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Wednesday, 01.23.2019
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Crime Continues to Pay at Manningham Council - part 2

 

Do Architects really work the way Lovell Chen suggests?

We need to question the validity of placing so much importance on the track record of the two architectural firms.

That approach gives the impression that architectural firms excel at one style of architecture and not at others. Also it gives the impression that architects who have not designed note worthy buildings of a certain style will not do so at some point in the future.

I find it hard to accept this line of argumentation.

I am of the view that architects work from a 'brief' given them by their client. They are asked to design a building with certain qualities. They have scope to include design elements that they want, but overall they need to deliver a design that the client wants and accepts. (Please see council minutes page 226 7.3 of 24 April 2018 where a more practical approach to meeting client needs is described along the lines I have describe here.)

The architects Lines MacFarlane and Marshall would have worked from such a brief and also would have included design elements of their own. They chose to include many design elements from the work of Mies van der Rohe.

Lovell Chen recognise this.

Lovell Chen even says that the 1964 and later renovations by Lines MacFarlane and Marshall drew upon the design ideas of Mies van der Rohe. "It appears that the 1964 addition was influenced by the designs of Mies van der Rohe" (page 220, minutes 24 April 2018). Lovell Chen (and the council) go on to say that the renovations in 1977 and 1988 "draw on some of the characteristics of earlier Miesian styled buildings in Victoria" (Minutes 243 28 August 2018)

However Lovell Chen is critical of the work and says "But it lacks the sophistication and purity of form typical of the style" (Minutes page 243, 28 August 2018).

However, that is a matter of opinion given with little supporting evidence.

 

Lovell Chen says the council offices post 1999 renovations did not present as a well resolved whole. However the building as it stood in 1991 may well have.

Lovell Chen says "the building does not present as a well-resolved whole" (page 242 28 August 2018). Here and in other places which we will study below, Lovell Chen are actually talking about the council offices as they stood after the 1999 renovations which removed or cover up much of the Miesian pavilion design attributes.

This also is a matter of opinion. And when you think about it, this opinion and criticism is highly unlikely to be true.

Consider this for a moment. The council offices had been renovated in 1964, 1977 and 1988 by the same architectural firm. Large sections of the council offices were altered each time. Surely the brief to the architects each time, especially in 1977 and 1988, was that the building was to present as a "well resolved whole" otherwise the council offices would appear somewhat amateurish, with additions and alterations appearing as being 'added on' and possibly even out of place'.

Surely the brief to the architects was to produce a renovated building that appeared to be a consistent design and a well resolved whole by applying the same design principles. Otherwise the council offices may have looked odd, like some poorly designed addition to a suburban home.

No doubt this 'well resolved whole' is what the heritage study saw in 1991. And it was this well resolved whole that they saw as a Miesian pavilion building.

It is not unreasonable to think that the building as it stood in 1991 was a cohesive and consistent Miesian pavilion building.

Lovell Chen provide their opinion, but when you think about it, it does not make sense.

 

Now we delve into the murky world of misleading statements.

I would like you to read the following quote from the Lovell Chen report and ask yourself, "Just which council offices are being addressed here. Is it the offices as they stood in 1991 after the 1977 and 1988 renovations or the offices as they stood after the 1999 renovations by Perrot Lyon Matheson." (which overbuilt much of the Miesian pavilion design features.)

"The subject building is not a key work within the AK Lines MacFarlane & Marshall's oeuvre and it does not provide substantial insights into a valued house style. As noted above, it's public face derives from works undertaken in the 1990's by architects Perrot Lyon Matheson. It provides no useful insights into the work of Mies van der Rohe or his influence on local architectural practice. It is an amalgam of architectural interventions. While these are broadly consistent stylistically, the buildng does not present a well resolved or coherent whole". (page 229 8.2 24 April 2018).

So which building where they talking about?

(nb. Oeuvre is just a french word for 'body of work'.)

As I read it, they appear to be talking about the building as it stood after the renovations of 1999. Not as it stood in 1991.

At best we can say they are not clear about which version of the council offices they are talking about. But they appear, to me, to be referring to the offices as they stood AFTER 1999.

If I am right, then they are talking about the council offices after the Miesian design elements as noted in the 1991 Heritage Study were covered up, destroyed or removed.

What is interesting is that the council takes this quote and also would like you to think it applies to the 1991 building.

