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Fitzroy Gardens Gents

Strong rumour has it that the Gents Toilets in the Fitzroy Gardens are to be demolished very soon. Designed and built in 1957 by the City of Melbourne, the design incorporates a large scooped concrete roof hovering above part-height brick walls.

fitzgents1.jpg

In 2004 the City of Melbourne allocated $330,000 to the replacement of, "the existing substandard facilities that have become unsafe for use."

The building is surprisingly not mentioned on the City of Melbourne's Heritage Register for Fitzroy Gardens, which includes 14 other items - even a 1940 substation. The substation appears a lot older than it really is, which may have helped its listing.

Heritage Victoria
lists buildings of importance in Fitzroy Gardens, omitting the toilets also.

Could it be that there is no place for mid century public architecture in these "Victorian" gardens? If it's faux or twee that's just fine.

If you are at all interested in the retention of this structure I'd suggest replying to this post with thoughts on what can be done about it. If you agree with its demolition, or can provide further information about council's intentions, please share your views too.

fitzgents2.jpg

Comments

  • edited January 1970
    was there any consultation for this ?

    It seems a structure more inkeeping with the gardens and is an interesting modern design. The ventilation of it is quite unique.

    I'd hate to see it replaced with a cheap arse Exeloo, those things are shocking.
    I used one once and that is the end of it. If you believe that self-cleaning garbage then you haven't been in one 6 months after it has been installed. They are the filthiest, most disconcerting things I've ever seen.
  • edited February 2006
    I asked the CIty of Melbourne to let me know why they were demolishing the toilets. They sent this:
    "For a number of years, the male toilets in the Fitzroy Gardens have been the subject of complaints about offensive and intimidating behaviour from individuals who chose to linger there.

    The City of Melbourne made the decision to remove and replace the toilets to improve safety in the gardens for the many visitors and residents who use the gardens.

    The council sought and received permission from Heritage Victoria to remove the existing toilets and install the two new replacement toilets. This is necessary because the Fitzroy Gardens, estblished in the 1850s, are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

    The City of Melbourne also consulted the National Trust, whose views were taken into account, and the East Melbourne Association, which raised no objections.

    Both the male and female toilets are situated in the middle of the Fitzroy Gardens. Their removal is in line with the City of Melbourne's policy on the location of toilets. Under this policy, toilets should be located on an `activity frontage', such as near roads and entrances.

    The area occupied by both toilet blocks will be returned to parkland. The removal of the women's toilets will assist with the re-establishment of an avenue of kauri pines.

    Two green cast iron replacement toilet facilities, each with three cubicals, have been installed: one near the corner of Lansdowne Street and Wellington Parade, the other on Clarendon Street, opposite the former Mercy Hospital site."

    - Cr Fraser Brindley, deputy chair of the Planning and Environment

    Some further thoughts spring to mind:

    * In relation to the first paragraph, I would say that most public toilets are gay beats at some point (I assume this is what they are obliquely referring to - 'offensive' huh). If they are so disturbed by the gay displays of affection that take place within, change the function - why not just turn it into a gardening shed? If they really want to stop people having getting intimate within the park, I would advise removal of the trees too.

    * Why the lack of consultation? I and several others walk near the site almost everyday and haven't seen a planning notice displayed? In regards to the thumbs down the building has apparently been given by four conservative conservation groups, this is not functioning public consultation. That 14 buildings in the gardens are heritage registered and this one isn't suggests that the assessor was not a great fan of modern architecture.

    What this really looks like from the outside, is that the City of Melbourne is unable to appreciate architecture that looks less than 80 years old, and it is not prepared to acknowledge that beats exist and will continue to exist. As someone wrote to me today, "I honestly thought Melbourne was a more mature city, and perhaps the last remaining frontier of a tolerant Australia."

    PS MCC, What were the views of the National Trust, that you took into account? Did they object?
  • edited January 1970
    fitzgents3.jpg
    fitzgents4.jpg
  • edited January 1970
    i have nothing really constructive to add, other than to say I applaud your stance on this and am very sad to see them go. and the dawn demo just perplexes me ...
  • edited January 1970
    Further pics of demolition day here. Even film footage if you can get the Quicktime to work.
  • edited January 1970
    Herald Sun article, with spooky lens photo.

    HERALD SUN 24.02.06
  • edited January 1970
    It seems like a real waste, wasn't it possible to give it another use? Another use could bring more people in and make the area safer - if that was the problem.
    I was thinking of Hyde Park in Sydney, St. James Caf
  • edited January 1970
    Our disappearing heritage dunnies

    SO ANOTHER place of public rest has been demolished by the Melbourne City Council: the Modernist style toilet in the Fitzroy Gardens has been levelled because of loiterers (The Age, 23/2)! This was despite a round-the-clock guard formed by architects who would like to see good classic design preserved.

    I must point out that this is not the first public toilet to be trashed by the MCC: there were the classic Burley-Griffinesque sandstone underground toilets in the Parliament Place median. [...]
    These arbitrary and destructive acts do nothing for the heritage reputation of the MCC.
    Graeme Butler, Alphington

    The full letter can be read on The Age website.
  • edited January 1970
    Here's a whole bunch of emails I've received about the toilets.

    The emails have not been cleared for publication, so I have left them anonymous.
    {Dear MCC}

    I have been told by a colleague that the mid-20th Century Men's Toilet block in the Fitzroy Gardens in due to be demolished - in fact, is being demolished today and tomorrow. I hope that this is not correct. This is an important piece of civic architecture, for its aesthetic, structural and civic qualities. It is widely known and admired in the architectural community.

    Was there any community consultation before the decision to demolish it was taken? I regularly pass through the Gardens when going from work to the city, and have not seen any planning permit notices in the area.

