Precious Braybrook icon brought back to life

  • Precious Braybrook icon brought back to life

    In 2011, Pelligra was granted the right to redevelop the ETA factory. The building and grounds had been substantially altered by vandalism and progressive degradation and remained vacant since 2001. Pelligra received a heritage permit which allowed the demolition of the saw toothed roof factory buildings and reconstruction of the office building in the closest manner possible to provide a sense of what the original building was like.

    Pelligra rebuilds former ETA heritage factory

    Demolition and Reconstruction

    Having languished following a proposal to adapt the factory into a car dealership, the building had been reduced to little more than the steel frame, the roofs, south facing highlights, concrete floor slabs and the brick walls of the northern parts that have been afflicted by fire and a lot of graffiti. The curtain walls to the office wing and frontage along Ballarat Road have been progressively vandalised and were then stripped to remove the sealing bending used in the glazing. The factory areas were demolished to make way for the Amart store with retention of the steel framing of the Ballarat Road frontage and former office wing. Also, dismantled but reconstruction using the original materials were the bricks walls to the north side of the courtyard to Lacy Street. The construction of a new building across the rear, north side of the side, has provided the impetus funding to enable the restoration of the lost elements of primary importance from the original design of the site.

    The ETA Factory

    The ETA factory at Braybrook was the head-depot for the distribution of margarine and peanut butter to Victoria and Tasmania. Designed in 1957 and constructed in two stages between 1958-1961, the factory was the new Victorian base for ETA Foods. The building was designed by Frederick Romberg of Grounds Romberg Boyd and officially opened by the premier, Sir HenryBolte on 15 March 1961. Considered historically and socially significant, the ETA factory was a part of the great surge in the manifestation of Australia’s post-War industrial expansion programme; a period of economic optimism and investment in manufacturing in Melbourne. Identified as an important industrial place at the state level, the ETA Factory is of great significance to the State of Victoria; thus, included on the Victorian Heritage Register and classified as a building of state significance by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria).

    A significant transformation in the heart of the western suburbs

    Publications

    In 1962, the ETA factory has some international prominence; it was one of only two Australian factories included in a four volume compilation of international factory designs, ‘industriebau’, which was compiled by Dr Walter Henn for the German Institute of Industry and considered a standard text in the field of factory design. In 2003, the Victorian Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects included the ETA Factory as one of 36 buildings which showcased the State’s most important example of architecture constructed in the past 75 years.

    254 Ballarat Road – Interview with Fair Price Furniture from Pelligra on Vimeo.

    Architecture and people

    Architecturally, the ETA factory was recognised as a fine example of Melbourne’s modern architecture of its time. The building design was aesthetically pleasing, functional and a fine example of structural rationalism. Comprising a dual configuration of an office block and factory spaces, where it included an external courtyard and an irregular zig-zag pattern garden to the south of the site. The building can be associated with a number of post-war Melbourne designers included, Berenice Harris who documented the building and William Lyle (Bill) Irwin who was the structural engineer, John Stevens, who was responsible for the modern landscape design and Tseitus (Joe) Zikaras for the courtyard sculpture. The collective effort to these individuals, who are distinguished designers and artists in their own right, is a substantial aspect of the building’s cultural significance.

    Curtain walls

    The reconstruction of curtain walls of the former office wing and upper panel of glazing along the length of the original steel structure of the Ballarat Road frontage are primary to the character and appearance of the heritage place. The original curtain wall framing was mill finished aluminium with welded joints between the transoms and mullions. On the south side of the framing was formed of angle sections over a timber core, and the use of extruded aluminium sections on the north side; externally both systems presented the same appearance. In reconstructing the windows, dyes were produced to extrude new aluminium sections that exactly matched the original external dimensions. The finish of the new window frames is ‘clear anodised’, rather than the original ‘mill finish’ that rapidly corrodes and pits. Considerable time, effort, and money were committed to achieving the appearance of the original windows, and extended to having countersunk raised, and slot headed stainless steel screws especially maturated and installed to re-construct the original appearance of the windows.

    Canopy

    Across the Lacy Street frontage, the canopy cover for the parking area has been reconstructed. At the time of the greatest dilapidation of the site, prior to the redevelopment, the original canopy was reduced to the suspended timber purlins below. At the south and over the apron of terrazzo at the entry, the steel beams and their suspension rods had been removed. In its original form the canopy was imported bright aluminium Fural cladding that clipped to the timber purlins. The cost and difficulty in replication of this cladding has led to the use of substitute Zincalume cladding to the soffit. Originally, there was car parking below the canopy perpendicular to the chain-wire fence across the front of the courtyard. Beyond the canopy were two further rows of perpendicular parking with the outer row accessed from Lacy Street. With the adaptation of the site, the parking arrangements have been adapted to provide a defined footpath across the frontage with parallel parking either side, and a drive through underneath the canopy.

    Entrystair

    Due to the years of exposure, the suspended stair of steel and timber was substantially water damaged to the extent that the treads and cladding of the steel support beams have had to be replaced with new timber. The timber panels either side of the beams have been sanded back to clean timber, to allow restoration of the original clear finished appearance.

    Sculpture Reinstatement

    The original courtyard was complimented, soon after completion, with the installation of a cast aluminium sculpture by Tseitus (Joe) Zikaras. The sculpture was mounted on a bluestone boulder set in a sea of white river pebbles. Below the sculpture and pebbles was a concrete dish, along with the pebbles and the boulder base, which has been reconstructed with the sculpture reinstated above.

    Landscape

    The landscape scheme to the frontages of the property has been reconstructed matching the plantings, finishes and elements shown on the original plans and in early photographs. A scheme for the courtyard that was adapted from the original John Stevens’ plans has also been implanted, with the truncation of the courtyard from nine bays to five in length to provide for the new office and café wing on the west side. With the new use, the executives garage on the west of the courtyard and the driveway along the south side were not reconstructed, allowing a slight increase in the north/south extent of the landscape area. At the original front entry to the ETA offices, the raised terrazzo entry has been repaired and the pair of planter boxes to the north and south of this terrazzo apron have been reconstructed in brick matching the original brickwork.

    Check out the time lapse of 254 Ballarat Road ETA Factory coming back to life.

    Download a copy of the Victorian Heritage Database Report here