Heritage lo-fi

Martin Clarke at the Hi-Fidelity Recording Studio.

FREMANTLE council won’t give WA’s first purpose-built recording studio a strong heritage listing, despite its link to noted architect Iwan Iwanoff.

Situated on Thompson Road in North Fremantle, Hi-Fidelity Recording Studio was built in 1967 for Martin Clarke, who founded Clarion Records and released records for WA rock pioneers The Valentines and Johnny Young.

The studio is a relative youngster compared to the nearby 1905 Soap Factory, but National Trust of WA senior manager Anne Brake says age doesn’t equate to significance.

“Just because it’s a 20th century building doesn’t mean it’s not important,” Ms Brake said. “We keep things to refer back to, to learn and understand from. Our official record is often lacking.”  

The building reflects Iwanoff’s brutalist style and sings with unadorned concrete and minimalism.

A council report from September last year argued it had cultural heritage significance: “It has aesthetic and rarity value as a simple but well composed example of the work of Iwan Iwanoff,” the report found.

The report recommended it be deemed “Level 2”  – Considerable Significance” on the council’s heritage list. 

That’s got the support of rock ’n’ roller Dom Mariani, who’s been active in Freo music since the early 80s when he formed The Stems.

“I believe [Iwanoff’s] buildings should be retained and celebrated,” Mariani said. 

But not everyone agrees; Griffiths Architects were appointed by the owners to assess the site’s heritage significance and came away underwhelmed.

“The city’s assessment overstates the significance of the place,” Griffiths argued.

Their report found it wasn’t a great example of Iwanoff’s work, and suggestions it was linked to the area’s industrial heritage were a bit of a stretch.

Griffiths’ assessment had the backing of one local: “I drive past it all the time. It’s … a literal concrete brick, the most dull building on earth. Why would you want to heritage list that?” 

Owners Meridian Mall Pty Ltd asked lawyer Evan Rogers to address this week’s council meeting where the building’s heritage listing was up for debate.

“If the building had not been designed by Iwan Iwanoff it is unlikely it would have received any attention at all with respect to heritage,” Mr Rogers said. 

Councillors such as architect Andrew Sullivan said they were a little torn by the decision.

Cr Sullivan said the studio was “at the lower end” of Iwanoff’s work, though its connection to Fremantle’s music industry was worth recognising. He moved to lower the recommended listing to Category 3 which got the support of his colleagues.


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