Name Change

At the Annual General Meeting in October 2016, members voted to change the name of our society to Art Deco & Modernism Society of Australia, inc. (ADMSA) reflecting the fact that we have members from right across the country.

Asbestos House, Southbank (Summer 2016)

Another Harry Norris building has been demolished, this one on the corner of City Road and Clarendon Street, Southbank. Designed by Norris in 1936 as the headquarters for James Hardie and Co, it was named Asbestos House, as many many of the major building products manufactured and sold by the firm contained asbestos. Of course, this was in the days when there were few concerns about the effects on health of asbestos. The building featured rounded lines and small glazed bricks on the walls. It was occupied by a furniture retailer for the past decade. But its prominent corner site made it extremely attractive to developers and another high-rise apartment block will soon be constructed.

Capitol Bakeries Building, cnr Chapel St & Toorak Rd, South Yarra (Summer 2016)

After a decade-long battle to preserve the Capitol building, demolition has commenced on this prominent South Yarra corner. The building started life as one of Melbourne’s cable-car engine-sheds before being converted to a bakery in 1936 after the trams were electrified. The makeover was designed by prolific local architect Harry Norris. The massive development of apartment blocks in South Yarra has claimed a number of interwar buildings, but none as prominent as the Capitol building.CapitolBakeriesSouthYarra

Rootes Factory, Port Melbourne (Winter 2015)

RootesA major part of Port Melbourne’s industrial and military history is currently under threat.

The former Rootes building (19-25 Salmon Street, Port Melbourne) was constructed in 1941 and was the site for the design and development of prototypes of tanks.  In 1943, the tank project was terminated and the building was used for the Maintenance section of the Department of Aircraft Production.

After WWII, it was acquired by Rootes Ltd, the British manufacturer of Hillman, Humber and Sunbeam cars. The factory was expanded in 1955 and was a major employer in the Port district. After a merger with Chrysler in 1965, the company rationalised its operations in Australia and the Port site closed in 1972.

In a major oversight by the City of Port Phillip, the building is NOT included in their Heritage Overlay Schedule, either as an individual heritage place or as part of a broader heritage precinct.

ADMS has joined forces with the National Trust and the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society to seek inclusion of the building on the Heritage Overlay and to work to a greater appreciation of the industrial heritage of Port Melbourne.

Update – 21 September 2015

The City of Port Phillip has proposed interim heritage controls over the Rootes buildings and a number of others in Fisherman’s Bend. Robin Grow, President ADMS, attended and spoke at the Port Phillip Council meeting tonight, along with representatives from the National Trust and the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society. Submission was well-received by councillors and motion passed. Lot of concern amongst councillors about the Rootes building, given that it is currently subject to a development proposal. Council can now introduce interim heritage controls, to be followed by a more formal public exhibition of proposed amendment to Planning Scheme and, hopefully, permanent heritage protection.

Civic Hall, Ballarat (Winter 2015)

After a lot of hard work by many people in Ballarat (principally the Save Civic Hall group), it appears that the Hall is no longer facing demolition. A lengthy and extensive public consultation process has resulted in a number of adaptive re-use options being presented to Council, the owners of the building. ADMS is still awaiting the outcome of our nomination of the building to the State Heritage Register, but it seems the building is now safe.


Astor Theatre, Chapel St, St Kilda (Autumn 2015)

AstorFoyerThe Astor Theatre is one of Melbourne’s last remaining (and much-loved) Art Deco cinemas. It remans as a single-screen venue – one of the last of its kind in Australia, and certainly the largest still-operating relic of the era of the picture palace in Melbourne.

In recent years it has been the subject of a number of owners, both of the property and of the cinema business.  The Palace Group are the latest owners to take on the operation of the cinema.  They are eminently qualified, as they also run historic cinemas in Westgarth and Balwyn.  The cinema has closed briefly for some cosmetic work but Palace has stated that it has no intention to convert it to a multiplex and will continue to operate the venue in its current format.


The Palace Theatre, Melbourne (Autumn 2014)

A sad day for Melbourne is just about to take place with the imminent closure of the Palace Theatre (formerly the Metro) at the top of Bourke Street.  The owners wish to replace the building with a new hotel.  It robs Melbourne of a major live music venue, much-loved by many.

It began live as a live theatre in 1912, was remodelled in 1916 and 1924, and later received an Art Deco makeover.  The Deco façade remains in place, although the interior has been upgraded a number of times.

Whilst the music venue is closing, the battle to retain the building continues.  The Save the Palace Theatre group can be found on Facebook and are leading the fight for preservation of the building.



Civic Hall, Ballarat (Autumn 2014)

The major preservation battle underway in the regional city of Ballarat to prevent the Civic Hall, constructed in 1953 to a design by prominent local architect Les Coburn, from demolition by the Ballarat Council took another turn recently.  Council received over 3,000 objections to its proposed demolition.

Now the State government has entered the issue, with the Premier of Victoria announcing that he will re-locate a major government department , VicRoads, from Melbourne to a building on this site in Ballarat IF his government is returned at the next State government elections in November this year.

As a result the Council has deferred any consideration of the demolition until after the election.  The best news is that the Council has announced that its officers are to examine the possible adaptive re-use of the hall, which was a major point of the objection lodged by ADMS and other objectors.  Council has also agreed to open the hall to allow a community advisory group to meet there.  We are hopeful and will continue to work with the Save Civic Hall group in Ballarat.