This article in brisbanetimes.com.au by Katharine Feeney highlights the dilemma with heritage: knowing what we do about our past and what has been lost with time, as well as what has been protected, what do we do about future heritage, if such a concept can make any sense? What obligations do we have to maintain any future past? Can we? Should we? What do we pass on if choose to act? Will it merely be a charade - a 'fake' heritage as selected by others of that time? Can 'heritage' have a present? - see http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/heritage-story-of-tapestry.html
Protecting Brisbane's brutal charm
KATHERINE FEENEY June 12, 2012
QPAC (QUEENSLAND PERFORMING ART CENTRE), BRISBANE ROBIN GIBSON
The heritage values intended to protect the Old State Library on William Street should extend to the brutalist concrete government buildings at the heart of Premier Campbell Newman's controversial parliamentary precinct plan, a top Queensland architect says.
Award winning architect Don Watson, who has worked with the Queensland government and is an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland, believes towers such as George Street's Public Works office should not be demolished simply because they're popularly “unattractive”.
“These buildings are part of a story,” Mr Watson told brisbanetimes.com.au.
“Unless they survive for a reasonable length of time, the decision is not likely to be in their favour.
“But if it lasts another decade or more, then I think people would recognise the quality.”
Mr Watson, recently recognised with a Queensland Memory Award for his work researching the state's built history, said Brisbane was at risk of becoming a “just-new” city too like the Gold Coast and without an architectural tapestry.
“Unless you keep a cross-section of the buildings that have been done over the whole period, the town doesn't develop any richness,” he said.
“We renovate [old buildings] pretty quickly these days – a little more quickly than would be desirable.
“People have limited patience for what they perceive as being outdated – they somehow think it rubs off on them somehow.”
There are currently no buildings in Brisbane designed from the 1970s onward listed on the Queensland Heritage Register, with the youngest being the Sir William Glasgow memorial on Queen Street, built in the 1960s and registered in 2004.
Department of Environment and Resource Management heritage branch director Fiona Gardiner said there were eight standards in the Queensland Heritage Act 1992 that would need to be met before a building could be registered.
They related to qualities such as aesthetic significance, creative or technical achievement at a particular period or demonstration of historical evolution.
But Ms Gardiner said there had been no applications made regarding heritage protection of the Public Works building despite Mr Watson's commendation of the Lund Hutton Ryan Morton site as a “very good” example of 1980s brutalist style – an architectural period that followed from 1950s and 1960s modernism.
Mr Watson said other “fantastic” brutalist buildings in Brisbane included works by Robin Gibson, who created Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Queensland Art Gallery and the State Library of Queensland.
Unlike Brisbane, Sydney was famous for the "nuts and berries" of it's built landscape, which saw brutalist slabs maintained alongside elegant brick buildings, creating a rich visual tapestry that captured the city's architectural history.
He said protecting the recent past for the future was just as important as honouring the built legacy of Brisbane's early designers, and said buildings such as the new ABC headquarters at South Bank should be protected as an example of excellent contemporary design.
“Some building types or key buildings earn affection very quickly – like the Sydney Opera House for example and the new Queensland Art Gallery for example,” he said.
“But other more complicated buildings or buildings with very ordinary uses like an office block probably do need a period of time before people understand their value.
“We need to make sure that value isn't lost forever because it's not realised in time.”
Mr Watson is currently researching Queensland's influential architects of the 20th century for a follow up to his 1994 work Queensland Architects of the Nineteenth Century: A Biographical Dictionary.
The $20,000 Queensland Memory fellowship recently awarded to him by Arts Minister Ros Bates will help him continue his work with the State Library of Queensland's John Oxley Library.