should be far more comprehensive public explanations of his interventions. The City of Melbourne has considerable planning expertise yet no power to determine any application greater than 25,000 square metres. This should be changed. Stephen Mayne, 2012 ( PDF LINK )
The minister’s response to complaints isn’t very illuminating. Last month he suggested to News Ltd that people whinging about over-development should move to Adelaide. “Growth in the CBD is where Melburnians expect it and where they want it and it is adding to what is the best CBD for work or play anywhere in Australia.”
There are currently 13,000 apartments either under construction or awaiting approval in central Melbourne. Some of these are listed below.
Adobe 318 55 storeys, Russell Street, Elenberg Fraser
Prima Pearl 67 storeys, Southbank
“33M“http://www.33m.com.au/ 33 level, Mackenzie Street, Elenberg Fraser
36 – 40 La Trobe Street 35 level tower rejected by council in 2012, Elenberg Fraser
Queen & La Trobe Streets, 47 levels
441-447 Elizabeth Street, 50 levels, Peddle Thorp, with the minister.
568 Collins Street, 65 floors.
Phoenix tower, 27 levels
276 Russell Street, 36 levels
Melbourne Star tower , Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne Sky tower , Little Lonsdale Street
48-50 A’Beckett Street, 39 levels
450 Elizabeth Street, Elenberg Fraser, was 55 levels, now 63 levels, with the minister.
410 Elizabeth Street, 51 levels
380 Lonsdale Street, 47 levels, Spowers
399 Bourke Street, 46 levels, Fender Katsalidis
199 William Street, 21 levels
350 William Street, 35 levels
360 William Street, 12 levels
320 Queen Street, 48 levels, with the minister.
272-282 Queen Street, 57 levels
Vision 500 Elizabeth Street, 67 levels.
Clarendon Street, 33 levels, Elenberg Fraser
27 Little Collins Street, 32 levels
108 Flinders Street
17-23 Wills Street, 35 levels, refused at VCAT
Fulton Lane, 45 levels and 29 levels
33-43 Batman Street
35 Spring Street, 42 levels
[ list from multiple sources, including this skyscraper map ]
the towers look shaky already,lucky there is no
earthquake…not a good design…looks unstable
and is in fact an eyesore…if not scary effect of about to fall or slip down effect..sorry to say…
consider wraps of curtain-style facade so it’s neat
yet soft vertically to achive style…elegance…
good luck…if you need help please feel free to email to me…
by Iva on 15 November 12 ·#
The shortlisted entrants for the Flinders Street Design Competition were announced on Sunday. Many of Melbourne’s larger more established practices are represented. Only ARM and NH chose to go it alone, with the other Melbourne practices partnering with well known offshore companies. The odd one out is the fledgling Velasquez/ Pineda/ Medina partnership. Eduardo Velasquez and Manuel Pineda have just completed their Masters at MSD. Santiago Medina is still a student in Colombia. No doubt they will be freaking out right about now – in a good way.
No images are available yet.
15.10.12 in competitions
Melbourne has a series of architectural debates running at the moment. I’m aware of this because I was in one. That is part of the reason it’s been a little quiet here – lots of things waiting to be written, but all for others. That’s what happens in careers sometimes – the hobbies start to take more of a centre stage. I write about architecture a lot and produce it a little.
The others on the panel have had similarly swaying careers, incorporating a bit of this, that and the other. And it’s a truth for many small practitioners, that they’ve diversified in order to stay independent, and to stay known and informed. They’ll find themselves writing, teaching, hosting radio shows, and even hard-coding websites… So in order to keep making their own architecture, they make fewer buildings.
Suzannah Waldren questioning the merits of hairitecture. Instagram by T_Davidge
So it was quite fitting that the moot for the first debate was, “architecture is ALL about buildings”. This and some of the other moots have a slightly chestnutty flavour about them, I think this weekend’s moot is, “Is less more, or a bore”. Perhaps we’d heard these chestnuts to the point that we’ve stopped thinking about them, and they do bear reexamination.
That’s how it felt on Sunday – all six of us had miraculously come up with quite different slants on our respective arguments. Having to knuckle down and come up with seven minute of riveting monologue that pushes an enforced opinion can make one feel a little mercenary. Such is the nature of debates – they present two sides of an argument to the audience jury, with no grey area to take shelter in. It’s a refreshing change in format at a time when most architectural talks allow the architect to take a slideshow down memory lane while regurgitating their own well-polished chestnuts.
