Architectus Conrad Gargett hosted a captivating Salon panel discussion as part of the Australian Heritage Festival, exploring the theme of ‘shared stories’.
The event, held on April 13 at GOMA in Brisbane, brought together key industry thought leaders and change makers, along with an engaged audience, to explore the opportunities of unlocking heritage places that share stories of our past and enliven our lives with new uses and programs.
The Panel, chaired by Dr Laurel Johnson, included Peter Nelson, Principal Advisor to the Queensland Government Architect; Catherine Chambers, Queensland Government Director of Heritage, Department of Environment and Science; Ben Carson, Queensland Government Environment and Heritage Policy and Programs Manager; and David Gole, Architectus Conrad Gargett Principal and lead Heritage Architect.
Catherine Chambers and Ben Carson gave an insightful presentation, outlining the policies in place to protect heritage buildings and showcasing successful examples of heritage buildings that have been adaptively reused, highlighting the importance of sharing the stories of both the original and new. A case study on the recently completed, Thomas Dixon Centre – home of the Queensland Ballet, was presented by David Gole, where he shared stories of the building’s past and detailed the process of revitalising the heritage site to create a world-class performance facility.
The lively panel discussion challenged the perspectives on balancing the protection and conservation of our cultural heritage for future generations, while taking into account the need to make changes and consider new uses and development in and adjacent to heritage places.
Many audience questions were presented to the panel both during and after the event. Here, we share three, with responses from David Gole and Catherine Chambers:
For someone wanting to embark on an adaptive project of a heritage site what advice do you have? Where would you start?
David Gole: Firstly to research and understand your site and building/s – what is the history of the place? What changes were made and when? Then assess the significance of the place – what is of high significance and medium significance that should be retained and not be changed? What is of only some significance, is neutral or intrusive that could be changed or removed or modified? This understanding can inform an understanding of a place that can assist with determining what should be retained and conserved and what might be able to sustain change. It also assists with determining what uses might be appropriate and what changes could be considered (undertaking a Conservation Management Plan or assessment as a good starting point of course!).
Is the Qld Act being amended? What’s the timing?
Catherine Chambers: Released in November 2022, the Department of Environment and Science’s Queensland Heritage Implementation Strategy sets a range of actions regarding preparatory work required to inform future amendment of the Queensland Heritage Act 1992. The Strategy can be accessed at https://www.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0023/330764/qld-heritage-implementation-strategy.pdf.
What lessons can we apply from heritage work to buildings that aren’t heritage protected, finding value in the existing for new and adapted use?
David Gole: The best practice heritage process of understanding a place, its significance, the changes that have been made and levels of significance, can equally be applied to a place that is not heritage listed. It is always good to consider what is important about an existing place that you want to retain and value. Changes to a place that are respectful and sympathetic can also be more cost effective.
We thank the audience, panellists, and chair for their valuable time and insights in exploring this very important topic – helping to deepen our collective understanding and appreciation of our built heritage and the opportunities that lie within protecting and activating these buildings and sites.