Forty years a conservation architect
Forty years ago I started work on a field survey of buildings and sites in the flood zone above the Wivenhoe Dam, then under construction on the Brisbane River. That was my first paid job in the conservation field, and I have been working in that field ever since.
The survey was funded by a Commonwealth National Estate Grant to the Esk Shire Council, which engaged the National Trust of Queensland to do the work. After a financial kerfuffle the trust laid off its professional staff, including its senior architect (Richard Allom), and engaged him as a consultant to complete a series of grant-funded projects. The Wivenhoe Dam inundation area study was one of those projects, and Richard employed me to do field work and draft the report.
I drove around the area that included parts of the Wivenhoe, Mount Brisbane and Cressbrook runs ‘taken up’ by squatters in the 1840s, overlaid with a pattern of closer settlement. I recorded and photographed buildings and other structures—homesteads, houses, cottages, humpies, sheds, outhouses, cattle dips, fences, bridges, and so forth. All of the affected land had been bought by the Queensland government and was to be cleared of buildings and trees before the reservoir filled.
In those days before personal computers and digital cameras, I recorded each item on a paper form and later pasted on a black and white silver-gelatin print. The accompanying report described the landscapes and structures as they existed before the dam was built. It also set out a list of things the shire council could do to mitigate the damage to the cultural significance of the area.
As far as I can remember, the council did not take any of those actions. But doing this work encouraged me to make a life as a conservation architect. I worked for Richard for ten years, then worked with him as co-director for another ten. I’ve been a solo practitioner for the last twenty years.
The records of the Wivenhoe survey are now held by the State Library of Queensland, as part of the practice archive.