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Heritage Gest

Heritage, Exploits, Stories

I guess I will get into the spirit of the season or here is your obligatory Christmas related post.

A little late but here is my Christmas post.

I spent a bit of time trying to work out where I was going to go with this post. After I began to do a bit of research I discovered one thing. Halloween is the holiday that we tend to associate with witches; forget that. Christmas is not all Santa and Elves; Christmas is all about the witches.

So if you have children and are somewhere around Germany at Christmas time listen up. Frau Perchta will pop on in and all things being well drop off a coin for the good little kiddies. Lovely isn’t it. Unfortunately for the bad kids they get their bellies slit and innards replaced with garbage. Not too sure exactly why the garbage. It may be useful if, well there is actually no way that is useful. Frau Perchta has many different names across most of Europe including Bertha, Holda, Posterli, Quatemberca and Fronfastenweiber. In the interest of gender equality not all of these are female.

The Italians have a better time of it. Probably the most well-known of the Christmas witches. La Befana is the Italian version of Saint Nicholas. Distributing presents or coal as necessary. No belly slitting just a kindly old woman who sheltered the magi on their journey to see the baby Jesus. The Russian equivalent is Babushka

Those crazy Icelanders have the witch/troll Gryla. Once again we head into more terrifying territory with child eating de rigour for this icy maiden.

The connection between witches and Christmas don’t stop there. Those colourful baubles we hang on our trees with glee are just old fashioned Scottish witch balls. Hung to protect against witches, evil spells, negativity and ill fortune. Which, with proliferation of witchery around Christmas seems not only a quint tradition but a bloody good idea. Kind of like making sure you carry a pointy stick with you everywhere after the zombie apocalypse.

Based on all the hype it would seem that Halloween is the annual event of the witch but not really. Halloween is just a time when witches hang out, maybe do some rituals and if the current trend of costumes is anything to go by wear really short skirts. But Christmas is when they get down to actual work. Dropping off presents, killing and eating children; that sort of thing. Now I may be in the minority here but if I had to pick a time of the year that was most associated with witches, for me, it’s Christmas.

So for any witches out there, I hope you had a good Christmas.

Talk soon.

 

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They listed what or the 5 things you wouldn’t guess were heritage listed in NSW

When people think of heritage listing it is quite easy to pick the things that are likely to be listed. The Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Old Parliament House. You know the big important stuff. Just for some fun I thought I would look at only the NSW State Heritage Register and pick 5 items that I bet not many people would pick as heritage items.

sharpies

  1. Sharpies Golf House Sign (The Golf House)

I was never a regular resident of NSW but one thing that I remember was that sign with the golfer on it that you could see from the window travelling into Central by train. This neon gem is listed on the State Heritage Register. Just the sign; not the building, the land or site but only the sign and the metal structure supporting it. As of 2013 it was the only animated neon sign from the 1950s left insitu in Sydney. Now it is gone, the building on Elizabeth Street demolished for redevelopment. But fear not, this gem is currently under the care of the Powerhouse Museum so it is likely that at some point again we will be able to see that iconic golfer taking his chip shot.

View of Bondi Ocean Outfall Sewer showing Ben Buckler and Vent Chimney.

  1. BOOS (Bondi Ocean Outfall Sewer)

Because when you think of heritage you think of sewerage right. The BOOS (I will be using the acronym because I really like using it, BOOS), anyway back to BOOS. BOOS was an engineering marvel. BOOS is a brick lined gravity fed tunnel that replaced the 5 sewerage outlets into Sydney Harbour. Completed in 1889 BOOS was the first ocean outfall sewer of its type to be built in Australia. This was at a time before Melbourne had its first reticulated sewer (burn Melbourne). BOOS was so well engineered they could start lining it with bricks before the tunnels had even been completed. BOOS was an important element in the development of the city and become an element in the psyche of Maroubra and the surrounding area. Go BOOS.

