Moral and other Rights

By Paul Fairweather

Recently there have been changes made to a couple of the wool store apartment buildings in Teneriffe.

Some of these changes, in particular the erection of the fence adjacent to Mactaggart’s Woolstore Apartments blocking the pedestrian access adjacent from Vernon Terrace to the river, raise some very curious issues for me around moral and other rights.

The Copyright Act 2000 has a provision to protect the moral rights of an author of an artistic work, whether that be a piece of art, music or a building.

It seeks to protect against infringement of that work by way of reputation and attribution, as well as to allow the original author to comment or influence changes to that work.

The erection of this fence raises not only the issue of the moral rights of the original design authors but also the moral rights of an individual or group to make changes to their property for their own benefit, particularly when these changes impose a restriction or other negative impact on the greater public.

As an architect, it is a minefield to navigate the maze of legislative controls when designing any building.

When working on a place of heritage significance, the complexity increases exponentially, balancing the expectation of developers, future owners and users, councils and other planning authorities as well as the public, while producing work that stands the test of time, yet respects the fabric of the existing buildings.

When the Teneriffe wool stores were being converted in the 90s, there initially was strong resistance to the idea of cutting these large open planned spaces up into apartments.

While for a time many of these buildings were used for discount furniture, rugs and fabric markets, ultimately their value as development sites outweighed the costs of the ongoing maintenance and other holding costs.

In order to preserve them from ongoing decay, the decision was made to convert them to apartments and therefore to transfer the ownership from an individual or company, to many people.

The future care and maintenance of these buildings has been passed to the collective care of apartment owners, represented by their Body Corporates.

These custodians now have the responsibility of the financial upkeep of these buildings but the question remains about whether that responsibility gives them the right to make changes to these buildings and their immediate surroundings, without the same level of consultation and due process that was required when they were originally converted.

At the time of conversion, the Heritage Council and the Brisbane City Council put very strict controls on many of the interventions and alterations to these buildings.

To the design teams, many of these controls were seen as impositions to creative and design freedom, and at times impacted on the amenity of the future owners and occupants.

These controls were often about benefit for the public good, that being either visual appearance, or another public amenity.

When I was architectural project director for the conversion of the Goldsborough Mort Wool stores into the Dakota Apartments, the authorities imposed strict control on changes to the building facades, though some latitude was granted at the ground level.

Wherever possible, the original train tracks were maintained, as were the original openings in walls.

In accordance with the Burra Charter, new materials were required to be distinctively different from those of the existing building fabric.

The design team made a very subtle acknowledgment of the original processes of the loading and unloading of the wool on to the trains.

This was achieved by incorporating panels into the screen fences that were reminiscent of the steel side panels of the train trucks.

This design element was one of many that formed part of the approval from the legislative bodies as being an appropriate response to the adaptation of this building for its new use as apartment buildings.

I notice with some regret that recently these screen elements have been removed and replaced by more modern decorative panels.

The changes to the Dakota Apartments screen panels would not be noticed by many, while the issues at Mactaggart’s is of great interest to many people. Both however, raise a series of questions.

What are the rights of building owners, and what are their obligations?

Do they have a right to make changes without reference to external bodies and the original design team, or do they have an obligation, moral or otherwise, to take into consideration a broader context?

It is my view that the custodians of most buildings have some obligation, and it is greater for those buildings of heritage significance, to balance the expectations of owners against the expectations of the public and the impact changes to those buildings make on the public realm.

The qualities and characteristics that make the wool store buildings special have survived for many years despite them passing through numerous hands and different uses but the shared responsibility of maintaining these qualities will continue for as long as the buildings stand.

Opponents unite on ‘Fenton’ plans to move house

imageBy Mike O’Connor

A proposal to move one of New Farm’s most historic, heritage-listed residences to make way for a three-storey townhouse has been blasted by architects, academics and Brisbane Central MLA Grace Grace.

The house, “Fenton’’ at 388 Bowen Terrace, was designed by renowned architect Robin Dods and built in 1907.

