Gallery

Schonell Theatre missing from $300m UQ redevelopment plan

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Excerpt from Westside News – UQ’s St Lucia campus was not fully established till the 1950s. UQ began at old government house in George Street in the early 1900s.

We post this article by Brendan O’Malley in the Westside News about Queensland university’s moves to demolish the UQ Union complex.

It is a shame people can’t see how important it is to keep the whole space built by students and staff, and to wrest control of this workplace from the hands of the University Administration. Get rid of the shopping malls, the fast food joints, the non-union labour!

Ian Curr
Editor WBT
14 Aug 2019

__oOo__

Supporters of a landmark building at Queensland’s biggest university are alarmed that it appears to be missing from an artist’s impression of a new $300 million development.

Artist's impression of how the student hub and Schonell look now, and how they could look after the University of Queensland's makeover. The Schonell is the building on the right of the “existing’’ photo.

Artist’s impression of how the student hub and Schonell look now, and how they could look after the University of Queensland’s makeover. The Schonell is the building on the right of the “existing’’ photo.

Opponents of the redevelopment have been trying to have the precinct heritage listed to save at least some of the buildings, which they say are important to Queensland’s cultural history.

But the University has defended its plans, saying the artist’s impressions were a “concept only’’ and it merely wanted to inform the university community.

It has previously also pointed out that the Schonell did not meet modern standards, including disabilities access, and claimed it would be too expensive to modify.

They have also promised new performance spaces would replace the theatre, which was originally a cinema but has more recently been used for live community productions.

Interview with Lee Duffield from Save UQ Union Complex
Image: Students vote against the Ramsay Centre in the Schonell Theatre
2019

long-time centre of student life built around the forum area, Schonell theatre, refectory and other student union buildings,’’ Campaign to Save the UQ Union Complex chairman, Jeff Rickertt, said.

“The plan is being opposed by a coalition of former and current staff and students and concerned community members.

“This is a glossy prospectus that really lets the cat out of the bag on some aspects that had been foreshadowed earlier, and caused a lot of disquiet.

“Firstly the university appears to be going for a total clearance of the site, leaving no vestiges of all that is valuable.

“Secondly, it affirms the university’s intention to commandeer much of the space for teaching and learning, which have never before intruded into the student hub area.

“Thirdly, it sets up a marketing zone for entrepreneurial activity and service to industry, once again not activities ever before located in the student area.’’

Mr Rickertt said there was no mention of the cultural significance of the existing precinct, nor why opponents were seeking to have it added to the Queensland Heritage Register.

Union offices (far left), outdoor eating area/Pizza Cafe, Schonell (building with bank of windows, sloping red roof and light orange building on far right; artist’s impression of how the precinct could look once redeveloped.

Union offices (far left), outdoor eating area/Pizza Cafe, Schonell (building with bank of windows, sloping red roof and light orange building on far right; artist’s impression of how the precinct could look once redeveloped.

However, the university disputed Mr Rickertt’s claim, saying the website “calls out the heritage process under way and states the project is on hold, pending an outcome’’.

“An application for heritage listing of the entire Student Complex is currently being considered by the Queensland Heritage Council, under a process prescribed by the Queensland Heritage Act 1992,’’ the website stated.

A university spokesman said it had placed the student hub design process on hold, pending an outcome of the Queensland Heritage Council process.

“The images on the website are also captioned ‘concept only’,’’ he said.

“The University wanted to share with our students and staff the future vision for a connected campus, and give them an opportunity to provide feedback through the website questionnaire.

“Today, more than 53,000 students study at UQ. Our vision, subject to the outcome of heritage process, is to provide a student complex that meets their needs well into the future — a bigger, more accessible and inclusive space with integrated support and services, world-class teaching and learning infrastructure, more common areas for students, theatre, and more space for the UQ Student Union and student clubs and societies.

“The University has been transparent about our proposal for the site, that was outlined in our Master Plan (released in 2017).’’

The area has been the site for many students protests over the years, including a raid on the former offices of radio station 4ZZZ.

The distinctive Schonell has also played host to many landmark events in Queensland’s more recent history.

Student Union president Georgia Millroy has previously said the union supported the replacement ­performance venue, but only if the union ran it.

State Greens MP for the area, Michael Berkman, opposed demolition of the Schonell and said a 2015 internal report estimated it could be saved, with refurbishment estimated to cost $12.67 million.

However, the university has previously claimed refurbishment would result in a “compromised’’ performance space and the current cost would likely exceed $12.67 million.

Brendan O’Malley,
Westside News

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