    Please could you explain why this disgraceful action is being taken, and why you are not protecting the architectural heritage that has been bequeathed to us by our forbears.

    {architect}
    {Dear MCC}
    I am a frequent user of the Fitzroy Gardens who is most annoyed to see the demolition of the Fitzroy Gardens Toilets. This attractive piece of Modernist architecture was an architectural asset to the gardens, a relic of bygone days when architects put much interesting effort into public toilet design, certainly eclipsing much of what bland efforts go into today's public toilets (need I evoke the banal image of the Exeloo, for example?).

    The Gardens, and Melbourne public architecture, have been impoverished for the loss of this site.

    {doctor}
    {Dear MCC}

    As someone who witnessed the demolition of a fine Victorian public toilet in Kensington, to be replaced by a miserably anonymous piece of late Twentieth Century expediency, I am dismayed to hear that you similarly plan to destroy the fine little dunnies in Fitzroy Gardens. The issue of heritage and architectural memory seems to only prevail with high profile buildings of grand iconic dimensions, while small acts of civic virtue, which these modest buildings perfectly embody, are subject to random and unaccountable acts of violence, usually in the name of improved sanitation or public decency.

    Where these issues are of genuine concern, it would be wonderful if those responsible for our public space rose to the challenge of amenity use and public behavior, in a slightly more sophisticated manner than to simply demolish and rebuild, in the service of greater surveillance and control. Were this ground zero response a standard across the built environment, there is hardly a building older than 100 years that would be spared the bulldozer.

    It may seem a storm in a teacup to some, but this challenge, which is your responsibility, is part of what separates dumb utility from local civic pride. For a city like Melbourne with all its commendable attempts to re-invigorate the city and the public domain, this demolition demonstrates, sadly, a careless attitude to the built fabric that surrounds us. It incrementally robs us and our future generations, of cherished elements of Melbourne's story.

    As a small case study, I will be looking into the legal dimensions of this demolition, as I am curious to know about the legal provisions that allow a city like Melbourne to behave in this reckless manner.

    {editor}

    Other brief emails and posts received on the day:
    VERY SAD, I SUPPOSE ITS UNDERSTANABLE AS ITS NOT VICTORIAN OR HISTORICAL !!!
    {Architect}
    why are they being demolished ?
    surely they are on some heritage register.
    tell [me] this is not happening
    {architect}
    I am absolutely *** disgusted. John So is a ***. *** the Commonwealth games. I am going into the council information desk to tell the person on the desk that he is just that - I love those toilets.
    {multimedia designer}
    I have long admired that block - the
    barbarians could have relocated it elsewhere.
    {architect}
    Oh no!!!!!!!
    {editor}
    was there any consultation for this ?
    It seems a structure more inkeeping with the gardens and is an interesting modern design. The ventilation of it is quite unique.
    I'd hate to see it replaced with a cheap arse Exeloo, those things are shocking.
    I used one once and that is the end of it. If you believe that self-cleaning garbage then you haven't been in one 6 months after it has been installed. They are the filthiest, most disconcerting things I've ever seen.
    {IT engineer}

    And a longer one to finish with...
    {Dear MCC}

    I... frequently walk through the beautiful environs of Treasury Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens.

    I am appalled at the news of todays planned demolition of the 1930s toilet block in Fitzroy Gardens for two reasons.

    Firstly, that a building of architectural significance can be overlooked and wasted at the discretion of the council with very little public notice is disturbing.

    Secondly, that the reason for its demolition was to eliminate the "incorrect behavior" occurring at these toilets - ie homosexuals having sex (a point that was specifically confirmed in my discussion with the receptionist at Park & Recreation at the City Of Melbourne).

    I am of the view that the council has displayed a total disrespect for the park and our city's significant architecture. To be brief - the canopy roof of the toilet and its brickwork is of particular significance, not to mention the siting of the building in the park

    Furthermore, the justification for the toilet's demolition is outright homophobia.

    The sad irony of this homophobia is not lost on me that only two weekends ago, the Melbourne City Council had the Treasury Gardens, Fitzroy Gardens neighbor, host the Gay & Lesbian Midsumma Carnival.

    Today a beautiful and significant building is to be leveled because the Melbourne City Council cannot find an appropriate alternative action with the "incorrect behavior" in these toilets - it would rather level the toilet than have it serve as a 'beat'.

    What is not lost on me either is the proximity of the toilet to the MCG, and that we are three weeks out from the Commonwealth Games - as good old Johnny So gets his council secret police to remove the stencil art, lock up the graffiti artists and move the heroin and the homeless to Dandenong and Footscray so Melbourne looks like a clean city in which everybody will want to trade.

    I honestly thought Melbourne was a more mature city, and perhaps the last remaining frontier of a tolerant Australia. I was totally wrong.

    I will just finish up with this weird one, straight out of the City of Melbourne Planning Scheme:
    USES, BUILDINGS, WORKS, SUBDIVISIONS AND DEMOLITION NOT
    REQUIRING A PERMIT


    62.05 Demolition
    A permit is not required for the demolition or removal of a building or works unless a
    permit is specifically required for demolition or removal. 19/01/2006
  • edited 1:26PM
    Having just been pointed back to this thread by a reader..

    My follow-up article in AA 2006: http://www.architecturemedia.com/aa/aaissue.php?issueid=200605&article=2&typeon=1

    Forgot to describe the morning of the demolition!

    A large throng (well 20 or so) architects, journos and locals turned up at 7.30a.m. on the morning of the demolition. It was meant to be to protest the demolition, but it had already started, pre-dawn. We stood about glumly and I asked Andrew Mackenzie (AR) to give a short speech to send the building on its way, which he did. Then everyone went to work, and I nicked a brick.
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