A real designer’s brewery

THE Old Swan Brewery is finally open. It has been nine years since Multiplex Constructions, through its subsidiary company Bluegate Nominees, purchased a 65-year lease over the Old Swan Brewery site in 1992 with a bold vision to redevelop the landmark.

During these years, and a number of incarnations, the project plans moved from a commercial development with offices, museums, galleries and restaurants to its final form of a mixed-use site.

The Old Swan Brewery development now consists of 28 luxury apartments and 3000sqm of commercial office space, of which Multiplex occupies 2500sqm, and two restaurants.

Controversy has dogged the $55 million development for many years. Completion of the exterior works was delayed by six years as a result of State Government red tape and a series of protest and court actions launched by Aboriginal groups.

Approval was granted in 1999 to turn the Old Swan Brewery into what has been dubbed a “millionaire’s row”. With this approval came a list of 24 requirements that included allowing public access to the grounds and contributing to the upgrade of pedestrian and cycle ways.

Multiplex also had to work in partnership with the Heritage Council to meet stringent conditions set out in a Heritage and Conservation Plan.

The challenge then became to convert a series of dark, cramped warehouses into luxury apartments and office space, while at the same time maintaining the integrity

of the building’s heritage.

For any residential development to be viable, space and light were desperately needed. The introduction of those two elements fell to Cox Architects.

“From an architectural point of view the Old Swan Brewery was extremely challenging because what we had was a building that was introverted in design,” Cox Architects Perth director Murray Etherington said.

“The brewery was a warehouse designed with thick walls, no windows and not much space … everything was dark to keep the beer cool.

“So it was difficult to change it into an exterior type building that gave a feeling of space and allowed natural light.”

The other challenge lay in the floor plan for the warehouses, Mr Etheringon said.

“We were uncertain as to what the final make-up of the Old Swan Brewery might be, so our designs had to flexible,” he said.

“We used big open floors and our designs could have been modified to suit anything.”

Mr Etherington said the finished Old Swan Brewery was a magnificent landmark but questioned whether the pain and money spent had actually been worth it for Multiplex.

Aside from the trials of simply having the plan for a residential component approved, there also was much frustration in gaining approvals for some of the design elements, he said.

“It was very challenging and demanding but the end result is something that I believe all involved can be very proud of,” Mr Etherington said.

“It was at times a frustrating experience … the delays were lengthy and the costs (to Multiplex) incurred through these delays can’t be measured.”

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