Intervention not so divine

DEAN FEHLBERG is a partner at MCDF Architects and one of the team behind the proposed design of Notre Dame’s nursing and midwifery centre in Fremantle’s West End

THE vote by the City of Fremantle councillors to accept the officers recommendation to refuse the DAP Application for the proposed new Notre Dame building at 3 High Street highlights to me that councillors are influenced more by emotion and agitation rather than a considered review of the project and the information contained in the development application and officers assessment.

The City of Fremantle has established a Design Advisory Committee to review all significant new developments prior to submission for development approval.

This design committee comprises experienced local and Perth architects and the City of Fremantle’s planning officers and heritage coordinator, and exists to ensure design excellence and appropriateness of all projects.

The ND proposal was reviewed by the DAC at three different meetings, by seven experienced architects and council officers over 10 months, with the committee adjudging the scheme submitted for DA, inclusive of refinements and revisions required, worthy of support including the height, bulk and scale.

Minutes record, ‘DAC judges the overall design, and the set-back and low-profile design solution to the top floor, to be well handled and, considering the adjacent buildings and the prominent location of this site, is willing to support the additional height.’

So the City of Fremantle’s DAC, including the city’s planning officers and heritage coordinator approves the development, but this is not noted by any of the councillors in their statements to council, apart from Councillor Sullivan, who stated that he was disappointed by DAC’s decision.

What is the point of having this committee of professionals if you do not acknowledge and act on their advice?


The proposed development has also been presented to the State Heritage Office for review by their development committee comprising experienced heritage officers and professionals.

The proposed development was considered in detail, in the context of the West End, Fremantle, in the context to the relationship with the Liebler Building Facade, in the context to the relationship with the Round house and in consideration with the Tramways Building and they determined that the development proposal be supported.

Yet no councillor referenced this decision by the State Heritage Office.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company building was referenced by some councillors as a fine example of new architecture in the west end.

It is all glass and flowing curved lines of steel with no masonry at all and without any precedence in the West End.

Yet the proposed development is criticised as being too open at street level.

How is that?

And then for it to be said that the proposed development shouldn’t reference the Tramways building because it is an aberration, makes no sense.

It exists and is part of the history and fabric of the west end, as is Marina Apartments.

Also stated often was that the development is too high and out of scale.

If the proposed development is too high and out of scale, then the National Hotel, on a corner site and of equal height, must be too high and out of scale.

The Commercial Hotel, also of equal height, must be too high.

And the Orient Hotel and Fremantle Hotel, of similar height and scale, must be just about too high and out of scale.

The Pearse’s Building is also of similar height.

There are more precedents for the proposed development on High Street than only Marina Apartments, but these have been conveniently overlooked and ignored…

Was I surprised by the vote—probably not, but I was very disappointed in the level of debate and analysis of the application and the disrespect shown to the opinions of the SHO and the City of Fremantle’s own DAC.

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