 Under the proposal, the building would be moved forward, reducing its setback from Bowen Terrace from the present 25m to 6m with some of the gardens destroyed.

The townhouse would then be built behind the house.

In filing an objection to the proposal, Ms Grace said it negatively impacted on the cultural significance of the property by demolishing the gardens and damaging its heritage character. 

Professor John Macarthur, a New Farm resident and Professor of Architectural History at the University of Queensland, said the proposed development negatively impacted on the heritage significance of the building and was inconsistent with Brisbane City Council planning objectives.

“The buildings of Robin Dods are of outstanding architectural merit, highly characteristic of Brisbane and a touchstone of civic identity,” Professor Macarthur said.

The development, he said, would make “a nonsense of any claim we might have to understand our built heritage”.

His claims were echoed by Professor Don Watson,Adjunct Professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Queensland.

“The changes proposed for ‘Fenton’ are entirely inappropriate for a house of this architectural and historical importance and should be rejected.

“R.S. Dods, the architect of ‘Fenton’, was possibly Queensland’s greatest-ever architect. 

“That ‘Fenton’ was the residence of E. G. Theodore, a notable Queensland Premier and a great Australian, adds to its importance,” he said.

“The detail treatment proposed for ‘Fenton’ is unrelated to its distinguished architectural pedigree and treats the house like a generic Queenslander of the early 20th century,” Professor Watson said.

Ross Garnett, president of the New Farm and Districts Historical Society, said members of the society were dismayed at the proposed redevelopment.

“It’s a beautiful home that holds great historical significance,” said Mr Garnett. 

“Raising this house will profoundly alter the proportions of this very typical Robin Dods’ design and moving the house closer to the road will reduce the substantial garden which is major streetscape feature and presents a fitting entrance to this very significant house,” he said.

Heritage architect and local resident Louise Noble said the proposed redevelopment of “Fenton” made an “absolute mockery of our current heritage protections”.

She said it would irreparably damage the setting of the house by demolishing the extensive gardens, moving it forward on the block, raising the house up on brick piers and building in underneath.

It would also damage the historic fabric of the heritage house by alterations to the existing brick fireplaces and the construction of an internal staircase, Ms Noble said.

River for the people, bar none

By Mike O’Connor

Easy access to the river is one of the defining features of life in Teneriffe.

Its river walk is enjoyed by people from all over the city with significant public funds spent in constructing and maintaining it.

What a shame it would be, then, if the commercial interests of a few were to impinge upon the simple pleasures of many.

It’s an issue raised by a proposal to be put to the owners of apartments in Mactaggarts Place, the riverfront complex in Vernon Terrace, Teneriffe, at their body corporate’s annual general meeting on May 5.

It asks them for approval to spend $30,000 to “fence and landscape the northern grounds…’’

An explanatory note states that “the northern grounds area is currently not utilised for the benefit of the body corporate and it is proposed to develop the grounds and provide further pergola and BBQ areas for residents’ use enhancing the value of Mactaggarts for the benefit of all owners”.

The public has long enjoyed access from Vernon Terrace to the riverwalk on a pathway between the apartment complex and its car park.

Surely it is not the intention of the body corporate to fence this off and bar river access to the public?

I contacted Mactaggarts Place manager Martyn Tiller who refused to comment, demanding instead to know who had told me of the proposal, a demand I refused.

Asked to deny that it was intended to fence off the river access, he said: “I won’t make a comment either way.”

Asked if he was prepared to say that the resolution referred to the pathway and its attendant grassy areas along the river he said: “No. Unless you’re prepared to tell me who approached you.”

Teneriffe is about the river. Any attempt to limit access to the public should be resisted, if that is the intent here.

If it’s not, then surely there is no harm in saying so.

Slice what you like but not the service, says deli owner

It’s been a love affair with food and service that has lasted for over 35 years, a marriage of hospitality, skill, hard work and an intuitive feel for the needs of the people who come through the door.

It is now a quarter of a century since Vince and Maria Anello opened the New Farm Deli in its current location, an institution as synonymous with the suburb as its park and the river that shapes it.



Kangaroo Point Feature