By Tristan Davies
Across the city, gaps in heritage studies have seen a number of character-filled and historic buildings face the wrecking ball.
Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) recently lodged objections to the demolition of The Theosophical building on Russell St, which has also been home to Lewis Music, one of the city’s oldest small businesses, which was established in 1963.
Built in 1923 as a motor showroom and refurbished in 1975 for the Theosophicals, the 1970s-era ground floor and lecture halls are quite intact alongside the 1920s facade, making it not only a layering of architectural styles worth saving, but also an important base for social uses – offering moderate rent for social enterprises and alternative health organisations.
Meanwhile in Little Bourke St, both Melbourne House at 360 and Chart House at 372 are facing full and partial demolition respectively. Melbourne House, a modest 1920s office building, may not be significant on its own, but it plays a coherent part in the intact pre-war streetscape.
Interestingly, it was one of the few buildings in the block left out of upcoming heritage protection in Lovell Chen’s study of the Hardware Lane precinct. Sadly, this means there may be little standing in the way of its demolition.
We also believe that Chart House is important as a rare example of war construction in Melbourne with a fusion of moderne style into post-war modernism. It is also notable that it was built in 1942 for John Donne Maps Sellers, another historic Melbourne business.
Finally, the proposed “revitilsation” of the Walk Arcade into a luxury hotel and upmarket shops is of much concern, as the current proposal would not only see facadism on all sides of some significant buildings such as Diamond House, but also the complete demoliton of one inter-war warehouse on little Collins St that also provides half the blank canvas for Union Lane – one of the few legal street art lanes in the city that gives upcoming street artists a safe place to experiment.
The proposal would replace this wall with entrances to upmarket shops and glass frontages, surely not a good outcome for an iconically grungy Melbourne lane.
If you want to object to any of the above demolitions, find more about them all on our website melbourneheritage.org.au