The Bloomberg Building London and the Mithraeum Temple

There is a fresh new approach to history, to heritage and to the simple irreplaceable priceless relics and architecture of the past. This weeks story is about an amazing discovery in London of a Roman Temple, dedicated to Mithras, the Celestial Bull Slayer. Originally it was uncovered during bomb site and bomb crater restoration works in 1954. Over 30,000 people lined up to view the site during its recovery. It had been buried under 7 metres of earth over time. Known as the Mithraeum, it was inexpertly reconstructed 100m away using new stones to fill gaps. This was 8 years later, after it had been ‘stored’ in a builders wrecking yard.


All the Artefacts were claimed by the Museum of London, whilst priceless items such as the original timber benches were simply thrown away. The original temple was a dark place – literally with no windows and lit by flaring oil soaked torches.

The Temple of Mithras

Mithras was a virile young God. For many today practicing ‘Christianity’ it may be surprising to know that December 25th was the most important day of the calendar of Mithras. In Constantinople when Roman Emperor Constantine transitioned Rome towards being a Christian empire, one of the concessions was to incorporate Mithran feast days into the Christian Calendar.


The Temple was built next to a river. One tenth of all Roman objects on display in the Museum of London come from various excavations on this patch of land.

The Reconstruction

To the present – the site was selected as the European Headquarters for the Tech and Media giant corporation – Bloombergs. Its founder Michael Bloomberg considered that his company was now the stewards of the ancient building and its artefacts.

“London has a long tradition as a crossroads for culture and business and we are building on that tradition” he said.

Although the location has seen the original site suffer destruction from the building works previously carried out there (through deep basements), there was still a substantial archeological layer that survived. Objects such as the oldest hand written wooden tablets – the oldest handwritten documents ever found in Britain were preserved. In them was found the first recorded usage of the word ‘Londinium’. When Bloomberg purchased the site in 2009 it announced its plans to rebuild the Temple of Mithras within its new European Headquarters.

bloomburg building

And now it has certainly delivered. Inside its ‘glassy, waffle shaped’ building is a full reconstruction of the original temple, a part of the three storey London Mithraeum Space, now open to the public.

The first floor houses impressive artefacts discovered during the first and subsequent archeological digs on the site – displayed behind glass. Here you’ll find the pre-mentioned wooden tablets – one from AD57 – all handwritten documents, some of the oldest in Britain as well as worn leather shoes, broken pots and other pieces.

wooden tablet

But below ground is a spectacular concept, a re-imagining of the original temple. It was built using mud-castes and archival material. This was a place that was essentially a Mens Club, where drinking, misbehaving and debauchery (so it is said) occurred in celebration of the young Bull Slayer Mithras. As has been noted, London’s financial district has not changed so very much for a millennium!


The Temple features audio for visitors giving people the atmosphere and that sense of being in a living space. Latin chants with light effecting the vision of walking through the dusty ruins of antiquity. It is the essence of the Roman ‘Londinium’.

Architecturally what is extraordinary is the effort to which Bloomberg has gone to to incorporate this incredible feature into its essentially very modern building.


It is a perfect example of providing a sympathetic and accurate hand in preserving history, heritage and culture – even when that culture has long passed. It is no less relevant to our most recent histories here in Australia. Preserve our buildings, our architecture and our culture. And in 2000 years time what will archeologists find here in Melbourne? A fast food outlet? A carpark? or a series of extraordinary buildings preserved with care and precision, and a cultural heritage that has been respected and protected.

Ahh Development – It can be done well you know… It can be done better

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Moonee Valley Racing Club releases $2 Billion Redevelopment Plan


Balance Architecture and its principal Architect Andrew Fedorowicz note with interest the release of the proposed redevelopment of the Moonee Valley Racing Club track over the next 15 years at an estimated cost of $2 Billion. The only building not slated for demolition on the current site is the Moonee Valley Legends Gaming Room and Bistro situated on the corner of Wilson St and Thomas St. This building was designed by none other than… Andrew Fedorowicz!


It gives a panoramic and sweeping view of the track. With the new finish line, the view from the dining room and its verandah will be right down the finishing straight.

Please view our previous blog on Moonee Valley Racetrack

From our perspective there are still a number of heritage issues that will need to be addressed.


