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Modern new look for historic Urrbrae gatehouse

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The heritage-listed Urrbrae gatehouse will be refurbished and expanded into a new volunteer centre for Urrbrae House and Waite Arboretum after it is moved and rebuilt nearby, with design plans revealing a modern extension.

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Urrbrae gatehouse campaign

The plans, which are supported by Heritage SA and the Mitcham Council, include extending the reconstructed 130-year-old building to accommodate meeting and volunteer rooms, bathrooms, a kitchenette and a storage area.

The modern extension, designed by Dash Architects, will feature floor to ceiling glazing and a veranda, but the Government has promised to keep the heritage building intact with the addition of a new concrete slab, ceilings and a roof structure to match the original.

Under the plans, the size of the gatehouse will increase by 116-square-metres, allowing it to accommodate up to 40 people.

The State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) will decide whether to approve the proposed redevelopment and relocation of the gatehouse at its meeting next Wednesday.

Previously, the Government had decided to bulldoze the gatehouse to make way for its planned $61 million upgrade of the Cross and Fullarton Roads intersection.

But the plan received significant backlash from heritage groups, members of the public and the University of Adelaide, which owns the land and which vowed to fight the takeover by pursuing its “legal rights under the compulsory acquisition process”.

InDaily reported in March that the Government had bowed to months of community protest by announcing it would fund the dismantling and rebuilding of the gatehouse on a new site about 100-metres southwest of Urrbrae House, oriented towards Claremont Avenue.

According to the government plans, contractors will “carefully demolish” the existing building, with the stonework and brickwork to be “dismantled by hand to ensure no damage to fabric (which will) be reused”.

External windows and doors will also be “carefully removed by hand to enable re-installation in the same location at the new site”, with internal fabric including trims, architraves, skirting blocks, fireplace surrounds and floorboards to be “carefully salvaged, restored and reused where possible”.

Renders of the rebuilt Urrbrae gatehouse. Image: Dash Architects

In a letter to the Department for Infrastructure and Transport, the University of Adelaide’s chief operating officer Bruce Lines wrote that the relocated gatehouse would be used as a “workspace, meeting and gathering space, for the many volunteers who maintain the Arboretum and Urrbrae House gardens”.

“Thus, the relocated building’s interior will be furnished for use as offices, meeting rooms, and amenities, to ensure it is fit for purpose both now and into the future,” he wrote.

“The intended use is appropriately synergistic with the original use of the building, which was as the head gardener’s residence for a period of time.”

Heritage SA has deemed the gatehouse redevelopment “acceptable”, despite noting that relocating the building “will diminish the heritage value of the place”.

“The historic association between the Gatehouse and the entry driveway to Urrbrae House is lost, along with any understanding of the historic purpose of the subject property,” principal heritage conservation architect Michael Queale wrote in his submission to the SCAP.

“Further, the dismantling and reconstruction of the gatehouse reduces the historic integrity of the place, as materials will not be reinstated to exactly match original construction detailing.”

The state heritage-listed Urrbrae gatehouse. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

But Queale acknowledged that the gatehouse would still be located at the Urrbrae House site “so some historic association is still evident” and that “relocation of the Gatehouse is preferred to loss, even if historic integrity is compromised through reconstruction”.

He recommended that the SCAP impose nine conditions on development approval, including that the Department complete a 3D measured scan of the gatehouse before deconstruction, to ensure the reconstruction matches the original.

Mitcham Council senior planner Sean Elliott wrote in his submission to the SCAP that the council did not object to the redevelopment, but raised some concerns about the removal of trees.

Two members of the public also provided submissions to the SCAP raising concerns about the demolition of the gatehouse, the loss of historic architecture and trees.

According to a SCAP report, “a number of small trees will be removed from the site to facilitate the relocation”.

However, the report stated that “none of the trees proposed to be removed are Regulated trees (under the Development Act 1993) and all located outside of the State heritage listed Waite Arboretum”.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the University of Adelaide said it the new site for the gatehouse would “enhance the building’s integration into activities on campus”.

“The University consulted with representatives from the Friends of the Waite Arboretum and Friends of Urrbrae House, as well as Waite university staff, in the design of the proposed extension to the Gatehouse,” they said.

“The Gatehouse was once the home of the Head Gardener of the Urrbrae property. In its new location, it will become home to the many volunteers who are the backbone of support for the Waite Arboretum and its unique gardens.

“We expect this to be a positive outcome for our community.

“We are pleased that the Gatehouse will continue to have a place at the Waite campus, and that it will become a useful, useable space for generations to come.”

InDaily contacted the Department for Infrastructure and Transport for comment.

Department for Infrastructure and Transport CEO Tony Braxton-Smith told a Budget and Finance Committee meeting earlier this year that relocating and rebuilding the gatehouse would cost “in the order of $2.5 million”.

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