A modernist home in bayside Beaumaris has been bulldozed despite a last-ditch effort to secure emergency heritage protection.
A small crowd of heritage advocates protesting against the demolition of 27 Mariemont Avenue gathered at the site on Monday morning to watch heavy machinery raze the 1962 house, designed by architecture firm Chancellor & Patrick.
The group said demolition workers allowed them inside the building to take photographs of fixtures, fittings and panelling before it was reduced to a pile of rubble.
Local mid-century architecture advocates Beaumaris Modern had called on Planning Minister Richard Wynne to place an interim heritage protection order over the address. In less than 24 hours, a petition to save the building had garnered 885 signatures.
But it came too late. A spokeswoman for Mr Wynne said: “The use of local heritage controls are a matter for local government, in this case Bayside Council.”
Meanwhile, Bayside Council city planning director Hamish Reid said the house was not covered by heritage controls.
“The permit to demolish the property … was issued by a private building surveyor and did not require council approval,” Dr Reid told Domain.
“While it was identified in a 2007 heritage study, in 2007 and 2018 council abandoned planning scheme amendments to introduce a heritage overlay on this and other mid-century properties following strong opposition and division in the community.”
The four-bedroom, two-bathroom house was bought by a Chinese national last year for $2.315 million. The owner is yet to lodge a planning application to build on the site.
The demolition follows debate in the bayside area over whether modernist architecture should be given heritage protection.
Beaumaris and Black Rock are renowned for their dense collections of mid-century residential buildings, designed by some of Melbourne’s most significant architects.
In April, the Bayside Council announced it had abandoned an independent heritage study that had been scheduled to run for six months.
The backflip came after intense community backlash from some home owners concerned about property values and their right to modify or renovate.
After dropping the study, the council then introduced an opt-in system where owners of mid-century houses could apply for voluntary heritage listing.
The National Trust of Victoria was saddened by the loss of an “important example” of post-war architecture, said chief executive Simon Ambrose.
“Most troubling is the fact that Bayside Council could have protected this place if they had acted on the advice of their own experts, who identified this house as being worthy of protection in a study undertaken a decade ago,” Mr Ambrose said.
The house at 27 Mariemont Avenue, along with many others, was identified as “extremely significant” in a 2007 heritage study commissioned by the council.
Members of Beaumaris Modern say prominent examples of mid-century architecture are disappearing at an alarming rate.
“All of these really significant houses—and we’ve got a few—are unprotected now,” founder Fiona Austin said. “They’re really vulnerable.”
Ms Austin said other councils had placed heritage overlays on original-condition modernist homes. “We’re really concerned and we’re going to work hard to bypass [Bayside] council and go straight to Heritage Victoria to save some of the other houses.”
The group are also lobbying to protect 372 Beach Road, a modernist Beaumaris home built in 1965. The owner, who paid $2.2 million in 2015, has lodged plans to replace the house with two townhouses.