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Pentridge heritage and adaptive reuse in Australia

Honouring the Burra Charter

The commitment to restoring and repurposing heritage buildings has become more and more commonplace in Australia, as recognition has grown that the best way to preserve such treasured buildings is for them to be occupied, maintained and used in a sustainable manner that serves the need of the surrounding community.

We’ve covered the subject of Adaptive Reuse before and how it has informed the restoration of a number of heritage projects around the world, but we thought we’d take a closer look at how we’ve sought to ensure Pentridge follows best practices for the preservation and reactivation of sites with unique historical significance.

Any heritage conservation or restoration project in this country is likely to follow the prescriptions laid out in the Burra Charter, adopted in 1979 by the Australian branch of ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites). Based on the Venice Charter, it was adapted to suit local conditions and concerns, and has since been embraced by the majority of Heritage Councils across the country.

Essentially, this key document defines the basic principles and procedures to be followed when conserving any Australian place of heritage significance.

Indeed, both Pentridge’s Heritage Interpretation Masterplan (drafted for Shayher Group by SHP) and the Conservation Management Plan (prepared by heritage consultancy agency Bryce Raworth) rely extensively on the guidance laid out in the Burra Charter.

Those interested in how this guidance has informed Pentridge in its approach to Adaptive Reuse are encouraged to follow the above links. They provide a valuable window into the site’s history, and show the degree to which preservation is taken seriously in Australia today.

 

Common challenges to heritage works

In accordance with the Burra Charter, heritage best practice involves working with a range of experts to apply appropriate methodologies and associated specialist products to achieve as close to like-for-like as possible when restoring historical aspects of any site. Where new, modern additions are considered appropriate in revitalising a site, they are to be contemporary in design and detail, yet respect the existing heritage building in form, scale and materiality.

In this regard the most exciting parts of the Pentridge project have been bringing its old bones back to life as sensitively and accurately as possible, while finding ways to best highlight and augment the majestic bluestone of its original construction in contemporary ways.

As can be expected however a great many heritage works face common challenges: bird-proofing, the enablement of safe access, finding materials to match the original ‘fabric’ of construction, and so on. These have been central concerns that Shayher Group’s $2 million restoration has sought to address. Even before the first stone is repointed for any heritage work however, the need for as extensive an analysis as possible is an expensive, yet indispensable pre-requisite to any such undertaking.

 

The Builder’s Arms of JBM Group

The challenges to Adaptive Reuse are compounded however by what Senior Heritage Architect David Gole, in Architecture & Design, identifies as a heritage trades and skills shortage across the Australian construction industry.

Key areas and skills affected by this shortage include underpinning, stone cleaning, repair and repointing, joinery repairs and refurbishment. There is also a shortage of roofing experts in copper, slate and timber shingle, lead specialists (for traditional flashings, weatherings and cappings) as well as specialist painters able to apply traditional finishes such as limewash, colour washes and distempers.

With the help and expertise of JBM Group, we’re already seeing significant results in Pentridge’s progress, as seen by the restoration of Division A’s roof and work well underway on returning the famous Guard Towers to their former glory. Given the challenges outlined above, it’s a testament to their skill and industry with traditional trades that work has proceeded so successfully. The restoration they’ve achieved thus far using traditional tools and methods such as stonemasonry has been diligent and impressive to observe, as they honour Pentridge with their masterful work.

 

There’s no question that a job like Pentridge is one of a kind – something that is essentially true of every heritage project – and a monumental task. Nonetheless, we’re energised by the progress that has been made so far, and enthused for what is to come. Keep checking back with us here, as we explore similar adaptive reuse projects and update you with all the latest on Coburg’s oldest, newest development!

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