Let me give you some examples and see if you can spot their intention.

"In a detailed assessment of the municipal offices, heritage consultants Lovell Chen noted that, among other things, 'In terms of it's form, neither the original building as it existed in 1964 nor the building assess in 2006 could reasonably be described as a Miesian pavilion...' The assessment goes on to state that 'On the basis of the above, it is evident that the building does not meet the threshold of State significance". (page 222 2.26 28 August 2018).

Again. What building are they talking about? At best they are being vague.

FIrst, they talk about the original building in 1964. There is a picture of this building on page 218 minutes, 24 April 2018. And I agree. It looks nothing like a Miesian pavilion and more like a massive suburban house. Then they talk about the building in 2006 -- that is after the council had ruined all aspects of it being a Miesian pavilion in 1999. And I agree, it is not a Miesian pavilion.

I happen to agree with what they say just above. The building as it stood in 1964 and as it stood after 1999 was not a Miesian pavilion of note. However, it was the building in 1991 that was assessed by the Heritage Study as being a Miesian pavilion that is in question.

So here, as elsewhere, there appears to be a contrived ambiguity in the wording of what is said.

I think we are being misled by this ambiguity and use of words. The Lovell Chen report and Council minutes just don't spell out clearly exactly which version of the building they are referring to. It is most likely, in my view, the building AFTER the 1999 renovations when the council ruined all Miesian pavilion qualities of their offices.

Their careful wording seems, to me at least, to suggest they agree that the 1991 building was a good example of a Miesian pavilion but do not want to say that and also do not want to say it was not just in case someone at a future date points out their error. By leaving the wording vague they can always say it was technically correct and that people just misunderstood it and assumed the wrong thing.

The council extensively quotes these ambiguous passes of the Lovell Chen report.

"... it's public face derives from works undertaken in the 1990's by architects Perrot Lyon Matheson. It provides no useful insights into the work of Mies van der Rohe or his influence on local architectural practice. It is an amalgam of architectural interventions. While these are broadly consistent stylistically, the building does not present a well resolved or coherent whole". (page 222 2.27 28 August 2018).

The council uses this quote as justification for removing the Heritage Overlay from the council offices.

But again, the version of the building they are talking about is the one AFTER the council ruined it.

And see Lovell Chen's argument for removing the heritage overlay where they talk about the 'resulting' building, which I assume to be he council offices after the 1999 renovations and not as the offices stood in 1991. (Page 229 8.1 24 April 2018). Again they do not address or assess the 1991 building but instead assess the current building which has had nearly all Miesian design attributes covered or removed.

It appears that the council is saying, and the Lovell Chen report is also saying, that the Miesian pavilion qualities of the 1991 council offices have been so ruined by the 1999 renovation work, that it no longer justifies a heritage overlay.

However, to say this clearly and openly would be simply outrageous.

And that is another reason for this ambiguity.

 

Was the 1991 council offices a poor example of a Miesian pavilion as Lovell Chen suggest.

As I have mentioned previously, we are not given the opportunity to assess for ourselves the qualities of the council offices as they stood in 1991 that lent it be seen as a good example of a Miesian pavilion.

The fact that no photographs were provided or examined showing the strengths of the building as seen and described by the 1991 Heritage Study is very disappointing.

Photographs are provided of the council offices at other points in time, but not at the important time in question.

I am sure that the council would have many photographs of the offices as they stood in 1991 when they were assessed by the 1991 Heritage Study.

The Lovell Chen report does however include photographs of some parts of the council offices as they were in 1991 (figure 9, page 221, minutes 24 April 2018, figure 4 page 244, minutes 28 August 2018) These photographs are included because they are used elsewhere as evidence to argue against the architectural significance of the building.

For example. There are photographs showing the north facing facade of the offices with the sun louvres. Lovell Chen then argue that "the incorporation of somewhat awkwardly designed sun louvres into the design ... further undermines it's success as an example of Mies inspired design".

In response to this, we can point out that the Heritage study of 1991 did not see these sun louvres as an issue. And even Lovell Chen themselves point out, that the sun louvres were most likely added for purely practical reasons. (See page 244 28 August 2018). They describe it as 'a straight forward and practical gesture'. Possibly it was a requirement of the client's to provide protection from the sun on that side of the building.

