THE SHAME FILES: LONSDALE HOUSE, 2 years on
Almost two years ago in January 2010 an iconic Melbourne art deco building, Lonsdale House, built in 1934 from two previously standing Victorian warehouses of varying size, was handed over to the wrecking ball and lost forever. Owners of the site, Myer applied to demolish the building in order to allow a new entranceway to their new Emporium super shopping centre, and the City of Melbourne graciously agreed, despite a howl of public protest and the formation of supporter websites, petitions and the inauguration of the Melbourne Heritage Action group. Even having its famous stylised towers appear on the cover of Robin Grow’s Melbourne Art Deco history book couldn’t save Lonsdale House; now that famous tower lives only in photographs and fading memories.
Author and president of the Art Deco & Modernism Society, Robin Grow, was bemused at the time… ‘‘They just gave it up. They said they were more than happy for it to be demolished,’’ he said. ‘‘If the City of Melbourne isn’t prepared to defend buildings that are subject to heritage overlays then what is the point in having the heritage overlays, it is outrageous, What we are getting is replacing a classic building appreciated by people all over the world with another set of shops, What’s this going to look like in 10 years?’’
So what’s the replacement, why the need to tear down an irreplaceable piece of unique 20th century architectural history? Well, quite shamefully, it was actually demolished in order to widen the service lane for Emporium retail deliveries. And what has risen in its place is another gaudy glass box screaming at passers-by to come in and buy from the cavernous retail sprawl so similar to anywhere else in the world. So an icon of Melbourne, a tourist attraction, a building worth pointing out, is gone … replaced by more inane glass and scaffolding shopping boxes.