egyptian

  1. Egyptian Room Scottish Temple

The Papyrus of Ani is an Egyptian Funerary text dating from about 1450 B.C. It was written for a Theban scribe named Ani and is basically an instruction manual, complete with spells about what Ani’s journey to the land of the dead will be like. So what do you do when you are building a masonic temple in Sydney? Why you recreate sections of this scroll in low relief plaster around the room of course. Obvious when you think about it. Included are thrilling episodes from the after-life of Ani including the release of his soul from his body and his judgement by Anubis. The frieze was saved when the original lodge (Scottish Royal Arch Temple) in College Street was demolished in 1969. It took 8 years until a suitable new home was found in Petersham. Actually, the work is phenomenal. The colours and iconography are beautiful. The room is open to the public on one night a year I have heard so maybe call out the Petersham Temple, it can’t hurt. The original Papyrus of Ani was stolen from the Egyptian government for the British Museum. They still haven’t returned it. Apparently theft is entirely fine as long it is being done for such a venerable institution. Okay, I have some very definite thoughts on this issue that I will make the subject of a future post.

ladder

  1. Shand Mason Curricle Ladders (1898)

Having listed a sewerage pipe, sign and hieroglyphics the next obvious choice for this list is a ladder. But not just any ladder, the extraordinary Shand Mason 50 foot ladder. These ladders were telescopic and supported on a hose box that sits over the axle of the carriage. I am going to stop being flippant about these now. These ladders are rare surviving relics from the early for brigade in Sydney. If you are near Penrith go to the Museum of Fire and check them out. These ladders saved lives and show how the early fire brigade was continually improving its technologies and capabilities. These ladders are a step in the progression to modern day firefighting technology such as the Turbine Aided Fire Fighting Machine (the slightly underwhelmingly named TAF20), drones loaded up with chemicals to start controlled burns and face masks with thermal imaging technology built in.

bundian

  1. Bundian Way

The final entry I have chosen is a pathway. Now I am not talking the path across your front lawn or down to the shops; we are going for big here. The pathway from Targangal (Kosciuszko) to Bilgalera (Fisheries Beach) links the highest point in Australia to the east coast. This is 265km of tracks, roads and firetrails that follows a traditional Aboriginal pathway from mountain to coast. What this 20m wide heritage listed tracks represents is a tangible link to the past and present life of Aboriginal people in NSW. It is associated with seasonal gatherings of Aboriginal people and also provides direct evidence of the crucial role Aboriginal people played in early exploration and settlement by white colonists. What makes this particular pathway unusual is that it has been surveyed along its length and verified by physical evidence in the form of archaeology, food resources and markings on trees; further verification has been undertaken by cross-referencing with diaries and journals of early white settlers and explorers.

So there you have it 5 items that I bet you didn’t realise were heritage listed in NSW. From sewers to signs and hieroglyphics to highlands the NSW state heritage register is not all about buildings and bridges. But it is not only NSW that peddles in the unusual. Do you know that Historic England has listed about 15 bike sheds or that Heritage Victoria is fond of listing a toilet.

Heritage is often seen as boring and staid but there are many things that are listed that are unusual, unexpected or just super interesting. Go have a look for them.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

I guess I will get into the spirit of the season or here is your obligatory Christmas related post.

Talk Soon.

AAA just like xXx except without Vin Diesel or any extreme sports

Last week I was at the Australian Archaeological Association annual conference held at Terrigal, NSW.  You know archaeologists, a group of adventurous individuals, doing really adventurous things. I admit it isn’t Vin Diesel but this is somewhat the real life of an archaeologist. When they are not in the field archaeologists spend most of their time writing about being int he field and a part of their time telling other archaeologists what they have been doing.

AAA was three jam packed days of the latest in archaeological research in Australia. What was significant was that this year it was held in conjunction with the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council. The conference theme was Interwoven: Indigenous and Western Knowledge in Archaeology and Heritage. This theme was chosen to celebrate the growing trend in Australian archaeology for Indigenous knowledge to be incorporated in western ways of understanding the archaeological and heritage record.

There were a wide range of sessions from those concerned with incorporating traditional knowledge into the science of zooarchaeology to the interweaving of archaeological and cultural connections in the mid-north coast area of NSW to a session on translating archaeology into education. Have a look at the Facebook event page.

