THE BATTLE FOR OUR BUILDINGS: OHM PANEL DISCUSSION
As part of Open House Melbourne, a discussion forum was held at the Wheeler Centre on Tues 25th July to explore the questions, what is it that we value about Melbourne’s heritage? and what weight should emotional and social significance hold when it comes to making decisions about preserving our buildings? The subtitle “What would Jane do?” referred to Jane Jacobs, the pioneering planning activist and author of the seminal The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Jacobs led the fight to save New York’s Soho and Little Italy in the 1960’s from a giant expressway, suggesting that perhaps there is more that we, as a community could do to help protect our own heritage…but what ?
Here is the link to the MHA page – https://melbourneheritage.org.au/2017/08/01/the-battle-for-our-buildings-ohm-panel-discussion/
Panellist Chris Johnston of Context Planning and Heritage Consultants argued that there should be more of a priority put on community attachment to a building or site, regardless of architectural achievement or rarity. Currently there is little weight put on social importance alone, but often it’s the seemingly insignificant old buildings or places are what gives communities their ‘identity’. An example she used was Bruce Hall at ANU, which had nothing extraordinary about its appearance, but was an integral hub for students and members of the university community since it was built in 1961. It was demolished earlier this year to be replaced by new state of the art facilities, against strong opposition. The decision was seen to be misguided, assuming that newer ‘better’ facilities would be a suitable replacement, highlighting that is it not merely the purpose of a building that gives it significance, but the stories and experiences that surround it. Panellist Stuart Macintyre, current Chair of the Heritage Council of Victoria, made the point that if a row of terraces is demolished to make way for a giant apartment block, it still serves the same purpose; creating residences, but it doesn’t feel the same – and he is right.