The Horse Stalls and ‘Birdcage’ with its century old Peppercorn trees, Manikato’s grave, and a number of other heritage items will need to be addressed, their future spelt out and if part of a heritage overlay, the protection to be offered and how these elements will remain in synchronisation with the Race Club and its track.

Here we reprint the press announcement:

$2 Billion Moonee Valley development plans unveiled

AMBITIOUS plans to transform Moonee Valley into a world-leading racing facility flanked by residential and business precincts have been revealed.

Dubbed “The Vision for the Valley”, the $2 billion redevelopment project could start as early as next year, and it ​could take 15 years to complete.

Racing at the venue would be suspended during construction but Moonee Valley Racing Club hopes the iconic Cox Plate meeting, recently won by wonder mare Winx for a third successive time, would be unaffected.


“There are two options we are currently exploring,” MVRC chief executive Michael Browell said.

“Ideally, we don’t lose a Cox Plate meeting at Moonee Valley and that will be dependent on the construction of the new grandstand and new track.

“Alternatively, if Moonee Valley is unavailable for the Cox Plate meeting, we would look to work with Racing Victoria and the other clubs to transfer it to either Flemington or Caulfield.”

Current plans are for the bold ​grandstand ​redevelopment to start after the 2020 Cox Plate, the centenary of the world’s equal-highest rated turf race.

The key points of the master plan are:

MVRC Masterplan and Development Guidelines_Rev M for Issue.indd

CONSTRUCTION of a futuristic grandstand along the site’s northern boundary, with views to city skyline.

THE release of 9ha on the site of the present grandstand to joint venture partners Hostplus and Hamton for residential development.

FUNDS generated from the land sale would fund track reconfiguration and grandstand construction.

BUILDING OF a new track surface, grandstand and infield likely to start after the 2020 Cox Plate.

NEW track to be 1702m in circumference, with the home straight extended from 173m to 317m.

RELOCATION of the stabling area to the infield, part of which would be transformed into sporting and entertainment areas.

MARKETING for the first residential precinct to start next year.

The plan has the support of Victorian Minister for Racing Martin Pakula.

“I congratulate the MVRC on its vision and I’m confident that it will ensure an exciting future for racing at the Valley,” he said.

Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said: “This is an exciting development for the Moonee Valley Racing Club and the wider Victorian racing industry and the Racing Victoria board is very supportive of the club’s plans.

“We look forward to working with the club to help ensure their vision for the project is realised.”

MVRC Masterplan and Development Guidelines_Rev M for Issue.indd

The plan has the support of Victorian Minister for Racing Martin Pakula. Picture: Hamish BlairMVRC chairman Don Casboult.

MVRC chairman Don Casboult said The Valley’s redevelopment was a “history-making moment.”

“It will deliver a huge range of benefits for the entire community over the next century,” he said.

“The scale and ambition of this project is unparalleled. `The Valley of Tomorrow’ will respect our great heritage while creating a wonderful new environment for all to enjoy.”

Under the plans, construction of the first townhouse would start in 2018-19.
About 2000 residential dwellings will be built, comprising townhouses and apartment buildings.

The balance of the mixed-use project will consist of retail and entertainment facilities, commercial office space and community and wellbeing spaces.
The racetrack infield will be used for outdoor events run by the club and also sport and recreation.

Discussions will continue with local council and the state government to determine the final mix of uses.


Here is the same announcement from the Developers perspective

Moonee Valley Racing Club Launch $2bn Vision for Urban Precinct

The Moonee Valley Racing Club has revealed plans for a massive $2 billion urban lifestyle precinct, adding retail and residential elements and transforming the track into one of the “world’s greatest nighttime racing venues”.

The racing club has appointed superannuation fund Hostplus and property developer Hamton to redevelop the racecourse into an integrated precinct.


Around nine hectares of the 40-hectare site owned by Moonee Valley Racing Club will be available for development by the Hostplus-Hamton venture. The proposed masterplan will be refined over the next 12 months and will likely include opportunities for mixed-use and medium- to high-density residential development with building heights of up to 25-storeys allowed within central parts of the site.

