Category Archives: heritage

Yarranabbe Park

Insite recently completed a Heritage Study of Yarranabbe Park (within Rushcutter’s Bay, in Sydney’s east). This was commissioned by the Darling Point Society.

A fascinating site, the history of which has been largely overlooked by locals, tourists and Woollahra Council.

During the mid 1800s consideration by surveyors was being given to the issue of sea access along the eastern side of Rushcutter’s Bay and the provision of wharves.

The Sydney Evening News from the 8th November 1875 contained an article regarding a petition signed by 500 residents urging reclamation of land to the low water mark at Rushcutters Bay for the purpose of creating a public reserve. Also in November 1875 a deputation to the Minister for Lands requested that marsh and the head of the bay be reclaimed and used for public recreation. In 1878 an Act was passed providing for the reclamation of the bay and six acres were set aside for a park. Work commenced in the same year and was completed in 1883.

Yarranabbe Park was formed as a result of the second phase of harbour reclamation works carried out along the eastern side of Rushcutters Bay (the site of the Park appearing to not have been included in the Rushcutters Bay Act of 1878). The Thursday 1 October 1891 edition of the Sydney Evening News contained an article which referred to a deputation from local residents regarding the resumption of a further strip of land on the eastern edge of Rushcutters Bay park for the purposes of extending the reserve.

During 1883, the development of the original ballast dyke seawall around the Rushcutters Bay Park foreshore had been extended along the eastern foreshore of the Bay. The first phase of ballast dyke-edged resumption along the eastern foreshore was complete by 1885.

Plans were drawn up in c.1895 for a new sea wall to replace the dyke wall. The new seawall was constructed in chiseled and staggered sandstone blockwork.

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The colours of the architectural rainbow

All too often residential and commercial streets are made bland via the choice of the paint colours owners select for their buildings. Sydney’s streets commonly ‘comply’ with a palette of colours that stretches the not-so-great distance from beige to cream to mushroom.

A good example is the heritage facade of the former Commonwealth Bank building on Campbell Parade at Bondi Beach. Formerly painted in striking pastel baby-blue and white, in harmony with its adjoining Art Deco buildings, it was recently ‘mushroomed’ over. With the new paint job came a loss in visibility of the aesthetic characteristics of the building and a diminishment of its landmark value.

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Where have all the colours gone in our suburbs?

Happily, I happened upon a great little grouping of them today in Paddington, where a stretch of terrace houses have been recently painted in a gorgeous run of harmonious tones. The effect provides a lot of visual value to the streetscape.

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Would love to see more of this.

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Heritage interpretation

The New South Wales heritage office describes that:
“Heritage conservation seeks to sustain the values of heritage landscapes, places and objects, individually and collectively, so that the community and visitors can continue to appreciate, experience and learn from them and about them, and so that they can be passed on to future generations.”
It continues:
“Heritage interpretation is a means of sharing Australian history and culture with other communities, new citizens, visitors, and people overseas. It is also a means of passing on the knowledge of Australian history, culture and values to new generations……….the significance of some heritage items is easy to understand; but the values of others are not obvious and require interpretation. Many items have values that warrant interpretation.”

Heritage and heritage interpretation is, of course, not unique to Australia. Best practice guidelines for heritage interpretation are produced by heritage bodies all over the world – these documents providing commentary on key aspects that should be taken into account when designing interpretation schemes. This includes factors like a detailed understanding of the place or item (historically and culturally), an understanding of the audience and the most suitable interpretation methods based on context.

Interpretation schemes can be developed for all sorts of sites and collections of objects – for example an old building and its grounds that have become alienated from their original setting and context because of modern development.

Most interpretation schemes involve signage at the location of the subject site or item – as this is often the most direct way to tell a part of the story of the place or object. Having said that, there are now, for example, many online apps developed by governments or heritage agencies aimed at making heritage more accessible and personalised via smart-phones.

In terms of in-situ heritage education, the best built interpretation schemes that I see are those that combine signage (whether it be fixed on site or available through scanned bar-codes on your mobile device) with ground inlays or markings that identify the former location of the item.

I recently came upon a very well executed (for want of a better word) example of the above in Poland. When in Warsaw, I walked through a section of the city that contained part of the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII. This was the largest ghetto in Europe and was established in October 1940 to confine the city’s Jewish population, which in 1939 was about one third of Warsaw’s total population.

As I crossed an otherwise normal road (Franciszkanska Street) near the city’s old town, I noticed an inlay in the pavement – see the image below. This inlay, with inset text, shows the alignment of one of the ghetto’s many high masonry walls. An old photo (also below) taken during WWII shows this wall in place.

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Interpretive signage and schemes (irrespective of how well designed, how informative or how unique) can of course only do so much to describe objects or events. An allied matter is that the presence of an interpretation scheme doesn’t automatically mean that a local or visitor will take much notice of it or the place it’s describing. But, better there than not.
Lots of street inlay ‘signage’ is regularly stepped over by locals and tourists alike. So….keep one eye on the ground in your travels and you won’t miss the history that’s marked below your feet.

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