History of site and buildings
The Saxon Street precinct consists of a 19th century residential home and stable and a school building constructed in the 1960s. In 1888 Alfred Cornwell built the heritage house facing the corner of Saxon and Phoenix Streets. Cornwell ran a successful pottery and brickworks studio and also served as a councillor and Brunswick Mayor. The St Ambrose Church acquired the home after Cornwell's death in 1895. From then the site became an educational facility for the church supporting the needs of the Christian Brothers' school in Dawson Street.
Over the years different schools occupied the site including St Ambrose Girls' School in 1963 and Trinity Regional College for Boys in 1969. It was later transferred to the Lebanese order of Antoine Sisters and became the co-educational Trinity Maronite Catholic College, renamed Antoine College in 2005. The school was closed in 2008 and purchased by Moreland City Council in 2010 for use as a community amenity.
The Wurundjeri are the traditional custodians of the area. The relocation of Blak Dot Gallery to the stable is an opportunity to acknowledge the impact of colonisation on Indigenous people connected to this area, as well as the wider Aboriginal community. Its presence illuminates the continuing voices of Indigenous people, strengthening contemporary Aboriginal culture in the built environment and the broader public imagination.
"The heritage house on site was the former residence of Alfred Cornwell, the proprietor of a major pottery and brick works in Brunswick. Built in the Italianate style the mansion was an expression of wealth and social position by a major 19th century industrialist overlooking his businesses.
Moreland City Council is the new owner of 33 Saxon Street, Brunswick and is working towards developing the site into a new community hub. We plan to make it a thriving public space for community groups and events.
However it's going to take several years to fully realise Council's vision for the site. We are keen to work with the community to stage events and activities in the outdoor spaces before the project reaches completion." Moreland City Council
Community-driven active research
The layered history of this site requires an innovative approach to deciding its future. Rather than selling the property to developers or adopting a traditional master planning process, Moreland City Council established an Expressions of Interest for an organisation to run the site over a five-year period. An existing partnership with 3000 Acres and Blak Dot Gallery has already activated the site through community gardens and events.
The site's historical function as a school is considered an important theme informing future use. Through this project, Moreland City Council is keen to engage with diverse groups and individuals to explore different ways to transform the area into a vibrant community-learning hub.
The Projects has been contracted to develop a five-year program inviting groups and individuals to use the buildings and grounds to run activities and events. The process is ongoing and aims to support innovative, experimental and conventional uses.
Inviting the community to activate the school building, heritage house and grounds will inform Moreland City Council's long-term plan for the site. This process becomes active-research. The Projects is the organisation responsible for operating the site, collecting data and documenting how organisations use the site over the next five years. This information, in consultation with Council, will contribute to a permanent outcome for 33 Saxon Street.
The Projects invites groups and individuals to run programs, activities, events and other initiatives on site to generate exciting ideas which will ultimately be incorporated into future planning.