Architecture

Lost on Chapel Street

Streets are landscapes of loss. Alongside the buildings and people who currently occupy them, the vehicles, street furniture and signage, there are ghosts of buildings that have been altered or destroyed, traces of businesses that have closed, people who have come and gone, countless variations small and large that are always in process. This is particularly evident in a walk along Chapel Street Prahran. Continue reading

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Turkish baths and oyster saloons: the story of Prahran Arcade

Every now and then as I walk the suburban streets of Melbourne I see something that stops me in my tracks. It happened again at 282 Chapel Street, Prahran, between Princes and Walker Streets, when I glanced up and noticed a three-storey building, a bit faded  and the worse for wear, but unmistakeably special. It looked as though it should have been standing on a boulevard in Paris, rather than in a Melbourne suburb, among standard Victorian two-storey shops, plastered with signage for JB Hifi, which occupies the entire ground floor.

This building’s facade was extravagant, with 17 archways looking onto the street from the second and third storeys, columns and balconies, carved eagles, and a dizzying assortment of shells and other ornamentation.  Clearly, it had once been a special place – but today it’s a shadow of its former self. Continue reading

Memories of Commercial Road

Picking up the walk at the corner of Commercial Road and Tyrone Street, on the border between South Yarra and Prahran, we headed east towards one of the busier shopping areas in the Melbourne suburbs – as the name Commercial Road implies. This is an area where the past seems particularly alive. The area still contains many traces of former days, from Victorian buildings to art nouveau styling to ghostsigns.  Continue reading

Hollywood on the Yarra

The 1930s were a tough time for many Melburnians – the Depression resulted in widespread unemployment, destitution, and people living from hand to mouth. But if you were a bright young thing, with money and a liking for the glamorous life, there were various ways to indulge your tastes.

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The real and the fake in Abbotsford

Something that strikes me often about the Melbourne suburbs is their quietness. Walk through most suburbs on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and you won’t hear much at all, except traffic (on the busier roads), the occasional lawn mower or leaf blower, perhaps the remote sound of a TV, or the bark of a dog behind a gate. More than once I’ve asked myself: where is everybody? I encounter few other walkers as I make my way around, and occasionally feel oddly conspicuous as a solo pedestrian. Sometimes parks are busy, and certain shopping/cafe strips, but many places seem eerily deserted.

The suburbs are not totally silent, though. On the wall of the Collingwood Neighbourhood House in Perry Street I came across evidence of an intriguing psychogeography project: a list of sounds heard by Lauren Brown, ‘listener in residence’. Continue reading