Pulp Fictio Tarantino’s genre busting epic of 1994 gave us so much more than a movie. It was a form of recycling, combining crime fiction, film noir, splatter movies, blaxploitation and the Bible, using two brilliant washed up leads in Travolta and Jackson to rattle Hollywood back to life. Tarantino was a magpie, collecting material from the past and remaking it into a multi layered, authentic and original work.
Adaptive reuse is the kind of architectural parlance perfectly suited to mid level government reports. It makes a strangely cold and grey idea of remaking the beautiful artefacts we love to keep. The structures which hold our cultural consciousness and tie us to histories of society, industry, materials and place. Should we reconsider reuse as a kind of Slow Food movement for architecture? Consideration of terroir, the knowledge of elders, the ways of making, taste and sustainability should preside over commercial or regulatory considerations. Slow Architecture.
Victoria is full of brilliant, brave examples such as ARM’s Storey Hall, Lovell Chen’s 1888 building at the University of Melbourne, Greg Burgess’ sensitive reworking of Yunken Freeman Griffith Simpson’s Myer Music Bowl and Nonda Katsalidis’ Richmond Silos. Melbourne’s renaissance as a food and wine capital, since Neuenhausen liquor reforms, is largely based on the recycling of disused fine grain building stock and run down pubs, an economic lever which drove the rediscovery of Melbourne’s lanes and remade our reputation as an authentic and cool city. The same lever has provided opportunities to a new breed of young architects, keen to design public projects. Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar by Robin Boyd and Pellegrini’s showed us how it was done, with human scale, clean lines, authentic materials, respect for the old fabric and by bringing in light.
All news, however, has not been good. Docklands is slowly growing into its oversized pants, but will always suffer from the loss of industrial heritage. What could have been kept was not, and its sense of place as a former port has been lost. We should be mindful of this as the planning of Fisherman’s Bend and other major areas proceeds. A key issue is the inadequate protection of post war and industrial buildings. We must do more to protect the unloved buildings which hold so much of our collective knowledge and embody the aspirations and needs of other eras. Loss of industrial heritage is indefensible, particularly as long span structures are so simple to adapt to new uses. The recent listing by Heritage Victoria of Total House by Bogal and Banfield is a wonderful step in this direction.