Heritage architecture around the world is taking a hit. With industry skills shortages prevalent in many construction and design sectors across the globe, the teaching of heritage refurbishment skills is simply not possible.
Issues have recently risen in Tasmania, where the majority of Australia’s heritage buildings are located, that have left many buildings falling into disarray due to workers’ limited skills in preserving heritage sites. The same heritage hit is also taking place in the UK, where trained designers and builders are simply not available to ensure the maintenance of the country’s culturally significant industry heritage facilities.
The city of Melbourne is, however, doing everything in its power not to follow suit.
With the city’s iconic Flinders Street Station currently in the design delivering developmental process, the federal and state governments are working toward the preservation of further major heritage buildings in Melbourne.
Heritage Minister Tony Burke has announced the most recent of these: the $20 million federally funded Royal Exhibition building restoration. Museum Victoria’s chief executive Patrick Greene says the exhibition building will be restored to its former architectural glory, with a focus on uncovering the original 19th century design elements throughout the building rather than covering them up.
“What we would like to do is create [an] immersive experience of what it was like to visit the exhibitions and see each of the eras of the building,” says Green.
Key expansions will include the development of interior lifts, exhibits, a private function area and a promenade to be located in the building’s identifying grand dome.
Federal Melbourne MP Adam Bandt, who has long supported the development, explains that the funding and project approval show a key positive aspect of the role of minority government in getting local projects into the federal sphere.
“One of the good things [a minority government enables] is an opportunity for things that matter to members of parliament as local representatives to find their way on the national agenda,” says Bandt.
The heritage minister has further explained the importance of preserving historical buildings as a way of understanding the foundations of Melbourne’s culture.
It is this knowledge of the cultural importance these buildings hold that keeps heritage preservation high on the Victorian industry agenda; a move that promises to safeguard the state from future heritage maintenance issues the likes of which have been so prevalent in other industries both nationally and internationally.