Fairhaven pole house to be replaced
Builders have moved in to demolish the famous pole house overlooking the Great Ocean Road in Fairhaven.
ARCHITECT Frank Dixon, who designed and built one of the Great Ocean Road's most-photographed attractions, the Fairhaven pole house, is "sad" but resigned it will be torn down this week.
The house built by Mr Dixon in the 1970s on top of a 15-metre tall concrete pole has commanding 360-degree views of one of the state's most popular stretches of coastline.
The tiny 8-metre by 8-metre timber structure will be replaced by a similar-sized, architect-designed, steel-clad house on the same platform.
Architect reminisces as wrecking ball nears
Strangers would make their way onto the balcony of the 'pole house' on the Great Ocean Road and dispose of their cigarette butts there.
"In many ways it is a sad thing. I've got used to the idea of losing it now, but initially I was fairly concerned," Mr Dixon said.
Pole house owner Kathi Adams told The Age last year the new home will feature retractable floor-to-ceiling windows, a perimeter walkway with a glassed balustrade, and a floating fireplace in the living area.
The original house had drawbacks: none of the windows opened, making it hot and stuffy in summer and occupants sitting at the old fireplace had their back to the view, Ms Adams said.
Another two-storey, three bedroom dwelling will be built on the cliff-top behind.
But the Dixon family, who sold the holiday home in 2005 for $1.75 million, have objected to the pole house's destruction.
The family lodged an interim protection order against the demolition with Victoria's Heritage Council last July and applied to have the home put on the state heritage list.
An expert witness at the December hearing, architect Nigel Lewis, suggested there was "clear evidence" the home fitted the list's criteria.
"The Dixon pole house is one of the most striking and unusual examples of an 'experimental house' which takes risks and which may serve as a design prototype," Mr Lewis said.
"The design of a dwelling on a pole is unique in Victoria, and rare elsewhere," he said.
But the Heritage Council rejected the application, saying it was "not of importance above a local level" and should be included by the local Surf Coast Council in its heritage overlay.
Ms Adams declined to comment on the controversy.
Surf Coast CEO Stephen Wall said the rebuilding work would retain the pole structure, walkway and silhouette of the house.
Mr Dixon, who turns 90 on Australia Day, said: "My family did the best they could to try and preserve it and failed.
"The heritage panel in their wisdom decided it was not good enough to preserve."
While the house is unlikely to survive demolition, it has outlasted three bushfires, including the infamous 1983 Ash Wednesday blaze which razed many coastal homes in the area.
"It was designed with bushfires very much in mind," Mr Dixon said.
As a rental property, it fetches $550 a night in high season.
And while popular with tourists, "there's a proportion of locals who would be very glad to see it go," Mr Dixon said.
"They considered it an eyesore, a blight on the neighbourhood. My personal attitude is that it makes the district more attractive."
Mr Dixon, who conceived the house while recovering from a surfing accident, said it always attracted interest from passers-by.
"Even at 2 o'clock in the morning they'd walk around the balcony on the outside and make comments that wouldn't be printable.
"We heard the whole lot, of course," he said.