Australian Capital Territory
Place: Fairbairn (North East) precinct of the Canberra Airport. (Previously RAAF Base Fairbairn).
Threat: Damage and demolition
RAAF Base Fairbairn - the national place of arrival and departure for VIPs since 1945 - has presented a distinctive and cohesive RAAF identity in
the National Capital for more than 60 years. The original Base plan and layout, prepared in 1939 by the Chief Commonwealth Architect,
E.Henderson, remains intact. It demonstrates the separation of functions and the traditional social organisation of the RAAF. The development of
the landscape of the base reflects this identity and the evolution of the air-force culture from wartime to peacetime role.
Individual buildings, particularly those from the
WWII era, demonstrate fine examples of the work of Commonwealth architects such as Cuthbert Whitley and J. Orwin. These structures, in brick
as well as timber, demonstrate surprising detailing despite wartime conditions and the ‘industrial’ purpose of the facilities. The place
presents as the quiet, ordered, humble home of the Royal Australian Air Force in the National Capital and demonstrates features of both a
military base and a traditional Canberra suburb.
Management control of the site is now formally split, and as there is no apparent Conservation Management Plan, the risk of demolition, neglect
and inappropriate development decisions being taken is very high. The Airport’s Master Plan clearly states as an objective: redevelopment of
former RAAF Base Fairbairn for business and commercial development’.
Actions since September 2002, (including the
demolition of Building 56, the School of Instruction Building, listed as an Endangered Place in 2002), have already demonstrated the threat to
the site. Change and development decisions are being made on a case-by-case, ad-hoc basis, and are being taken without a ‘place’ or ‘precinct’
In light of the remaining historical, social and architectural integrity of the site, a thorough Heritage Assessment and Conservation Management
Plan must be completed and placed on the public record now - and used - before any more changes to the place or parts of the place are proposed
and approved by the relevant authorities.