Total Carpark – Modernist Landmark Under Threat

The Total Carpark on Russell Street, corner of Little Bourke Street, was designed by Bogle Banfield Associates, and completed in 1965. It has long been regarded as an architectural landmark, but is now under threat.

Total Carpark from Russell Street, with Total house office above
Total Carpark from Russell Street, with Total house office above

It has been proposed for heritage listing since the early 1980s, but this has never eventuated. A developer purchased an option on the site last year, proposing a 60 storey tower despite its significance, and the site having a 60m height limit (about 15 storeys). Melbourne Heritage Action has now taken the initiative and invested considerable energies in preparing a nomination to Heritage Victoria, the State’s premier heritage body.

The Carpark is significant as the first expression of ‘Brutalist’ architecture in Victoria, through the use of bold forms and expressed unpainted concrete structure, influenced by Japanese avant-garde architecture of the late 1950s/early 1960s. The strong cantilevered horizontals of the carpark decks are topped by a flaoting TV-like box of offices on cantilevered supports introduced bold new modern forms into what was still largely a Victorian low rise city-scape. Unlike later sculptural bare concrete examples of Brutalist design, there are plenty of refined details.

Patterns created by complex ramp system
Patterns created by complex ramp system

It is also important as one a rush of carparks built between 1955 and 1966 in response to the huge rise in car use and consequent city congestion. This is one of a number that were developed by the City of Melbourne to meet this demand at the fringes of the shopping area, while others were developed privately – and Bogle Banfield had a hand in most, designing some, and owning, designing and developing others.

There was also a nightclub in the basement, the first of its type in the city – it opened as the Lido in 1965, providing dinner and a ‘Paris -type’ show, complete with fathers, high kicks and scanty costumes, something melbourne hadnt seen before. The space is now occupied by Billboard, an important live music venue.

See the story in The Age here Drive to Save Landmark Carpark

Link to interview with Philip Goad on 3AW

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