The racetrack will be realigned, widened and the home straight extended from the current 173 metres to 317 metres. Payments by the Hostplus-Hamton venture to the club will facilitate the construction of the club’s new grandstand and racetrack.

The site has already been rezoned to a combination of activity centre zoning and mixed-use zoning.

“The redevelopment will see MVRC cement its position as one of the world’s premier racing clubs and will reinvigorate the Valley as an iconic Melbourne destination of the 21st century,” Hostplus chief executive David Elia said.

“This investment will also complement our diversified portfolio and deliver strong risk-adjusted returns to members over the long-term.”

The site is six kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD and a short walk from Moonee Ponds rail station.

MVRC Masterplan and Development Guidelines_Rev M for Issue.indd

Hamton chairman Paul Hameister said the redevelopment of the entire site will be considered as an integrated precinct that provides “a great place to live, work and visit, with new public parks and facilities, food and beverage, complementary retail, innovative work-spaces and world class residential homes.”

“Part of the masterplan refinement over the coming months will include engagement with key stakeholders, including the community, to learn more about local priorities for Moonee Valley,” Hameister said.

A new network of public spaces will also be created within the racecourse precinct to provide a diversity of open space for the local community to enjoy.

The permit for the first stage is expected to be lodged early in 2018, and construction for the entire masterplanned development is expected occur in stages over the next 20 years.


From our perspective this may well be an interesting development. Moonee Valley is to some extent the track that grew ‘like topsy’. The Grandstands are somewhat dated as are the catering facilities and admin offices. The one thing that probably is quite unique apart from the aforementioned Horse Stalls and Birdcage area is the old Totaliser building located at the back of the Grandstands. Totaliser buildings were extraordinary in that the boards displayed required quite intricate mechanisation and rather high extensions for the displays. The ‘Totes’ were probably one of the first public displays of timely mathematical computations, where the Tote bets received altered the odds displayed in real time. Quite revolutionary for the times.

So what do our readers and followers think of this very large proposed development? Will it enhance the Moonee Valley precinct or debilitate it? You be the judge. Til next week

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Geelong Gaol – 19th century Old Geelong Gaol up for sale

It would seem that old Gaols make a great development prospect. Built in 1864, the Geelong Gaol is heritage listed. It has been offered for sale as of last weekend.

Geelong agents Colliers International have listed the property. There is a two stage Expression of Interest campaign being run by the group on behalf of the City of Greater Geelong


Colliers, Geelong agent Andrew Lewis said at least six local parties, including three of five property developers that were keen to buy the site prior to the campaign, had already flagged their intention to bid for the property.


The iconic 19th century gaol was once home to Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, after he was transferred there when another inmate in Pentridge Prison cut Chopper’s ears off in 1984. Squizzy Taylor has also served time inside the prison.

Mr Lewis had previously told the Advertiser he knew of at least four local parties — all developers or hospitality operators, that would be keen to buy it.

He said the council is involved in the two-stage sale process in vetting proposals against a set of heritage guidelines to seek an outcome beneficial to the community.

Buyers with proposals the council considered satisfactory would be short-listed before price would come into the equation, he said.

“As long as we get to a point where we’ve got a couple of proposals that we’re happy with and their intentions are clear and they understand they’ll look after the building going forward by way of a schedule of maintenance, then it will come down to the bidding,” Mr Lewis said.


A heritage guideline report would provide a framework for buyers, but parties could negotiate with the council to seek an outcome, he said.

“Obviously, complete demolition is never going to be an option. And substantial variation of the cell block isn’t really an option either,” Mr Lewis said.

“But the block has additional buildings added over the years and we can look at those being removed, demolished or altered.

“There’s a lot of land there and a lot of land that isn’t being used by the cell block that could be used.”


The site measures 9423sq m, with a potential development area of 3993sq m with a Residential Growth zoning.

It’s a similar sale process used by St Mary’s Parish when it sold the heritage-listed St Mary’s Hall and former school site in 2009 by vetting tenders on the net community benefit before accepting a bid from Common Equity Housing Ltd, which planned to build up to 150 apartments in two parcels around the heritage-listed school building and hall.
“We don’t want to be touching the heritage buildings, but you’ve got additional land to work on,” Mr Lewis said.


