FREMANTLE council’s decision to replace faux shingles on the Fremantle Arts Centre with corrugated iron has heritage experts howling.
Long-retired council architect Rob Campbell, who in the late 1960s convinced then-mayor Sir Frederick Samson to save the centre from demolition and then worked on its restoration, says he’s sorry to see the council’s latest “essay in maintenance”.
“The material that it replaces was, in 1970, a compromise as it was then not possible to obtain shingles in the quantities required, but the compromise did at least attempt to replicate the colour and texture of the original to maintain the architectural integrity of the whole,” Mr Campbell told the Herald.
Council heritage co-ordinator Alan Kelsall says the old roofing contained asbestos and required replacement to protect public health. The new galvanised iron sheets will also make the roof watertight.
“The use of galvanised corrugated iron sheeting is in keeping with the early practice of using it on buildings, including the arts centre, to provide additional water tightness to timber shingled roofs,” Mr Kelsall says.
“The new roof sheeting will have minimal impact on the existing timber structure and will also allow for the reinstatement of timber shingles in the future if the opportunity arises.”
Mr Kelsall says there’s certainty with tin the roof won’t leak, which is not the case with replications.
“It is considered that the predicted overall benefits of the use of galvanised roof sheeting will substantially outweigh any perceived loss of heritage values.”
Fremantle Society president John Dowson sides with Mr Campbell, labelling the re-roofing “damaging”.
“The roof being replaced was put there by Rob Campbell when he did the restoration of the arts centre in 1972,” Mr Dowson says.
“He spent a year engineering a copy of the original shingles, genuine shingles then being too expensive.
“Now genuine shingles are easier to get, but if they are too expensive then facsimiles should be used, not glaring large sheets of tin, the cheap and lazy way out.
“Many people regard the Fremantle Arts Centre as their favourite building in Fremantle; it has soul, tranquility and a brooding atmosphere, despite its grim early history.”
Mr Dowson says he and former council heritage architect Agnieshka Kiera were devastated to learn this week the Turnbull government had rejected an application to have the centre included on the national heritage list. Ms Kiera had lodged the application when employed by the council.
by STEVE GRANT