Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Then and Now: Little Collins Street Looking West

Then: Marc Strizic, ca. 1950-59, Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria 
Now: My own photo, 2010

Mark Strizic's photo offers us an interesting glimpse of Melbourne in the 1950s. The left-hand side of Little Collins Street remains relatively unchanged: both photos show the Victoria Hotel; the side facade of the Melbourne Town Hall; and the gleaming Century Building in the distance. Meanwhile, the right-hand side of the street is virtually unrecognisable! Where the Hunt Hotel and beautiful Town Hall Chambers used to stand, we can now see Council House 2 (CH2) and a car park entrance. 

The Century Building is one of my favourite Art Deco buildings in Melbourne. You can see this bright-white building on the left side of Little Collins Street, just over Swanston Street, in both photographs. It is remarkable how prominent it appears in the older photo whereas its effect is somewhat mitigated these days. The ANZ Building in the distant background dwarfs it and, to me, it seems less impressive as a result. Having said that, it is not necessarily as tall of a building as it might seem, even in the earlier photo. An optical illusion is actually created by the corner tower and vertically elongated window patterns. 

Also featuring in both photos is the Victoria Hotel (left-hand side of the street).  The sign for the restaurant of the hotel can be seen in Strizic's photo. Opened for business in 1880, the Victoria Hotel is one of the oldest in Melbourne. It was originally known as the Victoria Coffee Palace (thanks to Jan S for the tip!) as it was founded by a Temperance League. Coffee palaces were a relatively common alternative to hotels during the early years in Melbourne. Like hotels, they offered accommodation and dining features but, crucially, did not serve alcohol. In order to keep afloat, many of the coffee palaces eventually obtained liquor licenses and transformed into hotels. Meanwhile, the Victoria Coffee Palace was profitable for such a long time that it made the switch only relatively recently in 1967. According to the hotel's website, the facade was repainted in "heritage cream" in 2000. To me, it seems more like a horrible mustard colour which does no favours for the exterior of the building. I cannot understand why they made this choice... Does anybody like this?

The Victoria Coffee Palace (1880)

Also worth a mention is the environmentally friendly Council House 2 (aka CH2) which I have already posted on in more detail (click to it read here). You can see the side facade of this building on the right of Little Collins Street in the new photo. Particularly visible are the so-called Shower Towers (the greyish, transparent tubes, attached vertically to the wall). These are an integral part of the building's innovative cooling system. Instead of using regular (and energy consuming) air-conditioning, water showers down from the top of the tube and the process of evaporation somehow cools the water and air. This air is then sucked from the tube to enter the building! If you are interested in the more scientific and detailed explanation, take a look at the following information on the Council's website by clicking here

Shower Tower of Council House 2 

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