What I think was really important was there was a focus on how the research that was being undertaken was contributing to communities, to people. There was too much happening for me to do credit to everything. I found the session on Coastal Subsistence in Australia to be brilliant. The work being done to re-visualize submerged landscapes is awesome. Literally, 3D graphics of landscapes that were submerged thousands of years ago are being generated. Another favourite was the session on The Clarence and Richmond River Valleys. I am a landscape geek from way back so seeing how these cultural landscapes and the stories and sites in them are related worked for me. But my pick was the work being done in geophysics and the way that the results from Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) are impacting management of important archaeological sites and the real world benefits for the Aboriginal communities that are the traditional owners of these lands blew me away. There was also a session on Australian Heritage Legislation. Okay, not as sexy as GPR or cultural landscapes but really important in looking at ways we here in Australia are going to look after and manage our cultural heritage into the future.

People think that archaeology is a discipline that exists in the past. Although its roots are firmly in the past, the once was; archaeology in Australia is at its core a discipline that represents the stories and culture of the people who are here today. Don’t believe me? The Aboriginal shell midden that gets excavated and tells us how people thousands of years ago subsisted is still an important part of the living culture of its current traditional owners. It represents a link with the past. More than likely it is a burial site; a place where people today can engage with their ancestors. And with archaeologists working with the community the protection and management of such a site can provide a sense of social cohesion, an opportunity for a new generation to understand their past, an opportunity to learn new skills and have a hands on role in protecting their future.

Generally when archaeologists gather in groups it is either a face melting good time and at least one person gets high.

However when I woke up on Friday morning Terrigal didn’t look anything like this so it couldn’t have been too big a night.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

They listed what or the 5 things you wouldn’t guess were heritage listed in NSW.

Talk Soon.

Reading the land or Archaeologist do it all over the landscape

So when it comes to picturing what archaeologists do it usually involves someone standing in holes or as Willie Scott put it ‘men searching for their mummies’.

Archaeologists can generally be defined either by the time periods they look at (prehistoric, medieval), the places they look at (Egyptologists) or the things they look at (industrial, maritime).

Landscape archaeology is one such sub-discipline. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology defines Landscape Archaeology as:

Landscape Archaeology is concerned with both the conscious and unconscious shaping of the land: with the processes or organising space or altering the land for a particular purpose, be it religious, economic, social, political, cultural, or symbolic; with the unintended consequences of land use and alteration; with the role and symbolic content of landscape in its various contexts and its role in the construction of myth and history; and with the enactment and shaping of human behaviour within the landscape.

Simple, pithy and to the point. I admit it could have been worse, the words ‘epistemological’ or ‘heuristic’ could have been in there.

Basically it is looking at how the landscape has been shaped or how it has shaped how we have used it. So, where a Chinese mining camp would be located or where a church is placed within a town fall into this category. But it is so much more. In August this year the 4th International Landscape Archaeology Conference was held at Uppsala University, Sweden. I didn’t get to go but check out the abstracts to get a real feel for the breath of topics that were covered.

Want to know why looking at things this way is important. Because what I see in the landscape how I perceive it and the value it has to me is not necessarily the same as what you see. I can have a look at the south coast of NSW and see a network of settlements, both extinct and extant, that reflect early European colonisation. They place a layer of meaning that links timber tramways, maritime infrastructure, roads, managed forests and any other number of elements that have organised and shaped the landscape. It has a meaning that I can understand and relate to.

Yet this landscape also has a different layer of meaning. The largest complex of Aboriginal middens on the south coast of NSW, Gulaga and Didthul  (Mount Dromedary and Pigeon House Mountain). This is a landscape that was created by the Dreamtime serpent. It has a meaning that came from and also informed how this landscape was used. Where Aboriginal people feasted, met, hunted, gathered and buried their dead are all intertwined with the meaning and significance of this area. You cannot understand the people without understanding how they viewed or lived in this landscape. This is a meaning that others can understand and relate to.

Then again there is someone else who spent their childhood holidaying at Kioloa. Coming back to the same caravan park. The beaches they went to, places they visited, shops, footpaths, trees, lakes and rivers are all imbued with a meaning for them that no one else quite has.

So next time you think about the types of things that archaeologists do, keep in mind that it is bigger than this. Many archaeologists are looking at landscapes as a whole. This gives an understanding and context to what they see and where it is. But a landscape doesn’t have to be large to benefit from this type of analysis. A landscape can be as simple as a complex of buildings. A homestead, outbuildings and gardens are their own cultural landscape that can tell us more about the people who used it when viewed as a whole.

