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NSW fast-tracks previously refused developments, April 2020

The NSW Government has recently introduced changes to the EPA Act (clauses 10.17 and 10.18) and introduced the Planning System Acceleration Program (Media Release dated 3 April 2020) to fast track rezonings and development applications, justifying this by the need to stimulate the State’s economic recovery during the COVID-19 crisis.

It will enable the NSW Minister for Planning to approve DAs previously refused by local councils and/or Local or Regional Planning Panels. An example of such inappropriate development, that has been given the green light, is at 41 McLaren Street North Sydney which has a height control set in the recently updated NSLEP at maximum 100 metres, but the Planning Proposal is for a 226 metres high residential tower, more than twice the height, which would cast a huge shadow over much of North Sydney CBD Council to the south of this development.

The metropolitan and regional Councils’ strategic plans have been developed in consultation with local communities and all major stakeholders and identify the need for significant growth in housing and employment and important local priorities. They should not be ignored and over-ruled by the Minister. It is not in NSW’s best interests to give the green light to these inappropriate proposals that will almost inevitably have detrimental impacts on the heritage, environments and social fabric of Sydney and NSW in the long term. Such an opaque approach is fraught with risks.

As Elizabeth Farrelly pointed out in her Sydney Morning Herald article of 25 April 2020 “The government says fast-track planning processes will keep people in jobs and the construction industry moving throughout the COVID-19 crisis. If that were the priority, though, you might expect similar support for the arts sector which generates $16.4 billion to NSW GDP and employs 118,000 FTE [Full Time Equivalent] workers.

The Society has written to the NSW Minister for Planning and the Treasurer requesting that the Government revise its recent legislation and program to ensure transparency and quality planning outcomes that are not detrimental to NSW and future generations.

28 April 2020

Cancelled due to covid-19 pandemic – The Griffins' Castlecrag Heritage Walk, 2 May 2020

To celebrate this year’s Heritage Festival and its theme of ‘Our Heritage for the Future’, the Walter Burley Griffin Society has organised a guided tour led by landscape architect James Smallhorn at Castlecrag. It will meander through Sydney’s original bushland estate revealing the restoration efforts that have taken place on some of the unique Griffin house exteriors, reserves and landscapes and how they have stood the test of time.

Bookings essential:

Adult $20; Concession/Student $15; Child $0, Family $40

Meeting place provided on booking.

Please bring hat, walking shoes and water.

The Griffins' Castlecrag Heritage Walk, Saturday 2 May 2020 10am – 12.30pm |

Cheong house, Castlecrag, Sydney which is one of the houses that the guided tour will go past.

Integrity of Canberra's Parliamentary Triangle threatened

The Parliamentary Triangle, Canberra and its important symbolism created by the Griffins’ plan for Canberra is threatened by the proposed sale of two of its original buildings, East Block, home to the National Archives of Australia and West Block.

This privatisation within Canberra’s original public service precinct was confirmed by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann on 4 April 2017. Cormann’s proposed sale of government land and buildings in the Parliamentary Triangle was derived from the Audit Report which Tony Abbott commissioned upon becoming Prime Minister. That report recommended wholesale decentralisation of Seat of Government and National Capital functions and abolition of the National Capital Authority.

Both East Block and West Block are iconic buildings, built in 1925-1927 and redolent with our federal history and warranting the most careful preservation of the building and its aura of national significance. Yet the Department of Finance no longer has a heritage section to manage its heritage assets.

Brett Odgers, convenor of the ACT Chapter of the Walter Burley Griffin Society said that “it is very disappointing that the current government favours privatising public assets and rewarding the property and finance sectors, and thus abandoning its responsibilities for the stewardship of future development in the National Capital, the Griffin Plan and even Canberra’s heritage generally”.

The Department of Finance, a few years ago, steamrolled the ASIO Building on a manifestly inappropriate site within the National Triangle, with flagrant disregard of heritage and land use suitability considerations, and are about to make further incursions into the central symbolic National Area on terms basically at odds with the reservation of land for national capital purposes.

In September 2016 the Department of Finance advertised the crass commercial sale, allowing demolition, of the East and West portal buildings at the junction of Constitution Avenue and Anzac Parade. This sale was reiterated in Finance Minister Cormann’s announcement of the sale of East and West Blocks. They’re located prominently on Griffin’s Land Axis inside his great National Triangle.
Nowhere else in the world would such buildings and sites in a national capital be allowed to be summarily sold off to property developers.

Further information – The Canberra Times:

Integrity of Canberra's Parliamentary Triangle threatened |  1

East Block, Parliamentary Triangle, Canberra, photographed by Michael Thomson

Integrity of Canberra's Parliamentary Triangle threatened |  2

WB and MM Griffin, 1911, Australia’s National Capital Competition drawings – National Archives of Australia, detail from NAA: A710_38

Demolished Sydney exhibition 19 November 2016 - 17 April 2017

Museum of Sydney, cnr Phillip and Bridge Streets, Sydney, Australia

Demolished Sydney is an exhibition exploring some of the buildings that once shaped Sydney’s skyline. It examines the histories of 13 sites including the grand Garden Palace, Rowe Street and the monumental Pyrmont incinerator designed by W.B. Griffin and E.M. Nicholls. Included in the exhibition is the bronze RIECo nameplate from the Pyrmont Incinerator and the skilful measured drawing of the incinerator’s magnificent east elevation drawn by architect Trevor Waters but reduced from its original large format to just A2 size.