Mr Lewis wouldn’t reveal a price guide for the site.

“The council hasn’t asked us to value the asset. They’ve got valuations of their own,” Mr Lewis said.

“They’ve said their goal is not to maximise the sale value but rather to maximise the outcome for the community going forward.”

But he added that selling the gaol would also eliminate a significant liability on the council’s finances.

The council has previously estimated the maintenance backlog for the gaol was at least $1.56 million.


When considering what has occurred at the former Pentridge Prison site in Coburg it is somewhat disturbing to contemplate what may occur in Geelong. We note that no such fate occurred at the Old Melbourne Gaol, the Melbourne Magistrates Court or the former Melbourne Lock-Up in Russell St. The Old Melbourne Gaol was constructed commencing in 1839 and completed by 1842 – 22 years earlier that the Geelong Gaol.

However the original Geelong Gaol is recorded as being built in 1864, it took a long time to construct with work commencing in 1849 – 7 years after Old Melbourne Gaol was completed.

The Gaol was built by Prisoners who slept on prison barges in Corio Bay during the construction period.


It is an integral part of Victoria’s history and its rather stark architecture speaks of darker times and bleak lives for the unfortunate souls condemned to live out their days there.

The extraordinary fact is that such a cruel institution with such basic facilities was still operational only 26 years ago in 1991. It was never served with plumbing to the cells and all prisoners still used a bucket – in 1991! No heating, no air conditioning. Hell in Summer or Winter.

A brutal place, but a significant heritage precinct. It will be interesting to see what the Developers come up with and what ultimately the Greater City of Geelong is prepared to accept. Will it be that the well heeled denizens of Geelong will get to sleep in luxury apartments where others just withered away and died over the years? Time will tell.

Historic Photos from Geelong Gaol

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Como House – The National Trust’s Jewel in the Crown

Standing proudly on a hill overlooking the Yarra River to the North, South Yarra to the West and South and Toorak to the East stands stately Como House.

Como House, constructed 1847

Como House, situated in the City of Stonnington was constructed in 1847, owned by Sir Edwards Eyre Williams. Sir Edward was a Lawyer, Barrister and ultimately a Supreme Court Judge in the early colony, which at that stage was barely 2 years old. In 1852 it was sold to Frederick Dalgety, a well known investor. He in turn sold it to a Mr John Brown in 1853. Brown was a master builder. He accomplished a great transformation of the property, adding a second storey and creating the spectacular gardens and grounds under the direction of the renowned Landscape Designer and gardener Mr William Sangster. By 1861, Brown was broke, bankrupt and the mortgage foreclosed. Mr Charles Armytage purchased the property in 1864 for £14,000 (pounds). The Armytage family held possession until 1959 – 95 years in total – when it passed to the care of the then recently formed National Trust.

Described by the National Trust as ‘an intriguing mix of Australian Regency and classic Italianate Architecture, the property is one of the area’s, if not Melbourne’s, last surviving relics of the Gold Rush era. The former owners the Armytages were considered the pinnacle of high society for over a century and the property gives an excellent view and insight into their lives of privilege and comfort.

The current dining rooms and receptions still hold the furnishings provided by the Armitage family. With its Historic Ballroom, its fountains and its gardens it remains a popular venue for weddings and events – only 5km from the Melbourne CBD.

The Kitchen wing on the Western side dates back to the 1840s. The Ballroom wing on the East side was constructed in the 1870s, supervised by Architect Arthur Johnson, when extensions were added. Internal woodwork is cedar whilst the floors are teak. Very few changes have occurred since the 1870s so the building is a microcosm of life for the wealthy few of the 19th Century. Not surprisingly, the Armytage family were successful pastoralists. For many years the house was the centre of social activity for Melbourne’s elite. The ballroom floor was one of the first sprung timber floors in the colony, with chains being used as springs to ensure a smooth and pliable dance floor.

Servant’s quarters were set away from the main house.

The house itself is surrounded by verandahs with cast iron balustrading and a parapeted tower at the rear. The ground floor verandah with timber arcading and cast-iron pickets is unusual yet the finished image is that of a most atypical verandah.


