Under threat / Charles Bricknell’s 1957 house facing demolition after council vote

Republished from Herald Sun

Samantha Landy / 12 Mar 2020

The 1957-built 17 Nautilus St, Beaumaris is set to make way for two double-storey dwellings.

A Beaumaris house that was marketed as “a mid-century marvel” when it was for sale last year is facing the wrecking ball.

Bayside councillors this week voted four-three in favour of approving the construction of two double-storey dwellings at 17 Nautilus St, condemning a 1957-built house by local architect Charles Bricknell.

The 773sq m property sold for $1.9 million last September.

Another of Bricknell’s designs — a humble brick studio on Reserve Rd that’s been home to the Beaumaris Art Group for 50 years — was saved from demolition at a council meeting just last month.

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Inside 17 Nautilus St.

Bayside City Council hadn’t considered the Nautilus St residence for heritage protection because it had not been nominated by its previous owner.

The council adopted a “voluntary nomination approach” to protecting mid-century Beaumaris and Black Rock homes in 2018, after several homeowners voiced opposition to a broader heritage study that would have enacted mandatory protection.

The council invited 6500 property owners to nominate their properties that year. Just 15 did, with nine of those identified as being of local heritage significance and recommended for inclusion within the heritage overlay.

The National Trust of Australia’s Victorian chief executive, Simon Ambrose, said the scheme was a “cop out” that would “leave huge gaps, which will continue to emerge every time a significant place comes under threat”.

He instead urged Bayside council to “take the approach that is adopted by almost all other councils”: undertake a heritage study to identify the best examples of the mid-century period and prepare a planning scheme amendment to protect them.

“Beaumaris was a hotbed of architectural expression and experimentation, and has one of the best collections of post-war architecture in Victoria, if not Australia,” Mr Ambrose said.

The 17 Nautilus St house occupies a 773sq m block.

The house was designed by architect Charles Bricknell.

Another planning application for the construction of two dwellings at 372 Beach Rd was rejected at Tuesday night’s meeting, preserving the 1961-built Abrahams House, which has been at ongoing risk of demolition.

Beaumaris Modern vice president Annie Price said Vegetation Protection Overlay saved the Arthur Russell-designed house, with a Beaumaris Conservation Society representative telling the council meeting trees that were supposed to be preserved would have had to be removed to fulfil the development plans.

The home’s irregular kite-shaped block had also previously tripped up development.

But Ms Price understood the owner — who paid $2.2 million for the property in 2015 — planned to fight the decision at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

A planning application for 372 Beach Rd, Beaumaris was rejected.

Homes under threat

Fiona Austin from Beaumaris Modern outside the house, which was built in 1961. Picture: Josie Hayden

The council received 45 objections each to the planning applications for the Nautilus St and Beach Rd properties.

Mr Ambrose said there was a “strong case” the Nautilus St home had local heritage significance, as it displayed “many of the hallmarks of the period … including north-facing open plan living and dining, and extensive landscaping”.

Ms Price said the home’s fate exposed the inadequacy of the voluntary nomination approach to heritage protection.

“It’s commendable that nine homeowners have put forward their homes, but what about the other 100, 150 that are not protected?” she said.

“It is frustrating that the council refers to the voluntary nomination scheme as their answer to this problem when it is not a thorough way of identifying all homes of local significance.”

The interior of 372 Beach Rd.

The house is configured in an L shape.

Ms Price said she found it “a little ironic” the council opted to save Bricknell’s Reserve Rd creation, but not the Nautilus St one, describing it as a “prime example” of the architect’s characteristic “generous use of light, highly functional layouts and use of the best available materials”

“Charles was way ahead of his time, and they just don’t make ‘Beauy classics’ like this anymore,” she said.

Historian Simon Reeves has previously described the Beach Rd property as being “an unusual expression of modernist residential architecture” due to its L-shaped layout, grey concrete brickwork and glazed stairwell bay with “finlike piers”.