The Globe: Book-ending Barcaldine’s architectural legacy
There are not many country towns in Australia that can claim national architecture award-winning structures book-ending their main street.
Sitting on the edge of Outback Queensland, the historic town now has two distinctive buildings recognised as being of national significance.
As such it helps retain the character of the Australian bush while bringing renewed interest from business and tourism perspectives as well as pride to such communities.
The 2017 National Architecture Awards announced in Canberra in November saw the former Globe Hotel recognised in the public architecture section.
Within eye-sight of the remodelled two-storey building is the Tree of Knowledge, a memorial to the shearers’ strike in 1891 that has also taken out important architecture awards in the past.
Both were designed by the team of Yeppoon architect Brian Hooper and Michael Lavery of m3architecture.
The Tree of Knowledge received the Lachlan Macquarie Award in 2010 and in so doing was named Australia’s most significant piece of heritage architecture for that year.
The Globe, remodelled to become Barcaldine Shire Council’s information centre, art gallery, function room and history room, was one of seven projects short-listed this year for the Sir Zelman Cowan Award for public architecture.
The Globe was built in 1910, shortly after the shearer’s strike and subsequent formation of the Australian Labor Party.
The location made it popular with workers and identities in the emerging political party, and in later times, to city travellers who realised its historical context.
Brian Hooper said the awards showed good architecture can preserve the character of a town and enhance the community on a number of levels; from a social aspect through to economic benefits such as tourism and even local commerce.
Meanwhile m3architecture was short-listed for seven national awards, taking out three and receiving a commendation in another.
Included was a Residential Architecture Houses award for a Cape Tribulation project.
Hooper belongs to a venerable tradition of dedicated, hard-working and talented architects who travels tens of thousands of kilometres every year for his clients.
Such architects chose to serve their own communities and the ones who surround them, by dedicating their work to the place they belong, rather than working in major centres where they might be better remunerated for their efforts.
He said regional architects still have an important role to play in ensuring that great outcomes can be achieved.
“There is pressure on smaller regional authorities and communities to undervalue their old building stock – unfortunately there are far too many examples of towns that have lost their original fabric to poorly planned replacements.”
This award shows what can be achieved. It brings a sense of pride and renewal to these regional centres.
Combined with the unique Radio Picture Theatre Hall, the Comet Masonic Lodge and the stained glass in the St Peters Anglican Church, Barcaldine is now confirmed as a place to see exceptional historic regional architecture and valuable contemporary architecture.
Together with the features of Alpha, Aramac, Jericho and Muttaburra, as well as the people, this region should be seen as one of the most interesting destinations in the country.
Michael Lavery said a lot has been written about urban Australia’s spiritual connection to the bush.
“The original building stock is a large part of this for some people. Yet there is a tension here.
“For many who still live and work in the bush they demand that their buildings, no matter how old, be as pragmatic as sheds.
“If a wall needs to be knocked out or extra toilets added, the simplest, quickest, solution is found.”
Over time a number of small, poorly conceived, alterations can lead to a severe loss of character in otherwise important buildings. Yet it does not need to be that way.
There are numerous cultural reasons why we should retain and enhance this built heritage and the cost need not be significant.
They are a record of a different way of life and different ways of building including a record of our ancestors creativity.
“They provide hints as to how to design to the climate,” Lavery said. “They provide the atmosphere to the stories of the outback, and they each contain their own stories.
“Outside of those few well known examples of buildings covered by heritage legislation, the cultural imperative is not what is saving them.
“Tourism, and the fact that people from the cities and international visitors, are now asking to see Australia’s bush heritage – this is what is driving the retention and rehabilitation of many older buildings.
“If financial imperatives enable small communities to save these buildings and meet cultural imperatives at the same time, then so be it.
“It doesn’t matter why it happens, it just matters that it does.”
Lavery said older building stock need not be set in cotton wool, and preserved as found, to showcase the spirit behind these buildings and retain an experience of the place.
Many of these buildings can be surprisingly flexible and adaptable, as seen with The Globe.
“Conversely, we need to recognise that we cannot do just whatever we like, when we like, to these building and still expect that their character and ideas remain intact.
“A few poorly considered smaller changes can be just as damaging as one large one.
“Perhaps the lesson here is that with the right level of sensitivity and design we can adapt many of these buildings in radical ways and still retain what it is that attracts people to them.
“In the case of The Globe, by convincing council to retain and re-use the old building rather than demolish and build new, we saved more money on the construction that was spent on the consultants.
“It shows that great design outcomes can be surprisingly cost-effective.”
The architecture judges considered The Globe to be an essay in celebrating the timber single-skin construction so evident in country Outback Australian buildings.
It involved the intricate restoration of the existing fabric of the building with the embroidery of new material perceptively included within the original frame construction.
The core of the old building had been maintained, but a new veranda was built as well as a new roof, and the building was also re-stumped.
Astutely championing the significance of a main street corner pub in rural Queensland, it involved multi-layered patterns of timber, steel and translucent sheets providing light and shadow while framing views within the building.
The verandas partially frame the streetscape, reviving the significance of Barcaldine on the Australian landscape.