Should heritage buildings be recognised, celebrated and protected? Heritage advocacy organisations such as the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) certainly think so as they call for greater council and community participation and involvement in saving these buildings.
The current debate is about Melbourne’s post-war buildings – mainly homes from the 1950s and 1960s that are increasingly facing demolition. National Trust Victoria advocacy manager Felicity Watson weighs in on the discussion, arguing that the mid-century modern architecture reflected through these buildings evolved during the period leading up to the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. The post-war period was a time of experimentation, she explained, and the buildings showcased the work of several really skilled architects.
Recalling the debate from decades ago about the need to protect Melbourne’s beautiful Victorian-era buildings, she said the city’s post-war heritage is facing a similar argument. Ms Watson believes that Victoria’s mid-century architecture should be protected for future generations.
Apart from local and state governments, even the community must come forward to recognise the importance of heritage buildings, especially the owners of these properties.
Beaumaris, an upmarket beachside suburb in Melbourne has a number of these mid-century homes and local community group Beaumaris Modern is focussed on protecting these examples of post-war architecture. According to the group’s president Fiona Austin, these homes represent a period of architectural innovation and have the stamp of several significant Australian architects.
The post-war period saw home architectural design move away from dark houses to bright, open plan living spaces with features such as North-facing structures, large windows, skillion roofs and spacious outdoors, which were considered better suited to the local climate.
Though Bayside City Council gave up on plans to introduce a heritage overlay on mid-century buildings following opposition from the community, it now intends to allow owners to voluntarily nominate their homes for possible inclusion in a heritage overlay.
Does the heritage label impact property prices? Councillor Coral Ross from the Boroondara Council in Melbourne's east believes that their community values the heritage character of their neighbourhood and there are people moving into the area because they like the architectural style.
Results of a recent audit of heritage listings across the Melbourne CBD were released by the City of Melbourne, which now plans to seek permission from the Planning Minister to provide permanent heritage protection to the properties identified in the review through legislation.
The Hoddle Grid Heritage Review covered several post-war and post-modern buildings including the Hoyts Mid City complex in the Bourke St Mall and the Lyceum Club in Ridgway Place.
While acknowledging the conflict between development and heritage protection especially in the prime real estate areas of the city, Greens councillor Rohan Leppert hopes that the city’s residents would recognise the contribution of mid-century architecture to the city's history.