Next to the wonderful, spectacular Gothic Bank on Collins St there’s a side entry up a few stairs.
During business hours if you wander in and head down the back you’ll find an amazing, empty, Gothic-style hall, complete with groin vaults and a stained-glass window.
The aptly named Cathedral Room has been connected to the bank since the 1920s, but wasn’t built for it – it was actually built as part of the 1891 Stock Exchange next door, a building designed by William Pitt that was even more extravagant than William Wardell’s design for the ES&A Bank, built in 1883-87, which famously cost twice its budget.
Thirty years later the exchange sold out to the bank, which liked its ornate banking chamber so much, it copied all the internal details of the chamber and doubled its size by building into the exchange. You can hardly tell from inside. In the process though, the elaborate Gothic entrance to the Stock Exchange was lost.
Then in 1989 the ANZ Bank decided to build its world headquarters office tower behind and, as a trade-off for extra height, created a banking museum, restored all the old buildings, but also demolished parts of the backs to create a couple of glassed-in atriums.
In 2016 the bank moved to the Docklands, and sold everything except the Gothic Bank to a developer, who is now proposing to put a café into the Cathedral Room, re-instate 1920s windows at the back (removed in the last restoration), turn the atriums into open light wells, connect to surrounding laneways, and demolish the recreated Stock Exchange entry to put back lifts which were demolished in the 1990s!
This is all very complicated, and it’s hard to say whether all of the proposal is good or not but anything that gets more people in to see the wonderful Cathedral Room, even filled with the clutter of a café, is probably a good