The symbolic and mythological, mundane and practical all place layers of meaning on the landscape. All you have to do is try to find them.

Also just wanted to shout out to Willie Scott.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

AAA just like xXx except without Vin Diesel or any extreme sports.

Talk Soon.

Anthocyanins or Red velvet cake and that armadillo

Having spent a couple of weeks of ill I got to spend a bit of time checking out SBS Food Network (Australia’s only free cooking channel), okay more than just a bit of time. I noticed a few things. 1) Bobby Flay is basically involved with just about every cooking show there is; 2) Tiffani Thiessen is all grown up and looking fine; 3) There seems to be a major obsession with Red Velvet Cake.

The current American obsession with Red Velvet Cake started with the movie Steel Magnolias. It was the Red Velvet (bleeding) armadillo cake that created an upsurge in popularity of this cake. Basically the way this is made is that you take chocolate cake and dump a whole load of red food colouring in it. Try not to feed it to anyone with food allergies or ADHD and away you go.

However back in the dim dark past of days of yore, when velvet cake was invented this was not the case. Velvet cake was a traditional type of cake that possibly dates back to the early 1800s. Velvet cakes included buttermilk and baking soda in the mix. The combination of the acidic buttermilk with the alkaline baking soda created a chemical reaction that provided a cake with a delicate and luxurious texture. Velvet cake was essentially a type of cake. There was Lemon Velvet cake, Red Velvet cake, Mahogany Velvet cake. Red Velvet was actually vanilla cake dyed red while Mahogany Velvet was a chocolate version of velvet cake.

So what about the red? Depends what cake you are asking about. Red Velvet cake was coloured with beet juice originally. Then from about the 1930s the red came from food-colouring. Same result, less beety flavour in your cake (always a plus). Mahogany Velvet cake was also reddish but that was due a chemical reaction. It gets a bit sciency now. Chocolate contains a compound called anthocyanin. Depending on the pH this water soluble pigment will make something appear red, purple or blue. So if you made a cake with acidic butter milk and cocoa powder boom, red. Or more accurately a reddish tinge.

About the time that velvet cakes were popular, chocolate manufacturers utilised the chemical properties of anthocyanins to give their chocolate a deeper brown colour by alkalising it. Due to this process, the reaction that gave velvet cakes their reddish colour no longer occurs. So if you stop by a cake shop and see Red Velvet cake or cupcake you are likely to find a chocolate cake coloured with red food colouring. You should now be able to question the baker and be insufferable and annoying by trying to find out if it really is a velvet cake. Is it made with buttermilk? Even if it is made with buttermilk if it is chocolate then shouldn’t it be a Mahogany Velvet cake. Do they have a vanilla cake that has been coloured red? If so, shouldn’t that be the Red Velvet cake?  Fun for hours. Or the next time you go to a party and there is Red Velvet cake amaze and astound people with your awesome knowledge of chemistry. Possibly throw in that the reaction of an acid and a base gives you a salt plus water then walk off looking smug and knowledgeable.

The process of alkalising cocoa (the Dutch Process or dutching – okay I don’t know of that is what they really call it but it is fun to verb words) was developed by Coenraad Johannes van Houten. The cocoa is washed with a solution of potassium carbonate. What this does is make cocoa powder browner, gives it a neutral pH and is said to provide a smoother more mellow flavour. Having tried natural cocoa from a health food store there is definitely something lacking in the natural. It was like the difference between raw and roasted peanuts. The roasted has a more complex flavour profile or is yummier.

So can I get a traditional velvet cake today? Yes; make it with buttermilk and baking soda. Can I get a ‘traditional’ Red Velvet cake? Yes and no. If all I am going to get is a bog standard chocolate cake with red food colouring I might pass. Having tasted natural cocoa I definitely think that it is not as good as the dutched stuff. Admittedly I haven’t tried it in a cake but given the choice I will go with the dutched stuff. So it is unlikely that short of making it myself there is going to be traditional Red Velvet cake for me; but I can live with that.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

Reading the land or Archaeologist do it all over the landscape.

Talk Soon.

Hills and hollows or You built the church where?

The inspiration from this post came from a trip to Orange a few weeks ago. I was looking at an interpretative panel that was on Summer Street talking about how the main street of Orange had been changed from Byng Street to Summer Street. That’s when I realised there were no churches on Summer Street; they were on the wrong street.

