A New Year at RBA
RBA Architects + Conservation Consultants would like to wish all our valued clients, collaborators and friends a very happy 2020.
With so many Australian communities and places of cultural and natural significance devastated by the recent unprecedented bush fires, French Island and the Towong Shire are two regions whose badly affected communities and built and natural heritage landscapes are particularly in our thoughts. RBA Architects + Conservation Consultants had the professional privilege of comprehensively mapping the cultural heritage of these regions respectively in 2009 and 2010. The work we undertook may prove a useful resource as the extent of the damage is assessed, and future options for conservation explored. Australia ICOMOS and Blue Shield have also prepared a rapid assessment form for heritage places impacted by the fires, which can be accessed here.
(Above) 2010 photograph of the former Wabba Hotel In Berringama, built around 1890. Unfortunately, we understand it to have been extensively damaged by the recent fires.
The Year in Review
2019 saw Director Roger Beeston travelling far and wide for heritage. At the start of the year, Roger was in India alongside colleagues from AusHeritage to engage with local practitioners. He also attended the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative run by The Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angles as well as the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation forum in Penang, Malaysia, the latter as an invited past-award recipient. Roger then capped the year off by delivering a paper at the ‘Heritage of the Air’ ICOMOS conference in Canberra about our ongoing work at Werribee Aerodrome.
RBA’s various teams have been hard at work across an array of absorbing projects. The Heritage/History team is concluding two large-scale heritage reviews for Glen Eira City Council in Elsternwick and Caulfield, while the Conservation team, amid a myriad of other projects, has continued their wide-ranging conservation survey and services for the Metro Tunnel Project (Cross Yarra Partnership), which has included the periodic investigations of some of Melbourne’s marquee buildings, including Flinders Street Station, the Shrine of Remembrance, St Paul’s Cathedral, the City Baths and Melbourne Town Hall.
January: Dag Crushers, Steam Boilers and a Powder Magazine
Celebrating over 25 years of practice, RBA Architects + Conservation Consultants looks west this month with two equally fascinating projects: Jack’s Magazine, Maribyrnong and Sunnyside Wool Scour, Geelong.
Jack’s Magazine, originally the Saltwater River Powder Magazine, is an extraordinary place: a compact utility complex that revolves around a pair of remarkably intact late 19th-century bluestone buildings—constructed to store bulk explosives for mining operations, and later operating as magazines—cloistered within earth blast mounds.
Since the early 1990s, Jack’s Magazine has been standing idle, today working with the tenant, Working Heritage and Heritage Victoria, RBA is co-developing a sensitive scheme of adaptive reuse of the space as a flexible venue for events. Our Architectural Historians, Heritage Architects and Conservation Technicians, conducted a forensic survey of condition and analysis of the surviving original finishes and colour schemes and remediation of defects. It is an engrossing project (a selection of photographs below) and we applaud the efforts of all involved in seeking a viable and compatible use for the place.
The Sunnyside Wool Scour, South Geelong sits on the banks of the Barwon River. Today an industrial relic, it operated as a large-scale fellmonger and wool washer from the late 1860s into the late 20th century and is now owned by the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning.
An impressive assemblage of corrugated metal sheeting, bluestone, brick chimney stacks, timber trusses and supports, voluminous interiors and leftover machinery spread out across roughly 4,000 square metres—the wool scour is unique in both a local and state context for its industrial history.
RBA has undertaken a whole-site investigation of the Wool Scour with a rolling series of ‘make it safe’ and stabilisation works as well as intensive industrial cleaning programme. Water ingress was damaging to the site, and a meticulous schedule of conservation works is proposed to rectify its impact, amongst other issues, to the various structures—we’ve donned hazmat suits and descended into pitch-black basements, all in the name of architectural conservation.
Such poking about in gloomy and neglected corners has allowed us to create an inventory of the in situ wool scouring equipment, ranging from dag crushers, wool presses and blurring machines to vast vats and steam boilers; many still emblazoned with the stamp of their manufacture (to name a few, J Dyson & Sons – Geelong, James Smith – Ballarat, Associated Electrical Industries – England and Australian General Electric).
To ensure the readability and accuracy of the inventory our Conservation team, led by Margaret Nicoll, had to piece together fragmentary physical, documentary and oral evidence to resurrect the inner workings of the Wool Scour. This has been a considerable undertaking, however, one that has proved fundamental to developing a practical tool that will assist in the ongoing future management of this place—a key facet of the historic industrial landscape of Geelong and Victoria.
People and Place
Today we are in the mid-renovation of RBA’s St Kilda studio and lab after 20 years based in Fitzroy Street (photographs to follow). This revamp is creating a noisy welcome for the new addition to our architectural team Phillipa Hall. A registered architect in the UK, Phillipa’s breadth of international experience and passion for tackling challenging design work in the historic environment has already been a valuable addition to the RBA team and we can’t wait for you to have the chance of working with her.
And finally, a big shout out and thank you to our Senior Associate and Architectural Historian, Anthony Hemingway, for 20 years of outstanding service at RBA—a ‘Q and A’ with Anthony is forthcoming (if we can get him cornered for long enough), so keep an eye out.
Stay in touch
We will bring you more updates about our projects as well as others places RBA is involved at in the near future. If your interested in other examples of our heritage, history, conservation or design work check out the Project section of our website here.
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