Heritage work a challenge and an opportunity to develop

04/06/2009 - 00:00

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THE experience of working with a heritage building can present architects with both major constraints and a unique opportunity.

Heritage work a challenge and an opportunity to develop

THE experience of working with a heritage building can present architects with both major constraints and a unique opportunity.

That's the rather diplomatic approach of Bollig Design Group managing director Edwin Bollig, the architect behind the CBD mixed-use office and retail project Raine Square.

"Heritage is more difficult when you're building into an existing fabric. The whole area is under heritage constraints and we had to be very careful how we did it," Mr Bollig told WA Business News.

"It can be a hindrance, but from an urban design perspective it can be a bonus. I believe every architecture has its place."

The building, which will be the new home of BankWest once it is completed late next year, will retain most of its heritage facades at street level.

It will also incorporate the historic Wentworth Hotel, which will be retained.

For other buildings, such as the Hob Nob buildings whose interior had no heritage significance, only the facades will remain.

Raine Square joins a number of other inner-city developments to work with and retain street level heritage facades, including its neighbour, One40 William, and City Square on St Georges Terrace.

"It's an interesting precinct. You've got One40 William and Raine Square, both contemporary buildings and this blend of contemporary and heritage fabric will really look very nice," Mr Bollig said.

Working a contemporary development into the existing heritage fabric is a unique skill, according to HBO+EMTB director Andrew MacLiver, who helped transform Perth's GPO building.

Mr MacLiver believes retaining some heritage buildings in the city was important.

"It's become part of the city vision to retain heritage and to recognise that we still need to build and grow as well as retain the character of some existing places," he said.

Mr MacLiver said architects working with heritage buildings needed to study the history of the building itself and its social and cultural significance.

"It's not only about the built form history, it's also about the cultural and social history behind it," he said.

"The GPO building was not just the central post office, it's long been a meeting place for people and an important civic place."

The concept of the extensive refurbishment was based around an unobtrusive insertion into an existing building, building a modern office environment within the context of the heritage fabric.

Despite describing the approvals process as "a nightmare"- working through local, state and federal government due to the building's significant heritage value - Mr MacLiver said the experience was rewarding.

The building was WA's first office refurbishment project to be awarded a green-star rating and achieved a 4-star green star office design v2 rating.

The government has expressed its intention to breathe new life into some of the city's oldest buildings.

Earlier this year, it selected Mirvac/Cbus Property as the preferred proponent to redevelop the Old Treasury Buildings into a high-class hotel and office complex, although that project has reportedly been delayed due to economic conditions.

Other significant heritage upgrades in the city include Perth boutique property developer Match's Home warehouse apartment and commercial building in the former WD & HO Wills Warehouse building, on the corner of Milligan and Murray streets.

That development is up for a 2009 Property Council of Australia Rider Levett Bucknall Innovation and Excellence Award in the heritage and adaptive reuse category.

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