Architect Arthur Johnson was a most talented architect, also working on the Melbourne General Post Office, Melbourne Church of England Grammar School and the Melbourne Law Courts. He was Charles Armytage’s brother in law. Charles Armytage married Caroline, and they raised their ten children at Como. Charles died in 1909. Daughters Constance, Leila and Laura lived on at Como with Constance and Leila facilitating the sale to the National Trust in 1959. It was the first house purchased by the National Trust and the sisters ensured that the Trust maintained the original integrity of their family seat. All furniture and the complete contents were sold to the Trust including an extensive archive of diaries, letters, journals and photographs. It is this social context and history that brings Como to life.

Caroline Armytage was a pioneering woman who taught her own children along with those of Fulham Station’s (their original property near Geelong) workers and the indigenous children as well. She needed to be independent and an effective manager. In her Forty Forth year, Charles died, aged 52 of Pancreatic cancer leaving her to manage the family’s large portfolio of properties and investments. She also had nine children aged from 9 upwards to raise having lost her youngest to Diptheria in 1872.

This was a grand estate covering 54 acres (21.9 hectares) with a large staff of servants. The property was greatly reduced after Caroline’s death and the settlement of her will.

The estate was subdivided into 64 allotments. The remaining house and garden was purchased by Mr John Buchan on behalf of the three Armytage sisters Ada, Laura and Leila. [The auction took place on the 25th of February 1911]

In 1921, the Armytage family sold 35 acres of Como’s river frontage. Only 5 acres remained of the house and garden. But it is Melbourne’s extremely good fortune that this wonderful property survived the excesses of modernity and was saved by the National Trust.


This time we will let pictures describe the beauty of the building, its grounds, gardens and history.

What is happening now in Victoria is not dissimilar to the vandalism and wanton destruction of the 1950s when the National Trust first came into existence to protect our precious heritage, identifying heritage homes and ensuring their preservation through either purchase or classification..

Its time again now to further refine and strengthen our protections on the architectural heritage and rich history of Melbourne and Greater Victoria. We must guard carefully the remaining treasures.

Balance Architecture fully supports the National Trust and the Heritage Council of Victoria in their endeavours to protect our precious buildings and history.

You can visit Como House from Friday to Sunday between 10am and 3pm or book a tour. [The house is closed this weekend 11/12 November]. Go to the National Trust site and click on Como House for further detail.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Heritage Listing, an interesting case

At Balance Architecture and Interior Design we like to offer ‘balanced’ viewpoints. In the heart of the Melbourne CBD lies a fairly significant dilemma – the Heritage listed carpark at 180 Russell St.

Total Carpark from Russell Street, with Total house office above

The site is now listed on the Victorian State Heritage Register. This sounds impressive, but in reality there are over 1971 Heritage sites listed in Melbourne’s CBD ranging from buildings to features such as stained glass through to well – carparks. Notably at this point the Russell St Theatre located at 19-25 Russell St does not appear to have achieved Heritage Listing.


There were differing views prior to the listing of the Total Carpark for Heritage Listing. Here is a reprint of the Age article of August 9th, 2014. The author provides a rather entertaining insight into the listing of the site and those who would choose it was otherwise.

‘Ugly’ car park in heritage legal fight

The owners of a 1960s Chinatown car park have challenged its controversial heritage listing, arguing such protection is ‘‘irrational’’ while fighting to build a hotel tower on the site.

The Total House car park on Russell Street, once labelled ‘‘ugly’’ by Planning Minister Matthew Guy, secured a place on the heritage register in April due to its cultural significance.

The building, completed in 1965, is made up of seven concrete decks of above-ground parking, a nightclub, and a small box-shaped office. It’s considered to be an early example of Brutalist architecture in Victoria and a key site from the post-war car ownership boom.

But the site’s new owner, AXF Group, is fighting the heritage listing and wants to demolish the car park to build a glittering skyscraper.

In legal documents filed in the Victorian Supreme Court, the developer’s lawyers argue the heritage listing process was flawed on over a dozen grounds.

The Heritage Council of Victoria should have taken economic issues into account, thus making the listing ‘‘irrational, illogical or not based on findings or inferences of fact supported by logical grounds,’’ according to the court documents.

