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case for restoring Walter Burley Griffin’s incinerator

Weireck, J. in Letters to the editor The Sydney Morning Herald, 26.6.73

SIR – Willoughby Municipal Council has again frustrated moves to preserve the Willoughby incinerator building designed by Walter Burley Griffin ("Herald," June 19). This continues a pattern of prevarication and obstructionism maintained by the council since this building was classified by the National Trust more than five years ago. In this period, the council has pursued a policy of deliberate and wilful neglect, carrying out no maintenance al all on the building, apparently as an attempt to stave off preservation through default.

There can be no question of the architectural and historical significance of this building. The council had received submissions to this effect from the National Trust, the Royal Australian lnstitute of Architects, the Landmarks Preservation Council of Chicago and dozens of concerned individuals. Its refusal to consider the restoration of the building and its conversion to a worthwhile community function is extremely short sighted.

The Municipality of Willoughby has within its boundaries a greater number of buildings designed by Walter Burley Griffin than any other locality in the world. This heritage should be preserved at all costs.

Griffin's now acclaimed as the first environmental architect to practise in this country and his work is of vital relevance to us today. Already many of his buildings have been demolished and others altered beyond recognition. Seven incinerators were built in NSW in the 1930s to Griffin's design – the ones for Ku-ring-gai, Waratah, Randwick and Leichhardt have been demolished, the Glebe building is partially demolished and the City Council incinerator at Pyrmont seems to be doomed. Willoughby is the only one where any possibility of preservation remains.

The municipality is presented with a rare opportunity to preserve and restore, as a unique community and national cultural asset, an internationally significant architectural work.

For five years Willoughby Council has argued that the building is still necessary as a nightsoil disposal depot. If Ku-ring-gai Municipal Council and Hornsby Shire Council can use the Cowells Lane depot at Dundas for this purpose, there seems to be no reason why Willoughby Council could not use it also – thus making the Willoughby incinerator building available for restoration and alternative use.

Obviously the major problem facing the Willoughby aldermen is raising sufficient money to restore the building from its present derelict condition.

Perhaps here it should be pointed out that the council recently spent $12,000 to install the Wurlitzer orchestral organ from the Arcadia Theatre in their new million-dollar Chatswood Civic Centre. With this magnificent gesture to the cultural life of Willoughby as a precedent, the restoration of Walter Burley Griffin's incinerator building must surely be seen as an admirable project – indeed, one worthy of immediate aldermanic action.



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