It is a bit rich to single out one requirement of the client as a reason to argue against the merit of a building and then also to ignore nearly all the qualities of the building that led the 1991 Heritage Study to think is a good example of a Miesian pavilion. AND also not provide photographs of the 1991 council offices so people could see for themselves why it was considered to be a good Mieisan pavilion.

 

This business about it being 'Arguably the finest expression of a Miesian pavilion in the state'

One statement that the Lovell Chen reports takes issue with is this. "... and arguably the finest expression of a Miesian pavilion in the state".

First and most important, this is clearly an opinion.

However, Lovell Chen appears to look upon this as a statement of fact. For example.

"The Panel notes that the 1991 Heritage Study' statement of significance includes strong references to State significance" (page 245 28 August 2018).

"On the basis of the above, it is evident that the building does not meet the threshold of State significance" (page 229 24 April 2018).

In the Lovell Chen report in the minutes of 24 April 2018, pages 223 to 226 are devoted to a survey of Miesian pavilions in Victoria to argue against the above statement. Lovell Chen in these pages seek to demonstrate that the council offices are simply not the finest expression of a Miesian pavilion in Victoria.

The simple fact is that the writers of the 1991 report themselves knew that they were expressing their own opinion and that many would disagree with them.

I think what Lovell Chen is doing here is building a 'straw man' argument just so they can later demolish it. Off course it is easy to challenge the statement. The writers in 1991 knew it would be.

But there is one important question to consider here.

Why would any one express an opinion that many would know to be easily shown to be weak or possibly even false?

I think we need to go back to 1991 to find out why.

If you spend time reading council documents, you realize that consultants ALWAYS tell the council exactly what they want to hear. The council informs consultants of not only the brief for the work they want them to do, but they are also able, somehow, to inform them of what it is that they expect to see in their report. And the consultants ALWAYS dutifully provide the council with exactly what they want.

The consultants Lovell Chen are a good example of this.

We the public, off course, are led to think that the consultants report is an 'objective second and independent opinion made by outside experts'. When in fact it really is very far from that. They are experts. But it is not really an independent opinion.

And so back in 1991, the consultants Context Pty. Ltd, who did the 1991 Heritage Study also, no doubt, did the same thing.

One possible reason for all this is that consultants are always on the look out for more easy, well paying government work. And you certainly won't get that work if you start saying things the government does not want to hear.

I put to you that, at the time, the council wanted a listing of all buildings in Manninham that had heritage value. The intention of the council was to place heritage overlays on these buildings. Which we note, they then went ahead and did. Even to the point of being somewhat ridiculous.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, a large number of heritage overlays would produce a body of work that the council would then need to manage and administer.

In my view, the council wanted as many heritage overlays as possible. This is evidenced by the fact that the council was silly enough to place a heritage overlay even on their own council offices.

Very few other councils have done something as silly as that. Most knew that there would come a time when staff numbers grew, when new facilities were required. And they did not want to have to deal with a heritage overlay on something that they knew would be undergoing extensions and renovations on a regular basis.

But it seems that Manningham council did not see this danger and went ahead, in their enthusiasm, to place a heritage overlay on their own council offices.

I think we can now see the reason probably why consultants wanted to 'sell' to the council the heritage value of all the buildings they listed. The greater the heritage significance they could propose, the more the council had to work with to achieve their aims of establishing a large number of heritage overlays.

So we can see that, just like Lovell Chen today in 2018, Context Pty Ltd were doing the councils bidding back in 1991 and delivering to the council exactly what the council wanted to see.

This is why the council offices were given such a glowing recommendation as being of heritage significance back in 1991.

And off course, Lovell Chen would have known all this. They are consultants just like Context Pty Ltd are. They know how it all works. And possibly they had gone through the council archives and would know the objectives of the 1991 Heritage Study, both the stated objectives and the other objectives.

But instead of seeing the work and statements of 1991 for what it was, Lovell Chen took it entirely out of context and used it to support a line of argumentation that the council wanted to see.

The took it out of context in two ways.

First, they took an obvious opinion and assumed it to be a stated fact.

Second, they knew consultants give the council what they expect and provide statements and information the council can use to achieve it's goals. However they decided to ignore this, hoping no one would notice, and make these statements into something they were not.

 

Lovell Chen however does make some very good points.

One thing that the Lovell Chen makes very clear is that the Miesian design qualities of the council offices, as they stood in 1991, had been changed beyond all recognition by the council in 1999.