12.10.12 in events
Can anyone spot the glaring error? Apart from labelling all Post-WWII buildings “plain”.
A: The photograph is of a high-rise extension to the ES&A building in Elizabeth Street (Chancellor and Patrick). It was constructed, controversially, about 10 years ago. Is this a suitable image for an article discussing the merits of mid-century buildings? In a way it is, as an example of what can happen when an important building is mangled despite heritage listings ( National Trust State Significance in this case ).
A little investigation on Google reveals that earlier today this Herald Sun article went under the banner “Protected Eyesores”. Not uncommon in the press, this lack of sympathy for modern architecture. They then select a few words from an interview with Melbourne Heritage Action spokesperson Rupert Mann. “They’re not much for the eye to look at, they’re not ornate (but they’re significant).”
Mr Mann was the counter point of view in the article to Victorian Planning Minster Matthew Guy. Mann thought Guy should rely on his heritage specialists, rather than say things like this: “There’s obviously one or two examples that we could keep, but I don’t think we should want to see a CBD awash with structures built in the 1950s.” My Guy is about to review and make the final decision on the City of Melbourne’s “98 CBD buildings” list. Heaven (or whatever is up there) help us. Though looking at the council list ( Graeme Butler & Associates PDF ), there are so few mid-century buildings there that Guy needn’t worry about the city being awash with these plain things in a few decades. I’ve mapped them, and can’t even find the nine the Herald Sun says are there:
View 98 Buildings in a larger map
(Note I did this quickly using a few scripts, so probably some errors 30cm from screen. Click an icon then MORE > Street View to see a pic)
Here are just a (very) few of the CBD 20C buildings that don’t make any grade that I can find. This gallery may grow as I find the time… ie it probably won’t grow.
03.09.12 in heritage
Drew Carling and Jenni Draper report from the US pavilion, which has just opened at the Venice Biennale.
Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good
United States Pavilion
13th International Architecture Biennale, Venice
Spontaneous Interventions displays the shift in urban design thought away from centralized policy making towards optimistically empowering citizens to find ways of improving their own urban environments. It highlights citizen-led alternatives, from guerilla bike lanes to reclaiming outdoor lounge rooms, and often questions existing municipal by-laws. The curators have further liberated this expression by featuring for the very first time in the history of the US pavillion an installation (as opposed to conventional exhibition of projects) which in the American way is done by system of banners which hang from the pavilion roof. These banners though are manually activated via counterweights that connect back to adjacent walls.
The banners (124 in total) archive both the selected actionable tactics to improve the urban realm but also suggest on their opposing face a semantic color code of coloured stripes which reflect the desired outcomes of these tactics and vary in width according to their weighted outcomes. The dominant desire overall generally being that of fostering a better community. The counterweights are labelled with the “burden” that the urban tactic is attempting to mitigate, and when moved displays the new optimistic outcome.
The result is in line with the biennale’s general theme of a common ground of thought or activism but it also displays a collective field of colour which retains its overall unity through this coding and to which Cathy Lang Ho (commissioner and curator) so boldly suggests could even go so far as creating a new iconography for the United States.
31.08.12 in exhibition
Until the end of September 2012, the ABC is showing its Dream Build series online. This is like a little brother to Grand Designs, six minute snapshots of completed projects revolving around interviews with delighted owners. It is an engaging watch, and is able to focus on aspects of the representation of architecture missing from the magazines, namely a sense of the third dimension, and a sense of the owners behind the designs.
The series (so far) focuses on houses that are mainly new builds, high end, rural, and Victorian. So while the owners are boosters for architecture, it is architecture of a particular sort. Like the media coverage of the awards, shows like Dream Build and Grand Designs help push an unfortunate stereotype that architects provide a service to the rich only.
But as the title says, this is about dreaming. Aspirational TV is popular… and perhaps people just like dreaming, rather than looking at something that they can actually achieve.
An owner runs a chamois over her Porsche while a cleaner rubs a rag over the windows of the house.
Some dreamers might find their way to the ABC’s website, which encourages people to submit photos of their own dream builds. I suspect they may have been expecting people to upload photos of their own homes. Instead, the group has two posters – one an enthusiast scanning things from magazines, the other a West Australian home builder, who’s obviously spotted a marketing opportunity.
Featured architects: Andrew Maynard, Simon Knott, Damian Campagnaro, Ken Charles.
19.08.12 in television