The relationship of churches and particularly the Church of England with the main streets of towns is a reflection of a whole range of social factors and government policy in the early colony.

But let’s leave Orange and head down towards the southern part of the state to Braidwood. Braidwood is a beautiful town situated between the coast and Canberra. The annual rodeo is heaps of fun and the town was used for filming the 1970 version of the Ned Kelly story with Mick Jagger. The main street running through town is Wallace Street. On Elrington Street, a block back from the main street at the northern end of town, is the former location of the first Church of England church built in 1850. This church was replaced with the current, much grander stone building commenced in 1881. Also on Elrington Street, it is built at the top of a hill, the highest point in Braidwood itself. If you drive through Braidwood you have to take a detour to find this gem of a church.

What I find really interesting is why these churches are where they are. The early colony of NSW was not just a Christian colony it was a Church of England colony. This bias is reflected in how the Church of England was treated. It received one-seventh of all land in each county as a means to ensure funding for Church of England religion and education; the Church and Schools Corporation established by Governor Darling in 1826. You can see this if you look at old parish maps. The Church of England received the majority of funding in the early colony and it was not until the passing of the Church Act in 1836 that a reasonable degree of equality of funding for the other denominations was guaranteed. In fact it was only after the passing of this Act that the Roman Catholic Church was able to ask the colonial government for the establishment of church reserves in each town and parish.

Now this is the bit that I love. The early colony of NSW reflected in its legislative and town planning an important ecclesiastical principle. In pretty much every religion it is important to make sure that churches or places of worship are dominant in the landscape. This could be somewhere that has some social significance (such as the reuse of Roman royal sites in Anglo-Saxon England); sites of significance to other cultures or religions (the Temple Mount or just about any early Christian site in Celtic Britain); or on the top of hills or prominent locations within towns (such as main streets).

So in both Orange and Braidwood the Church of England was given precedence by being given the prime land on main streets. This served two purposes. It reflected an underlying ecclesiastical principle, but more than that it made it clear to everyone that NSW was a Church of England colony.

However, history had other ideas. Transport and business concerns changed the main streets from that set by the government to one that suited the real world. The effect was that these churches, that were once symbols of one denominations dominance, are now relegated to, in the case of Braidwood, a minor backstreet. In fact the Catholic Church in Braidwood that was once at the bottom of a hill a block away from the main street, the worst location for a church, is now the most prominent in town. Where churches are located, their architecture and form is fascinating and can give us major insights into the development of the colony of NSW.

By the way the title for this post comes from a quote by Bishop Mesac Thomas, (Bishop of Goulburn 1863-1892) commenting on the locations of a large number of the early Church of England churches in the colony (established by William Broughton the first Church of England Bishop of Australia) noting that they were generally built in hollows rather than in the proper locations such as on hills.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

Anthocyanins or Red velvet cake and that armadillo.

Talk Soon.

Heritage at the Hill

So a couple of weeks ago I spent a few days at Broken Hill. Broken Hill Council held a week long heritage festival. There were over 60 events including tours, workshops, 360 videos and other events.

Living Desert and Sculptures

Badger Bates a renowned local Aboriginal artist took a group on a sunset tour of the Living Desert Reserve. There are 12 granite sculptures that were carved in 1993 are located about 10km from town. These sculptures were carved by artists from all around the world, including one by Badger. The artists and artworks are as follows:

  • Facing the Day and Night by Eduardo Nasta Luna (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Thomasina (Jillarruwi – the ibis) by Thomas Munkanome (Tiwi, Bathurst Island)
  • Motherhood by Badri Salushia (Tbilisi, Georgia)
  • The Bride (Australia) by Dr Mahomad Mira (Damascus, Syria)
  • Moon Goddess by Conrad Clark (Katoomba, New South Wales)
  • Habitat by Dr Ahmad Al Ahmad (Damascus, Syria)
  • Bajo El Sol Jaguar (Under the Jaguar Sun) by Antonio Navo Tirado (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Angels of the Sun and Moon by Valerian Jikiya (Rustiva, Georgia)
  • A present for Fred Hollows in the Afterlife by Lawrence Beck (Koolewong, Australia)
  • Nhatji (Rainbow Serpent) by Badger Bates (Broken Hill, Australia)
  • Tiwi Totems by Gordon Pupangamirri (Tiwi, Bathurst Island)
  • Horse by Jumber Jikiya (Rustiva, Georgia)

To see the sun setting across the desert over these sculptures. They are all awesome works of art made even more so by their surroundings. Rodin’s work blew my mind. But these sculptures in the best art gallery in the world is comparable. What made it even better was being able to have one of the artists talk about his experience of creating the artworks, his personal relationships with the other artists and to truly understand how he came to create what he did, wow.

