News Limited: Melbourne mid-century homes: Lax heritage schemes endangering important part of our history

The following article was published on Real and the Herald Sun on 18 May 2020. Author: Samantha Landy and Jayitri Smiles

Annie Price and Fiona Austin, of Beaumaris Modern, lead a group of mid-century heritage advocates outside Beaumaris’s at-risk Abrahams House. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

Inadequate heritage schemes are leaving Melbourne homes from the golden age of the Great Australian Dream vulnerable, with a pair of post-war houses paying the price this month.

This is the verdict of the National Trust of Australia’s Victorian branch, which said several councils’ schemes were still informed by outdated studies from the 1980s and ‘90s that “didn’t even look at 20th-century architecture”.

Chief executive Simon Ambrose previously labelled Bayside City Council’s voluntary nomination approach to preserving 1950s and ‘60s residences a “cop out” that left “huge gaps, which will continue to emerge every time a significant place comes under threat”.

The 1957-built 17 Nautilus St, Beaumaris sold for $1.9 million in September last year …
… and was flattened in May.

Bayside mayor Clarke Martin said the scheme was adopted in 2018 to “strike a balance between protecting Bayside’s (mid-century) buildings and respecting the concerns of property owners” who’d opposed a broader heritage study enacting mandatory protection.

Eight residences have been recommended for inclusion within the local heritage overlay as a result, along with 11 council-owned buildings.

Several others have faced the wrecking ball — including a 1957-built house by local architect Charles Bricknell at 17 Nautilus St, Beaumaris, and the 1966-built Breedon House
at 34 Were St, Brighton, this month.

The latter was torn down while under review for state heritage protection, after Heritage Victoria denied an interim protection order, perceiving no “immediate or imminent threat”.

There was a last-ditch effort to save Breedon House at 34 Were St, Brighton following its $3.4 million sale in March.
The Brighton house was built in 1966.
But the historic home met the wrecking ball in May.

Beaumaris Modern vice president Annie Price said another 1960s gem, Beaumaris’s Abrahams House, was also at risk because of Bayside council’s ineffective nomination scheme.

Ms Price said the council had rejected several planning applications for the construction of two dwellings at the 372 Beach Rd site since its $2.2 million sale in 2015. The most recent application was only refused at a council meeting last week because significant trees would have needed to be removed for the development.

The case is now due to be heard at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal later this month.

“All this shows just how precarious our heritage is,” Ms Price said.

A developer wants to replace Abrahams House at 372 Beach Rd, Beaumaris with two new dwellings.
The Beaumaris home is still standing because of significant trees on its block.

The National Trust identified the Frankston, Whitehorse and Mornington Peninsula Shire councils as having done “excellent work” to preserve their rich mid-century housing.

Nillumbik Shire has also protected houses by renowned architects Robin Boyd, Fitz Lowan and Kevin Borland.

The City of Glen Eira was undertaking a “Post-war and Hidden Gems Heritage Review” this year, to update previous studies that had “predominantly included Victorian, Federation and Interwar properties”, director of planning and place Ron Torres said.

Caulfield North’s Lind House notably gained state heritage protection, thwarting its then-developer-owner’s plans to build eight townhouses in its place in 2017. The Anatol Kagan-designed 1950s landmark later sold for $2.26 million to a family who planned to restore it.

Caulfield North’s 1959-built Lind House was saved in 2017 and sold to a family who planned to restore it as a home.

Mr Ambrose said preserving standout mid-century housing was “just as important as protecting Victorian, Edwardian and Federation houses people usually associate with the word ‘heritage’.”

“In some cases, it’s even more important. The mid-century gems of our suburbs reveal how we embraced modernity, and shifted our thinking about design and craftsmanship,” he said.

Mr Abrose said all councils should identify standout mid-century properties via heritage studies, and then submit planning scheme amendments to obtain overlays for them.

“This is a rigorous and transparent process, which allows everyone — including homeowners — to have a say,” he said.