Revisting a 20th Century Heritage Design

When most people think of heritage places in Tasmania, they often think about Georgian cottages or evidence of our convict history. It is less well known that the Tasmanian Heritage Register includes a wide range of places from many time periods, including interwar (1915-1940), post war (c1940-1960) and the late twentieth century (c.1960-). The Rokeby Fire Station is an excellent example of late twentieth century postmodern architecture. It was designed by local firm Howroyd and Forward in the late 1970s and won the 1979 RAIA (Tasmanian Division) Triennial Design award.

Rokeby Fire Station.jpg

Rokeby Fire Station was entered on the Tasmanian Heritage Register in 1999, for its ability to demonstrate the principal characteristics of a late twentieth century postmodern building, and its high degree of design achievement in this architectural style. It still operates as the Fire Station today.

According to architect Mr Garry Forward, who has been in architectural practice for over 40 years, “several of [our] office projects are on the Tasmanian Heritage Register, but for the most part these are conservation projects associated with extant buildings, eg the University Centre for the Arts. The Rokeby Fire Station is therefore a rarity in that it was a ‘new build’ in 1977 and listed in its own right as such.”

Recently, the Tasmanian Fire Service needed to undertake some works to the building to provide some additional storage space for specialised equipment. They contacted Heritage Tasmania for advice and discovered that the architect who did the original design, Mr Forward, still practices in Hobart.

Mr Forward says, “the original building has been extended twice before, with changes arising out of the necessity of evolving operational and management circumstances, not least of which and most recent is the 180 degree change to its entrance road. The building back is now at its front. Despite all of these changes the integrity of the building has risen above these interventions and stands out strongly as it was originally intended.”

Having Mr Forward design the most recent alterations to the building was a great opportunity for both the architect and the managers of the property. This led to an excellent outcome, as there was no one more qualified than Mr Forward to consider changes with the original design intent in mind. The proposal for the alterations was approved by the Heritage Council with no conditions, and a permit issued for the works by Clarence City Council in late 2015.

According to Mr Forward, “it has been a delight to come back to a 39 year old project and be able to advise the Tasmanian Fire Service about the ongoing maintenance, restoration and updates that inevitably arise out of changing needs. The Tasmanian Fire Service stewardship of the building has been remarkable to date and the future looks secure. It is a treat for any heritage architect to be part of the ongoing life of a significant place such as this.”

Photo courtesy Gary Forward.

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