Expo 70

World Expo’s, or ‘World Fairs’ as they were originally known, became immensely popular with industrialised nations throughout the 19th century.


Intended to promote international trade, showcase new technologies and instil national pride, the most famous of these events was arguably the 1851 ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’ held in the purpose built Crystal Palace in Hyde Park London. As time progressed, so did the nature of such events, evolving in the post war period to become more focused on themes of universal cultural understanding and scientific innovation.

This was clearly stated in the theme for the 1970 Expo: “Progress and Harmony for Mankind.” Taking place in Osaka, Japan’s second largest city, Expo 70 was the country’s first opportunity at hosting such an event and the organisers made sure that the venue would be a spectacular showcase of cutting edge structures and design elements. To achieve this they hired one of Japan’s most innovative architects, Kenzo Tange. Responsible for such landmark Modernist projects as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (1955) and the Yoyogi National Gymnasium (1964), Tange was also considered the father of the Metabolist architectural movement. It was from the ranks of this influential group that Tange chose many of his assistants for the Expo project, including Arata Isozaki and Kiyonari Kikutake.

                     *images courtesy Wikipedia

Together they created a space that was anchored by one massive complex known as Festival Plaza, a three level structure where visitors could congregate and explore a series of themed pavilions. Many of the elements were designed by artist Taro Okamoto including the most dramatic feature of the space, the 70 meter tall ‘Tower of the Sun’ sculpture. Styled in the artist’s signature spiky, totem like manner, the sculpture was adorned with faces representing the past (back), present (front)and future (top). The interior could be accessed by visitors who would be presented with another huge artwork called the ‘Tree of Life’.

                     *images courtesy Wikipedia

By the time the gates forever closed on September 13th, 64,218,770 people had visited Expo 70, making it the best attended until the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. The site is now known as Expo Commemoration Park, although few artefacts from the event remain. One significant survivor is Okamoto’s spectacular sculpture, refurbished in 2010 and appearing as some otherworldly sentry standing guard over the carefully manicured landscape.


Seoullo 7017

Inspired by New York’s ‘High Line’ project, Seoullo 7017 is an attempt to create a more relaxed, pedestrian friendly experience in one of Asia’s most frantic urban environments. The kilometre long elevated walkway was developed from a condemned highway overpass that cut through the city from Seoul Station to the Namdaemun market district. The name Seoullo translates as ‘road to Seoul’, whilst 7017 refers to the construction years of both the overpass (1970) and the new development (2017).3096469_seoullo7017skygardenplan

Designed by Dutch firm MVRDV, the Skygarden, as it is often referred to in English texts, is lined with hundreds of concrete pots and planter boxes containing 228 species of native trees, flowers and shrubs. In addition to a pleasant stroll, the walkway provides quite spectacular views of the surrounding streets and buildings, perspectives that were previously only glimpsed from a speeding vehicle.

Along with the 2005 Cheonggyecheon project that revitalised a former stream running through the city, Seoullo 7017 acts not only as an attractive point of interest for tourists, but further enhances the livability and accessibility of Seoul’s built landscape, one which has often been derided in the past as an example of unbridled economic growth taking precedence over considered urban planning.

Moorabbin Industrial Heritage Pt 2

Coca Cola Bottling Plant

One of the oldest commercial residents in the Moorabbin industrial precinct is global soft drink behemoth Coca Cola. The company began selling its fizzy beverage in Australia in 1937, and by the 1950s its Melbourne operation required a larger production facility to keep up with demand, especially after the release of the new 1.25 ‘Family Sized Bottle’.

                     *images courtesy of Museum Victoria

The Moorabbin Bottling Plant was officially opened February 11th, 1960 by then Victorian State Premier Henry Bolte. At 80,000 square feet the plant was the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, matching many company sites in the largest American cities.

Coca Cola

Although many physical changes within the plant have occurred in subsequent years, the original office and entrance facade remains, albeit with updated colours and corporate signage. Two blade forms project up and out, flanking the central structure in a dramatic fashion. These projecting rectilinear forms are reflected and repeated along the first floor, creating deep, well shaded window and entrance bays. The second floor is left blank, allowing ample space for the corporate logo; a simple font affair in the early days, now replaced by the globally recognisable Coca Cola script.

The overall design is a typical mid-century modern statement in simple, yet dynamic, geometric forms. It also reflects similar contemporaneous climate related forms seen throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Urban Scale

The physical scale of the built elements within an urban environment have a great impact on both the aesthetic and psychological impressions it projects to those who interact within it. A space occupied by low to mid rise structures, such as an established downtown cafe/shopping precinct, can offer a pleasantly ‘human’ scaled urban experience, whilst one made up entirely of tall glass and concrete office towers, such as a high density commercial CBD, can often leave the casual pedestrian alienated and overwhelmed.

Of course, both have their place in a modern city environment and are the result of the commercial and economically driven processes that drive the urban growth of just about every major global centre. A careful balance, however, must be struck when planning the ongoing development of our increasingly expanding cities. If a sense of existing scale within a space is not considered the entire ambience of an urban area can be radically and irreversibly altered by unsympathetic and inappropriate commercial developments, often to the detriment of local businesses, residents and visitors alike.