Stone Knapping Workshop

Several stone knapping workshops were held for the public. These were really fun. We were given a run through of how to create stone artefacts, some of the different techniques and then we were on our own. Given hammer stones and cores to work with we started to go at it. It was great to see the age range of people who were there, from the elderly to children. Now I have done some knapping in the past. Sorry, that is an over statement. What I have done in the past, and also this time around was to take a perfectly good bit of silcrete and turn it into useless rubble. Well it wasn’t quite that bad, but not by much. I managed to get a few decent flakes and had fun filling out the forms on the bench (sorry Arlo Guthrie reference). I also got a few pointers from Badger Bates on knapping.

Knapping.JPG

Line of Lode

This wasn’t an organised event just a trip up to the giant pile of rubble that overlooks Broken Hill. Up the top is the Miner’s Memorial and the now closed restaurant and gift shop. I am not exactly sure what happened to the latter but it looks some kind of Marie Celeste type event. The shop was closed up on Friday and then no-one ever came back. Looking through the window you can see the freezer is still full. No idea on whether it is plugged in or not but I wouldn’t want to be the one to check it. Anyway the Line of Lode mullock heap occupies the area that was once the hill that gave Broken Hill its name (or so I have been told). It is massive, ubiquitous and provides a backdrop for the town. The view from the top is great, the methods of death described in the Miner’s Memorial (below) are horrific and there is also the big red bench.

Miner's Memorial.JPG

My overall impressions of Broken Hill are it is a much more vibrant place than I had expected. Less red dirt and I did get to see the Priscilla shoe at the Palace Hotel. I had a great time and really enjoyed the place. In case you don’t know Broken Hill is also the first heritage listed city in Australia.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

Hills and hollows or You built the church where?

Talk Soon.

Brutalist Architecture or it’s a concrete jungle out there

uni-canberra

So it seems with recent events in NSW I am just the latest in a long line to write about Brutalist architecture. That’s cool, I like it. I am not sure exactly what I like about it I think it is the geometry and concrete that does it for me. The name comes from the French for raw concrete beton brut because this was the material that Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier used in his buildings. That is the end of the history lesson, have a look at a bio of Le Corbusier for the details of his life.

There is something about this style of architecture that is, shall we say, polarising. I have been trying to understand what the issue people have with it is. I think it comes down to three major reasons. 1) It is a style that has at its heart a philosophy of function over form. 2) It is a style that generally does not fit into the character of the places where it is built. 3) Due to its geometric shapes, it is abstract and therefore sometimes hard for people to get. Basically, people want their buildings to have some extraneous design elements, match the character of their neighbourhoods and look like what they expect buildings to look like. So for instance if you happen to have a tall geometric concrete building in a neighbourhood of Victorian terrace houses, it will be a cause for discussion even if it has been there for decades.

I appreciate the beauty and geometry of Brutalism and want to share some of its awesomeness with you. Unite d’ Habitation (France) was built by Le Corbusier in 1952 and was his first building in this style; Research Institute for Experimental Medicine (Germany). The now trashed Orange County Government Centre (USA); Habitat 67 (Canada); and Giesel Library (USA). I like these buildings, the way they look, the statements they make. I think that Habitat 67 has to be my favourite of this bunch.

But what about Australian examples. Well Sydney has a decided lack of this type of architecture so I am going to take you to what I think is the Brutalist capital of Australia, Canberra. That’s right Canberra. Have a look around Canberra and you will see examples of Brutalist architecture dotted around here and there. These buildings are our important national institutions (The National Gallery, High Court of Australia, The Carillon); Government and commercial buildings (Churchill House); Educational facilities (Canberra School of Music and University of Canberra Student Residences) and public facilities (Woden Valley Library and Phillip Health Centre). I also want to give the now partially demolished Cameron Offices a shout out

These buildings represent a period in Australia’s architectural history. They are modern functional buildings that provide habitats for people to visit, live in and work in. Canberra is a hidden bastion of brutalist architecture. It adds to the beauty of the town. What I particularly like is it is not just the major public buildings but it is the local small buildings. The local library kids go to. Student residences for students working in cafes and restaurants with ridiculous debt. The local health centre.

