In April, the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) hosted the inaugural Heritage Trades Show, providing visitors an opportunity to engage with people in the heritage industry and to learn more about being a good custodian of a heritage property - core to the mission of the NTAV's Como Approach.
In 2021, the National Trust launched the Como Approach Action Plan aimed at ensuring that ‘conservation skills are valued and sustained into the future’. A key deliverable of this plan was an annual knowledge sharing forum, and on the last weekend of April the National Trust held its first Heritage Trades Show at Labassa mansion. This event also formed part of the 2023 Heritage Festival and was sponsored by the Heritage Council of Victoria. Visitors and exhibitors were able to wander through the historic mansion and grounds and discover different practitioners in each of the spaces, some performing live demonstrations such as lime slaking or constructing a sash window, and some with static displays of the tools and materials they work with, and photos of work completed. In total, 32 exhibitors and panellists took part in the Heritage Trades Show, including heritage professionals, trades, suppliers, company owners, Holmesglen Institute representatives and their student ambassadors.
An excellent feature of each of the two-day program was a panel discussion, which can now be viewed online as part of the Heritage and Sustainability Webinar Series. On Saturday, the effects of climate change on heritage were discussed and on Sunday, the common ground of the heritage and sustainable building industries. Key reflections included the importance of basic maintenance and materials knowledge to the conservation of building fabric and to ensuring best building performance in challenging climate conditions. The ethos of the conversations positioned the conservation ethos as inherently about sustainability, discussing the embodied carbon and natural resources in our buildings and procesess to extend the building lifecycle as far as possible. They also raised questions about the approach to how we are building today, of the materials we use, and their longevity and their conservation into the future.
The Como Approach breaks down the divisions between heritage and construction professionals such as architects, engineers and heritage consultants, and heritage building trades. Through breaking down this division of labour, through valuing the skill and knowledge of all practitioners and taking a collaborative approach, we can ensure best outcomes for heritage buildings. We intend for this to be an annual event, one where property custodians can learn about how to care for their properties, where young people and adults can be inspired to take up a trade or to study conservation theory, and a place where people already in the industry can network and engage with others in an open and collegiate environment. As the National Trust continues to enact and develop the Como Approach, expect to see more workshops and talks, and both in-situ and online engagement with conservation works. These are fantastic opportunities to interact with skilled practitioners, to learn from real case studies, engage with our amazing property portfolio, and be inspired to conserve.
One attendee noted
“As the owner of a heritage home, I was thrilled to meet tradespeople who really understood heritage and who used appropriate practices. I will definitely be utilising both the knowledge gained; and be requesting quotes from some of the tradespeople to undertake heritage work.”
A big thank you to all the organisations and individuals who made this event:
- SIDA Constructions
- Borthwicks Flooring
- Cathedral Stone
- Wooden Inspirations
- Almond Glass
- Crackerjack Carpentry
- WT Roofing
- Ray Wiltshire and Richard Senior
- Blue Tongue Industries
- Peter Lewis Paints
- Old World Stonemasons
- Rebecca Roberts
- Soft Loud House Architects
- David Young
And a special thank you to the Heritage Council of Victoria for your sponsorship, encouragement, and support.