Heritage Gest

Heritage, Exploits, Stories


October 2016

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.


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


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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Heritage, Exploits, Stories

Heritage Gest

Heritage, Exploits, Stories