Walking Melbourne


1960 - 1969

Although Melbourne has a history of rapid demolition and building, the 1960s saw the most aggressive and destructive campaign of urban re-newal in the history of the city of Melbourne. Whole blocks of buildings were wiped out in a construction boom that was fuelled by a mining boom in the late 1960s. Mining giants such as BHP and Rio Tinto emerged to build large corporate headquarters, whilst financials such as AMP and National Mutual followed suit. The introduction of plot ratio planning controls to encourage walking space enabled even taller buildings, some set self-referentially on their own giant windswept plazas.

Melbourne aspired to follow New York's lead of massive urban renewal, and a seemingly endless stream of block consolidations and demolitions began. State and council government led the way, with many grand renewal plans were hatched during this time, including the demolition of the landmark Flinders Street Station for a plaza, the demolition of an entire block for the city square (which did go ahead), the planned renewal of the entire stretch of Bourke street east of Swanston Street for a new civic centre and the Gas and Fuel corporation towers (since demolished) - part of an ill-conceived but unrealised plan to cover the Princes gate railway yards with a collection of tall office buildings. The focus of renewal was on Melbourne's famous Collins street - and it's fantastic collection of boom-style towers.

Cars placed enormous pressure to build new freeways and an influx of immigrants, mainly Italian and Greek started a massive high-rise public housing commission scheme in the inner suburbs causing the mass demolition of inner city areas that previously consisted of Victorian terraces. Commuters using cars caused many buildings to be cleared to make way for carparks, and multi-storey carparks began to appear in this period. The first major suburban shopping malls, such as Chadstone in the south east emerged, attempting to lure people away from traditional street strip shopping.

Theatres and grand hotels, so much part of life in early Melbourne had by the 1960s become redundant and old-fashioned, and most were razed.

Nevertheless, these destructive booms did produce a number of classic modern buildings for Melbourne. However despite the heritage listing of BHP house, Melbourne's stock of 1960s buildings has alarmingly dwindled in recent years due to refurbishment (to an unrecognisable state) and demolition. Currently there is little impetus for restoration of these buildings with the same sorts of public disinterest today that Victorian buildings experienced in the the 1960s. Ironically, 1960s Classics such as AMP house find themselves, like the grand Victorian buildings they replaced, staring at demolition, and many of the designs of today are inspired by the early International style. Significant losses from the period include the Southern Cross Hotel and CRA tower.

Important and influential buildings still remaining include BHP house, The Royal Insurance building, AMP building, Victorian Arts Centre and National Gallery.

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