Facadism for the 1938 Art Deco Grange Lynne Factory in A’Beckett Street

Update :  In late 2015 a development proposal emerged for the site of the 1938 former Grange Lynne factory at 185 – 187 A’Beckett Street. Following objections from MHA and the City of Melbourne, the Minister for Planning issued a refusal in April 2017. (This was about the same time it was granted Interim heritage protection, having been one of 10 ‘postwar buildings’ left off the ’98 buildings’ list by Matthew Guy in 2013, even though it was clearly not postwar). Meanwhile the plans were apparently modified a number of times, with the Minister’s planners recommending a permit with conditions, and a permit was granted in October 2017.

We don’t know exactly what it will look like however, since these changes have occurred behind closed doors, but from what we can tell from the Ministerial report, it’s an improvement; the tower is shorter and no longer leans out over the facade, more of the laneway side wall is retained, and the front portion of the building is kept more or less intact (though the wonderful stair is still likely to be demolished).

But wait there’s more – the site has just been sold to different developers who are now planning to build it as 900 student accommodation units instead of 370 apartments, so it could yet change again.

former Grange Lynne Building A'beckett street Melbourne modernism art deco
Original proposal – Northwest Aspect

former Grange Lynne Building A'beckett street Melbourne modernism art deco
Original proposal- view from west from Wills Street

Original post :

While the development proposes retention of the building’s facade, it treats the structure as little more than that, seeking to retain only the front wall and a portion of the side wall abutting the laneway. Furthermore, the new building is set back from the retained wall, leaving it effectively free standing, possibly even without any glass in the windows (this is unclear from the submitted plans), acting merely as a sort of screen to the new construction.

See the slideshow at the bottom of this post for some more gorgeous photos from our friends at the Melbourne Fragments blog. The proposal appears to retain none of the building’s original Deco interior, particularly notable for its staircase.

This place was recommended for a Heritage Overlay control by Melbourne City Council as part of the C186 Amendment in 2012. However, in 2013, this building was one of the nine places that were not approved for inclusion in the amendment by former Planning Minister, Matthew Guy. At the time, the Minister said these nine buildings were put aside ‘for further study’. As the other eight were post-war modernist buildings, the reasons for the inclusion of this site remains a mystery. The strong suspicion is that the Minister may have mixed up the date of the site.

The former Grange Lynne factory was built in 1937-8, with a matching top floor addition in 1944, in a style notably influenced by European Modernism. It is recognised by the City of Melbourne as a B graded structure, and is listed by the National Trust, but has no protection in law.

As the building’s National Trust listing states, it “is one of Melbourne’s finest and most distinctive examples of inter-war factory and office design, exhibiting an unusual mixture of international modernism and the Arts and Crafts based aesthetic of the Amsterdam School of the 1920s.”

“The modernism of the horizontal ‘strip’ windows which wrap around the north corner and their continuous thin concrete sunshades, terminated by vertical fins, are combined with elements derived from the Dutch school such as the dark brown tapestry brickwork, a rounded front to the fin near the entrance, and the vertical stack of porthole windows of the stairwell.”

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The building’s architect, Edward Fielder Billson, was notable as a former pupil and associate of Walter Burley Griffin, and was was noted for the strong influence of European modernism in his work of the 1930s.

MHA has submitted a formal objection to the current Planning Minister, Richard Wynne requesting that the originally requested Heritage Overlay now be applied to the building, and seeking a redesign of the proposal to retain more of the original structure, and in a way that represents more than token facadism.


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