A canoe club, an amphitheatre and a heritage push in Fairfield Park

Actors disembark on a boat on the Yarra River and appear on the stage at Fairfield Park in 1984 <i>Iphigenia in Aulis.” loading=”lazy” src=”$zoom_0.794%2C$multiply_0.4233%2C$ratio_0.666667%2C$width_378%2C$x_149% 2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/4958ecfdafdf31d3577e45077babe851654d666b” height=”240″ width=”160″ srcset=”$zoom_0.794%2C$multiply_0.4233%2C$ ratio_0.666667%2C$width_378%2C$x_149%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/4958ecfdafdf31d3577e45077babe851654d666b,$zoom_0.794%246_6%02C$0.80_multiply .666667%2C$width_378%2C$x_149%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_62%2Cf_auto/4958ecfdafdf31d3577e45077babe851654d666b 2x”/></picture></div><figcaption class=

Actors disembark from a boat on the Yarra River and arrive on stage at Fairfield Park in 1984 for: Iphigenia in Aulis.Credit:Storks Theater

An appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Court (which the council agreed) and subsequent heritage application have delayed the redevelopment and the club has since experienced a significant increase in membership – a 40 per cent increase in the past year.

Membership coordinator Candice Charles said that special facilities were long overdue. And while the club had supported Yarra’s offer to renovate the pavilion, it now realizes that the adjacent 1932 “archaic” clubhouse needs a complete overhaul.

Instead, the club wants a new design with input from all stakeholders that can work in the long term.

“Let’s do this right. Let’s design it right. Let’s find out how boats and people are going to move,’ said Mrs. Charles.

“The lesson for us [from the heritage claims] is that people really care about the things in the park, and so do we. We also.”

She accepted that it was in high demand from the Yarra City Council, which has already pledged about $500,000, but said it had to be done and could potentially require input from the state government.

The club believes that the pavilion does not need to be redeveloped for canoeists, but is currently underused and could be redesigned.

Rachel Nolan — founder and principal of architectural firm Kennedy Nolan, which operates out of an office in Fitzroy designed by Paul Couch — said there should be another way to provide amenities for the rowers without losing the banking structure.

Couch’s legacy was still understood, Ms. Nolan said, and it would be a shame to mindlessly lose his job.

The Fairfield Amphitheater when full.

The Fairfield Amphitheater when full.

In April, Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery advised against listing the amphitheater, pavilion and kiosk, instead suggesting they could be protected locally by Yarra City Council. The final decision rests with the Heritage Council after a hearing in the coming months.

Simon Ambrose, Victorian chief executive officer of the National Trust, said the structures were clearly of local significance and may have been of state importance.

Ms. Madden believes the amphitheater is important to the state because of its groundbreaking design and cultural innovation.

The amphitheater, which would not be threatened by the proposal, hosted Greek-language plays and received support from the Greek Ministry of Culture in Athens. It has a rare acoustic phenomenon that allows someone whispering on stage to be heard from the back row.

Ms Madden said it was the only professionally equipped open-air theater in Australia and the only Greek-style amphitheater.

Fairfield Park was a much-loved and beautiful shared environment that she felt the amphitheater would fit in.

“You see the stars. You can also often see birds fluttering by and often canoeists from the canoe club walk behind it up the side path with their canoes on their heads,” said Ms Madden. “And further down the park people will be picnicking and that all adds to the atmosphere. They create a kind of grand illusion of another time and place.”

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