Brutaliust architecture is for everyone from the monumental to the mundane. That’s it. Next time you are in Canberra check out some of these buildings. And just in case you didn’t notice, no politically motivated hononyms.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

Heritage at the Hill

Talk Soon.

Mount Panorama or Spooner’s Repression Delief Scheme

If I asked you what the Bathurst 1000, Werri Beach Bathing Pool, Marrickville Golf Club, the road linking Sutherland and Como and Mount Gibraltar outside of Bowral had in common what would you say?

All of these places owe some aspect of their existence to the efforts of one Eric Sydney Spooner. I won’t go over the details of his life here so have a look at the Australian Dictionary of Biography for the details.

Eric Spooner was voted into the NSW Parliament in 1932 and by 1933 he was the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Local Government. As well as encouraging municipal housing schemes, establishing the Sydney County Council to provide gas and electricity services and consolidating Newcastle local government boundaries the biggest contribution he made to NSW was his Unemployment Relief Scheme.

The Unemployment Relief Scheme was a system of employment creating capital works. Local councils could apply to the government for works to be completed. These works led to the construction of major infrastructure (Sutherland-Como road link); local tourist facilities (parking and picnic facilities and lookouts at Mount Gibraltar, Bowral) and community facilities (Werri Beach Bathing Pool).

These projects provided employment opportunities for those families that were hit hardest by the Great Depression. Sydney Living Museums have an excellent website about their exhibition Skint! Making do in the Great Depression. Spend some time reading it, really, it is worth it.

The economic conditions and a workforce associated with government run capital works programs led to makeshift camps being established. These ‘Struggletowns’ were shanties built from cardboard, corrugated iron and whatever else could be salvaged. This picture is from the Happy Valley Camp at La Perouse.

An interesting thing happened during this time. La Perouse and Salt Pan Creek (Padstow) were both areas that had existing Aboriginal Camps. It was to these areas that poor, unemployed and displaced Europeans began to gravitate. These areas showed a real unity between European and Aboriginal populations. At Happy Valley a mixed race school was established; in direct opposition to prevailing government policy at the time being that European and Aboriginal children should be educated separately.

But back to Mount Panorama. In 1935 the Mayor of Bathurst, Martin Griffin, applied to Spooner to support the construction of a tourist road through Bald Hills. Before it was even commenced the Light Car Club of Australia applied to Council to use the tourist road as a Motor Racing Circuit. The criteria for a race circuit were that it had: to be spectacular for spectators; a test of the technical features of the cars; and a test of the driver’s skills.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the Bathurst City Engineer at the time, Hughie Reid, was able to show how with some minor redesign of the track a racing circuit could be achieved. I say unsurprisingly because there is a theory that Mayor Griffin had always intended to have a race track built through Bathurst. A previous Mayor, Walter McPhillamy, donated a majority of the land for the track and associated facilities.

On 18 April 1938 the Australian Grand Prix was held at the newly constructed Mount Panorama track. 20,000 people attended leaving the town emptied of food, alcohol and accommodation.

Opened by Mayor Griffin and Minister Spooner there appeared to be no sign of any tension between the two. Now it is entirely likely that Mayor Griffin had always planned to have a tourist road and, totally coincidentally, the local community saw the potential for something more and lobbied the Council after the money had been promised.

I however choose to believe that Mayor Griffin knew that the final outcome was always going to be a race circuit. He gave a version of events to the State government that was more likely to be successful. And you know what that is bloody Australian. I can imagine Griffin and Spooner having a beer after the race. Griffin admitting his ruse and Spooner telling him he knew all along.

I do feel a little guilty about not having a lot a racing in this post so check out some memorable moments from Mount Panorama . If it happens to be your bag enjoy the race this weekend too.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

Brutalist Architecture or it’s a concrete jungle out there

Talk Soon.

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