Last Sunday’s forum, held at the lovely old Ballarat Mechanic’s Institute presented three very inspiring and informative speakers.The focus was, how do we refurbish or adapt old buildings to vital community hubs.
Ammon Beyerle, Co Director of Here Studio, and a founder of Ballarat Coworking, asked us to consider – Do we change the use of the Civic Hall? Or change the building? Do we want large, or small changes? Are there things we want
to keep?He showed images of arts and community spaces in Europe and Australia that have been developed by creatively adapting old buildings such as Paris’ Museé D’Orsay, once a railway station and London’s Tate Modern, formerly a power station. Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art was once a maritime services building.
Jeremy Gaden, Director of The Substation, Newport, gave an inspiring account of how the derelict 1915 railway building has become a leading conte
mporary art space in the western suburbs.
Long considered an eyesore that nobody wanted, its rejuvenation
began with just two enthusiastic people and finally involved the whole community. Today businesses nearby are thriving and there are are fewer closed shops. Gaden said that a key problem is that The Substation was neverdesigned to accommodate people. (Unlike Ballarat’s Civic Hall, which was designed to accommodate many people for a wide range of functions).
Phil Roberts, historian and Secretary of the Ballarat Mechanics Institute, spoke of the $5 million process to restore the Ballarat Mechanics Institute. he meticulous restoration was achieved in stages, over fifteen years, with funding mainly from the Brumby state government, major philanthropic trusts, local service clubs and businesses.
Save Civic Hallis currently continuing discussions with the City of Ballarat regarding their proposed community engagement process. This is seen as a timely process to heal the rift between Council and community and to further discuss some of the ideas put forth at the forum.