‘Architecturally significant’ power station to be demolished, replaced with housing development

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Australian Paper Mills Boiler House by Mussen, Mackay and Potter.

Australian Paper Mills Boiler House by Mussen, Mackay and Potter. Image: Heritage Council Victoria

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Australian Paper Mills Boiler House by Mussen, Mackay and Potter.

Australian Paper Mills Boiler House by Mussen, Mackay and Potter. Image: Heritage Council Victoria

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Australian Paper Mills Boiler House by Mussen, Mackay and Potter.

Australian Paper Mills Boiler House by Mussen, Mackay and Potter. Image: Heritage Council Victoria

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An architecturally ground-breaking but dilapidated and “dangerous” power station at the site of Melbourne’s former Alphington paper mill will be demolished, after the Victorian government overruled a heritage council recommendation.

Planning minister Richard Wynne announced on Wednesday 25 October that the Australian Paper Mills’ Boiler House would not be granted heritage protection, allowing the building to be demolished to “make way for new homes, parkland and open space.”

Australian Paper Mills Boiler House by Mussen, Mackay and Potter. Image:  Heritage Council Victoria

Designed by acclaimed Melbourne practice Mussen, Mackay and Potter (whose principals were architect E Keith Mackay and engineers Norman Mussen and Charles Potter), the Boiler House was built in 1954 to house boilers and turbines powering the mill.

A Heritage Council building citation states that the building is of “state technological and architectural significance,” as it is one of the earliest known examples of “curtain walling,” an architectural feature defined by thin, metal-frames containing in-fills of glass.

The scale of the curtain wall, which reaches the height of a four- or five-storey building, is also of significance, according to the heritage council.

Other distinctive features of the station include a pair of loading doors beneath a cantilevered block-and-tackle hoisting beam on the western facade, a large cylindrical flue rising above the building and a cream brick services core attached to the building at the south end.

A statement from the government said the planning minister had overruled the Heritage Council’s recommendation to grant heritage protection because the abandoned power station was “dangerous,” “asbestos-ridden,” and disliked by the community.

Submissions from local residents to the Heritage Council said the Boiler House had polluted the Yarra River, and that it was “unattractive” and “universally hated,” according to the government.

“The old power station is an eyesore, a relic of the past and needs to go,” said Mr Wynne. “There are better ways to celebrate the heritage of this historic site.”

Australian Paper Mills Boiler House by Mussen, Mackay and Potter. Image:  Heritage Council Victoria

Located in the inner-northeast suburb of Alphington, the Boiler House sits on a 16.5-hectare development site – previously occupied by the paper mill – that is slated to become a housing development known as YarraBend.

The site is heavily contaminated by asbestos, leading to a legal dispute between the developer and the previous owner over the rehabilitation of the site, Fairfax Media reports.

Developer Glenvill is working with Rothelowman, Eckersley Garden Architecture, Point Architects, DKO Architecture, Conrad Architects, Tract Consultants and MDG Landscape to develop the site into a residential precinct, which will comprise up to 2,500 homes for about 5,000 residents, in addition to commercial, retail and open space and community facilities.

The developer is billing the project as a “Tesla town,” owing to the use of Tesla Powerwall technology within houses, and intends to exceed the minimum community-based requirements of the development plan.

The government also announced that it would work with Glenvill to deliver a $5.1 million package of heritage measures designed to preserve and pay tribute to the paper mill’s history.

One such measure will be a new industrial heritage plaza, featuring interactive information about the history of the site, as well as a “paper trail,” designed to celebrate the site’s close links with the Yarra River.


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