In their report they give this as reason to justify the removal of the heritage overlay. For example:

"The complex has undergone significant physical change since it was first assessed in 1991. Accordingly, it is appropriate to undertake a review of significance and the question of whether the Heritage Overlay is warranted.... It is my opinion that :

  • The building complex is an amalgam of a series of phases of works. While these are broadly consistent stylistically, the building does not present as a well resolved or coherent whole.

  • In particular the 1999 works have had a transformative effect in terms of representing the complex to Doncaster Road."

On this basis, it is considered that the inclusion of the place in the HO Schedule is not warranted." ( page 244 Minutes 28 August 2018).

Note here we are only talking about the offices as they stand after the 1999 renovations. This is the building as renovated by the council in 1999.

Essentially, they argue that heritage overlay should be removed because the council has changed, covered or ruined all Miesian pavilion qualities of the building to such an extent that it no longer warrants having a Heritage Overlay.

Lovell Chen make a very important point. And it is something the council should be strongly condemned for.

If we were to do the exact same thing and vandalise a building that had a council heritage overlay, just as the council did, we would be dragged before VCAT and heavily fined.

Lets consider other statements in the Lovell Chen report about the council's disregard for their own Heritage Overlay:

"The Council ... Office ... has undergone a series of re-construction activity in 1964, 1977, 1978-81 and the most recent in 1999 which significantly altered the front entry facade of the building. Much of this work (i.e. the 1999 work) has over-build previous building facades and design elements culminating in what Ms Gray now described as a building comples that presents as amalgum of various architectural interventions" (page 242 28 August 2018).

That's right, the council removed any likeness the offices had to a Miesian pavilion and produced something of a dogs breakfast as a result.

"The panel considers the later additions and alterations in 1999 have further over-built the original form resulting in the loss of significant architectural connection with Miesian pavilion design" (page 245 minutes 28 August 2018).

And finally:

"The heritage significance of the Manningham City Council Municpal Offices has been diminished over time as a result of past additions and alterations that have reduced or removed architectural elemernt that could be considered to reflect a miesian pavilion typology. ...The removal of the heritage overlay (HO048) ... is strategically justified and appropriate." (page 246 minutes 28 August 2018).

Note how the statement above implies that the council offices as they stood in 1991 had heritage significance.

This is a valid point. The council basically ruined a Heritage building that was quite a reasonable example of a Miesian pavilion.

This is a damning reproach of Manningham Council. Just imagine if you or I were to ruin a heritage building beyond all recognition.

And to make matters worse, Manningham council cannot bring themselves to admit they have broken their own laws and procedures. Instead they spend more of our money in a cowardly and desperate attempt to extricate themselves from all blame and responsibility.

Lovell Chen say it is 'strategically' justified to remove the overlay. I think this could well mean that removing the overlay will get the council off the hook.

 

So what about the two trees?

There is one thing that we have not addressed up to this point. And that is the way the council tries to justify the removal of the two trees that had a heritage overlay on them.

The council removed these two trees so they could build the MC2 complex. One was an English Oak and the second a Weeping Elm (page 212, 24 April 2018) These trees were identified as being of significance in the Manningham Heritage Garden and Significant Tree Study (John Patrick Pty Ltd 2006). (page 222 28 August 2018).

We also paid our money for that report, which the council then went and ignored so they could do what they wanted.

This is how the council now justifies their actions:

"These have since been removed as part of the development of MC2 in approximately 2010" (Page 222 28 August 2018.)

and also

"... or have since been removed as a result of past authorized development" (page 246 minutes 28 August 2018). I assume the minutes here are referring to the trees.

These arguments are outrageous.

The simple fact is that the building approval process for the MC2 was not done properly. They did not check for heritage overlays in the area they were going to develop.

In other words, the building approval process was not done with due care and diligence.

What they are now trying to say is that this 'botched' building approval process justified the removal of the trees.

No it did not and it does not today.

It is like telling someone that two wrongs make a right. They botched the approval process, and they illegally removed the two trees that had a heritage overlay on them, but now everything is all right.

No the removal of the two trees is not justified by a building approval process which did not exercise due care and diligence and which did not follow proper procedures (that is, to check for overlays).

This is simply the council trying to pull the wool over our eyes again to get themselves out of trouble and blame.

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