At the moment, Melbourne is cold and windy. Everyone is rugging up, everyone is wearing black and everyone seems to be sick (myself included!) It's times like these that you may want to step in from the cold to somewhere warm and luxurious. If this is the case, I have the building for you: 333 Collins Street.
I am often surprised by how many Melburnians are not aware of the beautiful dome and lobby of 333 Collins Street. It has to be one of my favourite spaces in the city as its opulence is truly unparalleled. Originally constructed in 1891 for the chambers of the Commercial Bank of Australia, this is one of the most magnificent Victorian versions of an Italian Baroque interior in Melbourne. When you enter the lobby from Collins Street, it is impossible not to be caught up in the sumptuous, theatrical ambience of the place. And to think that this building only narrowly escaped the wrecking ball during 1970s demolition spree!
Thankfully the beautiful chamber and dome were rescued and maintain their grandeur today. Having said that, 333 Collins Street has received two major make-overs in its history. Firstly, in 1939 the front facade of the building was updated to a more modern Chicagoesque style. Then in 1990-91, a 33 storey, postmodern skyscraper was erected slightly back from the original building. This now contains offices, mainly those of investment banks, law firms and the like.
To me, the more recent additions to the building work harmoniously with its heritage. The new areas certainly strive to match the grandeur of the original chamber but, quite wisely, do not try to compete with its theatricality or classical detailing. Thus, the new parts are all about grand proportions, high ceilings, beautiful marble flooring and dulcet lighting. They provide a magnificent annex to the main lobby, while not overshadowing it. Meanwhile, the skyscraper allows for progression and much needed office-space. What do you think about this building?
Lift-Well in the New Annex of the Lobby
Original Chamber with the New Annex Visible on the Right, Below the Clock
333 Collins Street is a magnificent place to step in from the cold this Winter. There are old photographs, diagrams, and a brief history of the old chambers along the walls on the ground floor as you enter. There is also a model of the building which is great for a sense of perspective. If you exit via the newer annex to Flinders Lane, you can also warm up in some of Melbourne's wonderful cafes, including great coffee at Bar Mille and bagels and cakes at Glick's.
Information provided by the historical displays and friendly workers at 333 Collins Street
My own, 2010.