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Civic Hall, Reopen, Revitalize! Forum - Review

Home > Ballarat > Architecture | Community Events | Historic Houses | Public Lectures
by Merle Hathaway (subscribe)
The arts are my passion. I occasionally work as a freelance curator, arts administrator, adviser, and volunteer for, and just generally enjoy the arts in all its forms.
New uses for old buildings
What do we want for the Civic Hall and how do we achieve it? These were the questions posed by Ammon Beyerle, a speaker at Sunday's forum Civic Hall, Reopen, Revitalize!

The topic was how old buildings can be revitalized for community use, with the sub-plot of how Ballarat's 1950s Civic Hall can avoid demolition, as proposed by Council.

Jeremy Gaden, director of the once derelict and trashed "eyesore", The Substation, Newport, inspired everyone with his rags to riches story. Their whole community, in partnership with Victoria University, and with the assistance of the Work for the Dole programme, has developed the 1915 industrial building into one of Melbourne's most exciting contemporary arts hubs. In doing so, this project has rejuvenated the businesses and enhanced liveability in that part of Melbourne.

The Substation, adaptive re-use, Civic Halll
The Substation, Newport. Now smart interior, once derelict

The 1860s Ballarat Mechanics Institute was the venue for the forum. Its present glory is due to the hard work of its members over 15 years. Secretary, Phil Roberts, told the story of its restoration, which was funded by the Brumby state government, local businesses and service clubs.

Phil Roberts advised supporters of the civic hall not to cling to how the building had been used in the past; to be open to change.

Ballarat Mechanics Institute, Ballarat, BMI
Ballarat Mechanics Institute with Minerva on top

Ammon Beyerle, Co Director of Here Studio, is based in Ballarat, and is currently completing his PhD in participatory architectural practice. He spoke of a process of community and council working together to develop a vision for the adaption and reopening of the civic hall, which was closed by the City of Ballarat in 2002.

The organisers were happy at the response to the forum and the high quality of presentations. The issue remains "hot" in Ballarat. But many are now seeing light at the end of this tunnel!

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Where: Ballarat Civic Hall
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