25/06/2008 - 22:00

Cathedral plan to transform east end

25/06/2008 - 22:00

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More than 160 years after the final brick was laid, St Georges Cathedral is undergoing a major restoration as part of a master plan to redevelop the Perth Diocesan Trustees' entire site, which covers almost 8,500 square metres and includes both the Playho

Cathedral plan to transform east end
Photo: Grant Currall

More than 160 years after the final brick was laid, St Georges Cathedral is undergoing a major restoration as part of a master plan to redevelop the Perth Diocesan Trustees' entire site, which covers almost 8,500 square metres and includes both the Playhouse Theatre and the Law Chambers building.

Both of these buildings are pegged for demolition at some stage, which could pave the way for a new music centre and public courtyard to be built.

While plans are yet to be finalised, the Anglican Diocese of Perth is hoping to enhance the heritage precinct between Barrack and Pier streets, a key part of which would be the construction of a 57-metre spire on top of the cathedral.

The spire - which would be taller than the neighbouring Council House - was included in the cathedral's original architectural plans, but a lack of funds and the death of the original architect prevented it from being built.

The spire has been costed as part of a restoration of the cathedral and discussions are under way with a potential benefactor to fund the $5 million addition.

While construction of the spire would require the approval of both the Heritage Council and the City of Perth, the cathedral's owner has already started architectural and engineering feasibility studies.

To date, about $13.2 million of the original $15 million fundraising target has been secured, which will be used to restore the cathedral, the adjacent Burt Memorial Hall and the Old Deanery.

Stage one works, undertaken by heritage architect Ian Hocking, have been completed at the cathedral, including restoring the original clay bricks, repairing the timber roof and installing new light fittings.

Subiaco-based firm Palassis Architects has been commissioned for the next stage, which will involve some structural changes to the Burt Memorial Hall and landscaping of the external courtyard.

Another aim of the redevelopment is the construction of a courtyard between the cathedral and the Law Chambers building - an initiative yet to be negotiated with the Department of Housing and Works and the City of Perth.

While a date has not been locked in for the demolition of the 1970 Law Chambers building, the Anglican Diocese of Perth believes the project will go ahead.

In addition, the cathedral is about to launch a commission of up to $500,000 for an artist to design a statue of the mythical St George and the dragon, to be placed in the courtyard.

A website, outlining the scope of the project, will go live next month advertising to local and international artists, with the finalists to present models of their designs in November.

St Georges Cathedral Restoration Fund administrator Jo Malone said there were no specifications around materials, other than the need for a robust product.

"What we want to do is leave the process as open as possible, to allow the artist's creativity to go wild. We don't want to say [the statue] has to be bronze - it could be stone, stainless steel, aluminium or glass," Ms Malone said.

A more ambitious project will be the construction of a new music centre, in either a Gothic or Tudor style, which would be a state-of-the-art performance venue for church choirs, schools and the community.

The project is dependent on the demolition of the Playhouse Theatre, scheduled for next year, although this will be determined by the opening of the state government's $91 million performing arts venue in Northbridge.

The Anglican Diocese of Perth has lined up a donor to fund the music centre.

Opposite the cathedral is the Old Treasury building, which is one step closer to being converted into a hotel after the final two tenders for the site were lodged this week by Mirvac Group and Saracen Properties.

The Diocese hopes that Cathedral Avenue, which runs between the two sites, will then be restored with lighting and cobblestones, in a similar style to King Street in the city's west.

This will create two intersecting thoroughfares for pedestrians, with one linking the Supreme Court Gardens north to Hay Street, and the other running east to west across the cathedral grounds.

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