Demolished Sydney exhibition 19 November 2016 - 17 April 2017 |

Detail of the east elevation of Pyrmont Incinerator, from measured drawing by Trevor Waters, 1988.

A circus opera The Carnival 17 and 18 February 2017

The Concourse, Chatswood, Sydney, Australia

Special performances of The Carnival will raise money for the Haven Amphitheatre reconstruction project.

Described as “circus opera” The Carnival debuted on London’s West End in 2011 and is composed by very talented Castlecrag-born Chloe Charody.

Another of Chloe’s operas is currently on tour in Europe where she is rapidly becoming a leading female composer.

Soprano Valda Wilson will be The Carnival’s leading lady. Valda, also Castlecrag-born, won Opera Foundation Australia’s scholarship to train at the National Opera Studio, London. She has been a principal soprano at the Oldenburg State Theatre, Germany since 2014 and in December 2016 sang the title role in Handel’s Theodora for Pinchgut Opera in Sydney.

The Carnival will be an amazing performance, and you are encouraged to purchase tickets so as not to miss this fabulous and innovative circus opera and to help fundraising for the Haven Amphitheatre reconstruction project.

The performances are being organised by Haven Promotions Inc. Book now:
Box office (02) 8075 8111
Ticketek 1300 795 012

A circus opera The Carnival 17 and 18 February 2017 |

Inside the Ethereal Eye 14, 15,16, 21, 22, 23 October 2016

(see website below for times)
The Arts West Atrium, Professors Walk, University of Melbourne

Immersive projections exploring Newman College Dining Hall and the ceiling of the Capitol Theatre on an ultra-high-resolution 6 metre wide projection dome, by two of the world’s leading new-media artists, Sarah Kenderdine and Jeffrey Shaw in collaboration with the University of Melbourne’s Transformative Technologies Research Unit. FREE exhibition.

Inside the Ethereal Eye 14, 15,16, 21, 22, 23 October 2016 |

Image: Sarah Kenderdine. Melbourne Festival 2016 website.

In Her Own Right: Marion Mahony Griffin 7 October 2016 - 12 March 2017

Elmhurst History Museum, 120 E. Park Ave. Elmhurst, USA

Marion Mahony Griffin’s story is now being brought to light with a new exhibition presented by the Elmhurst History Museum entitled In Her Own Right: Marion Mahony Griffin. The exhibition brings Mahony Griffin’s own story out of the shadows as a brilliant architect, talented artist, avid environmentalist, and social activist. In Her Own Right traces Mahony Griffin’s early life, her personal and professional partnership with her husband on three continents, her final years in Chicago where she died in obscurity and penniless, and considers the legacy of a Chicagoan of immense but often overlooked importance, shedding light on the unheralded Prairie School innovator and Illinois’ first woman architect

The Griffins are perhaps better known in Australia than they are in the U.S. due to the years they spent there working on the elaborate Plan for Canberra, an impressive international contest-winning design created for the country’s capital city, and the suburb of Castlecrag, an idyllic community in Sydney that assimilated architecture into the natural landscape. So it is fitting that the Elmhurst History Museum turned to Dr. Anna Rubbo, PhD, an Australian and an adjunct senior scholar at the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University and a former Associate Professor of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney, for development of the exhibition content.

Lance Tawzer, Elmhurst History Museum’s curator of exhibits, shared his rationale for telling Marion’s story now explaining that “Anna Rubbo brings a special perspective to this story as a scholar, an architect and an Australian”.

Opening hours: Sunday, Tuesday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For information about exhibit-related programs with visiting scholars, authors and interesting tours visit:

In Her Own Right: Marion Mahony Griffin 7 October 2016 - 12 March 2017 |

Marion Mahony, Elmhurst History Museum website

Pholiota Unlocked 7 October to 23 October 2016

(see website below for times)
Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne

This amazing project by the Melbourne School of Design’s Master of Architecture students led by Philip Goad at the University of Melbourne, is open until 23 October 2016. The students have manufactured over 2300 full-size Knitlock tiles in plaster of paris for this 1:1 reconstruction of the Griffins’ own tiny Eaglemont home.

View video clips (one in fast motion) of the students assembling the tiles to build the replica

The Pholiota Unlocked exhibition is on the ground floor (actually down steps to a lower level) of the Melbourne School of Design, located a few buildings away from Newman College. FREE exhibition.

Pholiota Unlocked 7 October to 23 October 2016 |

‘Pholiota’, the Griffins own house, Heidelberg, Victoria. Photograph c 1925 – 1930. Eric Milton Nicholls Collection. National Library of Australia.