The developer’s lawyer, Stuart Morris, QC, told court on Friday that while development plans had stalled, wind tunnelling tests were still continuing.

The National Trust’s Paul Roser said the emerging legal battle could be a key moment in heritage protection. ‘‘The fight is clearly on to preserve our significant post-war modernist legacy,’’ he said.

The site was snapped up by AXF in 2012, reportedly for $40 million, and has been listed as ‘‘Sovereign Plaza’’ in legal filings. Early plans for the site show a 70-storey hotel and apartment tower decorated in gold and silver, but only if the car park can be torn down.
With its distinctive design, the Heritage Council found the existing car park was a ‘‘landmark’’ while the nightclub, most recently known as Billboard, was ‘‘the most extravagant nightclub experience in the city’’ when it opened nearly 40 years ago.
Melbourne Heritage Action Group originally nominated Total House for the heritage register. Spokesman Tristan Davies said the developer’s economic arguments were already tested during the heritage listing process.

“It doesn’t have to remain as a car park. There could be a few adapted reuses for it,” he said.

CBRE property director Mark Wizel said the case wouldn’t deter other Chinese investors from buying up 1960s-era buildings out of fear of facing a similar heritage battle. That’s because property owners still have an avenue of appeal, he said.

‘‘This shows the transparency of our planning system and our legal system,” he said.

A hearing for a court challenge is not expected until early next year.


Note the lawyer specialising in ‘Development’ and Heritage cases is a Mr Stuart Morris QC. Familiar? Mr Morris is currently representing the Corkman ‘Demolisher’ Developers.

But let’s look at the other side of the coin. Dr Alan Davies – the Urbanist frequently writes blogs for Crikey amongst others. He is a principal of the Melbourne based economic and planning consultancy Pollard Davies Consulting.

Here is his article in Crikey at the time, the second he had written on the subject.

Architectural merit: has this building got enough to save it?

There’re moves to preserve this 1960s “brutalist” building, but it’s architectural distinction is questionable. It’s unoriginal, uninspired and captures little of the vision of the movement.


Total Car Park, Russell Street, Melbourne

Last week I discussed moves to place a 1965 modernist building in Melbourne – the Total Car Park – on the Victorian State Heritage Register.

The point I sought to make is protecting buildings imposes costs on the wider community. We therefore want to be very sure the buildings we protect from redevelopment are really worth the cost.

I’ve subsequently had a closer look at the claims of architectural and historical distinction made for this building.

Its defenders worry its design virtues will be overlooked because it’s primarily a car park. I don’t think that matters – my conclusion is its intrinsic architectural merit is not only insufficient to justify formal preservation, it isn’t especially compelling on any level.

Commenters at Melbourne Heritage Action, the group leading the charge to register the building, think it’s worthy of preservation because it resembles, variously, a “1980s Apple Mac”, “something out of The Thunderbirds” and an “old-fashioned TV set”.

I acknowledge it’s interesting to a newer generation, but I don’t think the fact it evokes (unintended) similes in the minds of some observers is adequate grounds for preservation.

The fact that none of these references would’ve made sense when the building was constructed reinforces that doubt. By definition, they’re not historical claims at all.

Indeed, I think the architect would’ve been horrified at the time by references of this type. He had pretensions to something much grander and more formal i.e. Japanese brutalism.

According to the write-up of the building in Melbourne City Council’s i-Heritage database (which only gives it a ‘B’ rating, incidentally):

Pre-cast or off-form concrete finishes successfully complete the prevailing Japanese Brutalist image, particularly that of the much lauded Kenzo Tange (see balustrade detail of the Kagawa Town Hall). More than any other multi storey commercial building in Melbourne, this design achieves the closest empathy with Tange’s work as well as a powerfully expressed, yet functional set of forms……

The ‘Statement of Significance’ says:

Melbourne’s most significant Japanese Brutalist design, achieving empathy with the style without plagiarism. Also a distinctive treatment of an adventurous use-combination, unmatched in form elsewhere in Victoria if not Australia.

Well, I think there’s an alternative interpretation: that it’s a derivative, second-rate implementation that captures none of the inspiration of the original style.

The second exhibit (scroll down) shows an image of a museum completed in 1960 by Japanese architect Kiyonori Kikutake. It’s a building that would’ve undoubtedly been familiar at the time to architects elsewhere.

