The Forrest Fire Station precinct, which includes the Fire Station and seven residences, is located in Forrest at Section 35, Canberra Avenue, Manuka Circle, Fitzroy Street and Empire Circuit. The seven residences are made up of a two storey house at each of the four street corners, with three two storey duplexes in between. Garages are attached to the residences, acknowledging for the first time the new status of the car. The Fire Station, on Empire Circuit, housed fire engines and duty staff.
The Fire Station was operational from 1939-1983, with the precinct supporting the main ACT Fire Station. The Fire Station is now a museum and the residences have been converted to a variety of offices. The buildings are substantially original and, with the recent redevelopment of the Whitley Houses in Griffith and Braddon, are the last remaining examples of Government sponsored functionalist residential architecture in Canberra.
The Forrest Fire Station and residences were designed by Government architects E H Henderson and Cuthbert Whitley in 1939. E H Henderson was the Chief Architect of the Department of Interior, Works Branch. As such, he had responsibility for the design of the precinct. However, many of the design drawings were signed by Cuthbert Whitley and given the progressive nature of the designs it is likely that he had a significant role.
The residences in particular are very good examples of inter-war functionalist architecture. The Fire Station and residences are built in panels of red and cream face bricks with a regular arrangement of windows and flat roofs concealed by parapets and small cantilevered balconies (on the residences). The interlocking horizontal and vertical elements of the residences relate directly to Willem Dudok’s European modernist architecture in Holland.
The Forrest Fire Station and residences are important examples of inter-war functionalist architecture. They represent the few remaining intact examples of the work of Cuthbert Whitley, one of the key originators of functionalist architecture in Canberra and Australia. Whitley, with Chief Government Architect Edwin Henderson, was responsible for the design of numerous Government buildings in 1930s Canberra.
The Forrest Fire Station and residences are listed on the ACT Heritage Register and the ACT Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) Register of Significant Twentieth Century Architecture. The houses are regarded by the RAIA as being excellent examples of the inter-war functionalist style.
The buildings are located on a landmark site along Canberra Avenue, an important axis leading to Capital Hill. They are also an important link with the early days of Canberra through the history of the ACT Fire Brigade.
Sources and further reading
- Andrew Metcalf, Canberra Architecture, Watermark Press, 2003
- Forrest Fire Station Precinct, Entry to the ACT Heritage Register, 2004
- R Garnett and D Hyndes (eds), The Heritage of the Australian Capital Territory, National Trust, 1992
- Royal Australian Institute of Architects RSTCA Citation No. R29
- Inter-war functionalist architecture
- Willem Dudok