14 June 2007

Old PM&C building is now dust

| Jmy Belco
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I walked by National Circuit yesterday and found a hole in the ground where the PM&C building used to be. Has anyone got any photos of the old building, or of the demolition work, to share?
Another 30-year-old building bites the dust (been to Belconnen lately?) – it’s a shame we are so hell bent on deleting the architecture of this period (1968-1980).

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Thanks, fnaah.
I had one glorious moment in the old, now dead, PM&C building. I wound up with an office that no-one wanted because it was out of the way, dark, cold and rather big with a view about half as attractive as the dunnies at Canberra Stadium. Suited me down to the ground.

One of the most popular ways to decorate a so-called efficient building these days is to build it just like the old concrete behemoths, but cover it with brightly-coloured panels. Examples include Sky Plaza, the Eye Hospital and the building next to it, the APVMA offices.

The APVMA building was purpose-built last year and it seems to me that architects haven’t drawn from the inadequacies buildings such as those in Belconnen. It was completely planned around the needs of the APVMA, and having worked there I think it’s as inefficient as any other office building. Hardly any windows, ugly from the outside and filled with cramped offices that weren’t nearly as good as the ones in John Curtin House in Barton where they moved from.

Putting loud colours on a building doesn’t make it good architecture. But even if these concrete wrecks are dysfunctional, we should still keep some of them. Age gives a building character – there’s a reason dystopian sci-fi movies are often set in cities full of structures like these. They’re eerie when they’re old, and the best examples (at least) should be repaired and renovated rather than demolished.

West_Kambah_4eva3:46 pm 15 Jun 07

“Obviously spoken by someone who has never had the “pleasure” of working in one of the buildings.

Comment by Kramer — 15 June, 2007 @ 9:01 am “

I like being in poorly designed buildings, mainly because there are very few workable deviations away from what is efficient, so generally everything ends up looking more and more similar and more and more boring. Bring back the crappy old buildings! At least they had character!

Oh, and on the subject of new-fangled steel and glass buildings, I’m out at Snowy-Town Park now – are these buildings only meant to last 25 years? I kinda like the glass-enclosed elevators. It’s a bit soul-less though.

VicePope, I’ve worked in the RG Casey building (dfat HQ), i was with DFAT when they moved in.

It’s very beautiful to look at, there are awesome open spaces and atriums and things. Occasionally you’d see a galah-shaped print on the big expanses of glass where the hapless birdie tried to fly right through the middle of the building.

Once you got to your desk, on the other hand, it always felt cramped. They didn’t leave much space for people to actually, you know, *work*. Unless your idea of “work” involved endless meetings interspersed with coffee. There were lots of meeting rooms. Wait, what am I thinking…

Speaking of which, the cafeteria was too small (always super-crowded), and pricey. I heard that they made enough money purely from coffee sales to cover their expenses.

One thing I did like, however, were the server rooms. Pristine, efficient, humidity and temperature controlled, fully redundant, an IT person’s dream.

Having also worked there, I agree with Thumper. The inside is non-euclidean. It takes six months before you can keep your sense of direction while walking around.

Since when does old = good? There’s a reason we are ripping down dodgy 80’s buildings..it’s cause they’re crap. There’s nothing signicant about them aside from being ugly & poorly designed.

Ingeegoodbee1:38 pm 15 Jun 07

I think that the Edmund Barton Building was actually listed on the old Register of the National Estate and an outstanding example of dysfunctional 20th century civic architecture!

I don’t believe it’s worth holding on to something purely for tradition. “Our heritage, our past, our history” – it has to serve a purpose, here, today.

Woody Mann-Caruso11:10 am 15 Jun 07

Centra Plaza in Woden looks ike it was built by the Empire – lots of black glass, stainless steel and blue LEDs. I half expect to see Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter parked in the foyer, or to be covered in carbonite in the lift.

Ingeegoodbee10:14 am 15 Jun 07

Bonfire speaks the truth. Bod’s like the National Trust have identified 20th century heritage buildings as the most at risk.

and of course the fischer and paykel school of building design is so innovative.

we are losing significant buildings by letting them be demolished.

in 50 years, peopel will ask why canberra is so bereft of significant architecture – the answer is because we knock it down instead of modifying it.

I propose we go for ‘Shire’ style architecture for our next government building.

With the ACT Government still in them!

They need to tear down the ACT Government buildings. Pretty much every single one looks like a 50’s concrete monstrosity.

Also having been inside the ABS building a number of times, I can say that it is a fantastic example of current design. Their huge atrium in the middle of the building, with open bridges crossing it at each level is very cool – although unfortunately so in winter.

Agree wholehearertedly on buildings having character, but I suggest that their main purpose is to facilitate work. The two I mentioned had features that seemed to get in the way of the work that was being done there.

Any views on the workability of the DFAT building which looks pretty good to an outsider and very occasional visitor?

“The belconnen buildings were absolutely fantastic and brilliant…”

Obviously spoken by someone who has never had the “pleasure” of working in one of the buildings.

West_Kambah_4eva8:49 am 15 Jun 07

The belconnen buildings were absolutely fantastic and brilliant examples of what made Canberra Canberra. They are/were in my view beautiful and I think we really are losing a large part of what Canberra is by ‘deleting’ them. I assume we’ll have some hideous neo-Indigenous art/iPod amalgam like the new ABS building now popping up everywhere now to replace the ones being knocked down.

I have wondered about the relative efficiencies of the old “cement monstrosities” versus the new, sexy “glass box” style buildings. I mean, the cement ones are pretty space inefficient but all that glass! Surely it makes thermal regulation harder. Although, Canberra is pretty cold so i guess the increase in heating in winter out weighs the cost of cooling in summer.

Any list of whacky office buildings in Canberra wouldn’t be complete without Callum offices in Wodern.

Incedently, some random googling turned up that, and several other nice pics of some of Canberra’s random architecture at this persons FlickR Page.

where is the plan to build “sustainable” public buildings…not ones you need to knock down after 20 years.

I always quite liked it. It used to house the Public Service Board, and it was called McLaughlin Offices. We used to half-joke that PM and C got the Board abolished so they could grab our building.

I worked in it for a few years. Believe me, it wasn’t a great building in a lot of ways with lots of walkways and bizarre corners that no-one ever seemed to find a way to use.

Better, however, than Cameron Offices in Belconnen. Now that was less than fun.

Oh what a terrible shame, paved paradise, blah blah blah.

If you didn’t want it to die you should have made an offer to buy it.

Maeliner, you’re right. The GeoScience Australia Building for example features cutting edge design features such as a geo-thermal climate control system. It was custom built for Geoscience Australia, cost a large amount to build and is not suitable for any other purposes other than those of Geoscience. And yet, this cutting edge building that some of you may have seen near Narrabundah has a life cycle of only 20-25 years according to Geoscience management. What happens in 25 years time that would make it’s lifecycle end?

Frankly, I’m glad to see the PM&C building go. Compared to the new one next door, there is no comparison. But aside from looks, the PM&C building seemed to suffer from “concrete cancer”. The concrete exterior had a lot of cracks and discoloration.

That old PM&C building was fugging ugly.

BTW, several industry insiders have told me that construction standards nowdays are designed for building lifecycles of only 25 years.

Get used to seeing the bulldozer and the crane, at a neighbourhood near you.

Was that the odd looking thing with the purple coloured louvres? Good riddance to bad rubbish I say, same to those vile concrete Orwellian monstrosities in Belco…

That building was arse, and if you liked it, then you must be wrong in the head.

Good riddance.

I thank the maker that we are deleting Belconnen in this way.

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