Scale 1

What got me thinking about this issue was a 19th century pub on the corner of Queen and La Trobe streets in Melbourne’s CBD. The West Bourke Hotel was constructed in 1876 in an ornate Italian Renaissance Revival style. Initially two storeys, a third level, in matching style, was added in the 1920s. Since 1959 the pub has been the headquarters for the Celtic Club, Australia’s oldest surviving non-political, secular Irish club, founded in 1887. The club members recently agreed to sell the property to a developer who, although preserving the heritage listed facade, plans to build a 48 storey residential tower atop the existing building.

Although Melbourne city has numerous low rise 19th and early 20th century building scattered throughout its environs, this particular area has a significant number of quality commercial and administrative structures including the former Titles Office (1877, 283 Queent St), Registry Office Building (1904, 287 Queent St), and Royal Mint (1872, 280 William Street). Even taking into account the numerous office towers that sprang up during the 1970s and 80s, most of which are relatively low-rise 10-15 storey structures, the area could have remained, with appropriate planning forethought from the 1990s onwards, a pleasantly scaled, well greened historic district.

The new West Bourke Hotel development, however, simply follows a precedent set a decade or so ago with the sprouting of a new generation of tall, residential apartment towers that grotesquely overshadow, or parasitically attach themselves to, remnants of Melbourne’s past.

Scale 8

This notion of scale was further emphasised in my mind by an artwork currently on display in the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) depicting an immense reclining statue of the Buddha covered in smaller (human scaled) Greco-Roman marble figures. Isolated, each example is a sublime and relevant representation of a particular culture. Blended together they are juxtaposed in a manner that imparts an almost comic effect, stripping away all dignity and integrity.

Rialto Towers

Opening in 1986, Rialto Towers (525 Collins St, Melbourne)was named after the Venetian Gothic palazzo structure located next door, constructed almost a century before in 1891. The original Rialto building was one of a number of late 19th century commercial structures located on the site but, along with the adjacent Winfield building, was saved from demolition by an agreement between the State Government and the developer, Grocon. Both buildings were subsequently remodelled into a luxury hotel as part of the Intercontinental Group.


Comprised of two conjoined towers, the Rialto skyscraper is 251 metres tall (to the roof) which made it the tallest in Australia for five years, being surpassed in 1991 by 101 Collins St. Designed by Gerard de Preu and Partners, the cobalt blue glass structure shoots upwards in sharp geometric, almost crystal like, form. An observation deck opened on the 55th floor of the south tower in 1994, offering spectacular views of Melbourne. This was replaced in 2010 by a fine dining restaurant, Vue de Monde. Also now defunct is the annual Rialto Run Up event, inspired by the Empire State Building Run-Up in New York City. Kicking off in the late 80s, this was a gruelling 1254 step race to the 53rd floor with the winner receiving a trip to the Big Apple to relax, sight see, and run up the Empire State Building. The event was held until 2005.

Emerging in a post-modern world awash with ever increasing corporate profits and conspicuous affluence, the Rialto towers also represented the rise of its developers, Grocon, from a small family run concreting business into a huge family run construction enterprise. By the time the Rialto project was under way the family name ‘Grollo’ was familiar to most Melburnians, such was the press coverage of, and public interest in, the city’s exciting new skyscraper. Indeed, such was the prolific output of the firm throughout the 80s and 90s, the name just about became a byword for corporate construction in the city.

Although not the tallest in Melbourne any longer, the Rilato Towers remain one of the most aesthetically timeless and significant designs in the city.

Sirius Apartments (1980,Tao Gofers)

Named after the flagship of the First Fleet that sailed into Sydney Harbour in 1788, the Sirius apartment complex was built by the NSW Housing Commission to re-house public tenants of Millers Point. Throughout the 1960s and 70s heritage groups and local residents teamed up with unions to fight the NSW government’s re-development proposals which would see the demolition of significant numbers of historic buildings to make way for high rise apartments and hotels.


Both the Rocks and Millers Point had long been home to a population of underprivileged and increasingly ageing residents reliant on government housing, and it was the desire to enable these vulnerable people to remain in their community, whilst maintaining the working class nature of the area, that prompted the union led Green Bans of the 1970s. Although the preservation of the built heritage was really secondary to this aim, the resulting planning compromises ensured that many buildings were saved.


Comprised of stacked rectangular blocks the Sirius apartment building rises and falls in an almost organic manner, as if following the topography of the landscape. The pod-like nature of the components and the raw concrete finish (the original plan to paint the building white was scrapped due to budget constraints) reflect similar projects from 1960s and 70s Japan, particularly the work of Metabolist architects such as Kiyonori Kikutake. The building was designed for both aged and family residents, providing a total of 79 one, two, three and four bedroom apartments throughout the complex.

Although listed by the National Trust as a significant example of late Brutalism the future of the apartments is uncertain as there is no official heritage protection for the structure.

In January of this year the final tenant, 91 year old Myra Demetriou, was evicted, clearing the way for a potential buyer to purchase the apartments for either commercial redevelopment or demolition. The organisation that has fought long and hard for the preservation of the apartments, ‘Save Our Sirius’, is now attempting to find sympathetic buyers but, at a listed price of around $100 million, it seems like a long shot.

Hosier Lane

An image of Hosier Lane, Melbourne, looking towards Flinders St.

Hosier Lane resize

The cobblestone lane is one of dozens originally laid out as part of the city’s grid in the early 19th century. The lane is now a much visited tourist site due to it being a popular showcase for urban artists.

From this point of view one of the minarets of the Forum Theatre building (1929) can be seen on the left, beyond which is the geometric patterned facade of the Federation Square complex(2002).