I think it looks remarkably similar to the office “pod” on top of the Total Car Park.

The third exhibit (scroll down) shows the balustrade of the Kagawa Town Hall by the very famous Japanese architect of the era, Kenzo Tange. Again, the balustrade looks quite similar to the balustrade on the Total Car Park.

The i-Heritage database goes on to laud the structural design of the car park:

The base itself also consists of seemingly floating parking decks and the bland curtain wall of the office level is recessed so far as to appear almost disembodied from its frame. All of this was achieved with two-way cantilevering of the concrete slabs, done elegantly with cruciform beam cross-heads.

These details can be seen in the slide show provided by Melbourne Heritage Action.

But compare this building with how the cruciform beam cross-heads were executed by Tange in the Kagawa Town Hall. The Total Car Park looks like a bland, insipid imitation.

There’s subjectivity in these sorts of judgement of course, but to my eye it seems like certain elements in the Tange architectural vocabulary were picked up and applied directly in Melbourne.

I don’t have a sense that they’ve been creatively and imaginatively adapted to local circumstances, or even applied in ways that would justify terms like “interpretation”, “inspiration”, or “empathy”.

Here are some other buildings from the era by Kenzo Tange – Hiroshima Peace Palace (1955), Yoyogi National Gymnasium (1964), Yamanashi Culture Chamber (1966).

The designer of Total Car Park, who would’ve known of them, shows very little of the assurance and understanding of the brutalist style that Tange exhibits.

Whether one likes this style or not, Tange’s clearly on another plane. Those are buildings worth preserving.

The Total Car Park, by comparison, is dull, plodding and, to be frank, imitative. It’s a journeyman’s design.

It has pretensions to the Japanese Brutalist style, but it’s unoriginal, derivative, offers nothing new in its interpretation and captures none of the vision or energy of the movement.

It doubtless functioned well and satisfied users over the years and I can see why some think it’s “wacky”. But I can’t see a case for preserving it on the grounds of architectural distinction.


Museum designed by Kiyonori Kikutake (1960)


Kagawa Prefectural Government Office, designed by Kenzo Tange (1958)



It would appear to be somewhat of a divided opinion on this particular building. What do you think? Is it meritorious? Does it provide a unique perspective on the times it was constructed? It is a very valuable piece of Real Estate. Do you think that given the State Government overruled a Heritage listing for the first time earlier this week (the APM Boiler House in Fairfield) that Heritage Listings such as this will stand unchallenged?

From a National Perspective the following locations feature on the National Heritage List here in Victoria:

  • Abbotsford Convent
  • Bonegilla Migrant Camp – Block 19
  • Echuca Wharf
  • Eureka Stockade Gardens
  • Flemington Racecourse (the old Grandstand was recently demolished
  • Glenrowan Heritage Precinct
  • HMVS Cerberus
  • High Court of Australia (former)
  • ICI Building (former)
  • Melbourne Cricket Ground (completely new Grandstands)
  • Murtoa No. 1 Grain Store
  • Newman College
  • Point Cook Air Base
  • Point Nepean Defence Sites and Quarantine Station Area
  • Rippon Lea House and Garden
  • Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens
  • Sidney Myer Music Bowl
  • St Kilda Road and Environs

There appears to be little rhyme or reason to selection on this list or for that matter on the State Heritage Lists. It comes down to opinion. Of those we have listed, 7 sites have undergone or are undergoing very significant change in more recent times. It is precisely for this reason that our suggestion is to convene a summit of involved and interested parties to qualify, identify and protect our true Heritage buildings based on Architecture, history and community expectations and usage.


Old Member’s Grandstand at Flemington Racecourse

So at 3pm (or thereabouts) when the horses thunder down the track at Flemington and head into the straight to finish their two mile romp, look across to the right of screen at the construction project – the new Grandstand. That’s where the original Grandstand stood and the delightful ornate Grandstand that replaced it in the 1920s also stood. It’s gone, like last week’s pay, as probably will be your selection as they cross the line. But be comforted in the fact. Flemington Racecourse is Heritage Listed.

Back next week after a short break. Good luck on Tuesday.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.