Metro Tunnel – Campbell Arcade Under Threat.

Update January 2018 : Local Green MP Ellen Sandell is running a petition to save the arcade : Save Campbell Arcade.

MHA was shocked to see in the plans for the proposed Town Hall Metro station  extensive demolition of one of Melbourne’s quirkiest heritage spaces, the Campbell Arcade. We have written to object and you can too. Submissions are due Friday 14th December 2017


Below is MHA’s submission to the draft plans for Town Hall Metro Station:

Melbourne Heritage Action acknowledges the importance of this project, and commends the steps taken to minimise the impact on heritage as much as possible up to this point. We are pleased that a number of buildings in the CBD initially proposed to be demolished was reduced, though we are still disappointed with the loss of the Port Phillip Arcade and the former Art Deco Coles building next to the Nicholas Building.

It appears that heritage impacts within the CBD are now confined to aspects of the City South (Town Hall) Station as indicated in the draft plan, particularly the fate of the Campbell Arcade/Degraves Street Underpass.

Firstly, it is very concerning that no heritage assessment has been done on the Campbell Arcade to accompany these plans, as has been standard practice throughout the Metro Tunnel process. While the plans seem to indicate the Campbell Arcade does not require any permits for works, a heritage assessment would have made clear the fact that the entire arcade is not only listed by the City of Melbourne under HO 649, but is also in fact on the Victorian Heritage Register, under the listing for Flinders Street Station H1083.  The Arcade itself was specifically added to the listing in 2015, recognising its architectural qualities and historical significance. The revised citation notes that :

The Flinders Street Railway Station Complex is historically significant as the centre of the suburban railway system and is a major landmark building of the city and State. When completed, its imposing scale symbolised the importance of the railways to Melbourne and the primacy of Melbourne. Campbell Arcade was the first major public infrastructure to be built in the city following WWII, generating considerable public interest. [Criterion A]”

Campbell Arcade is a rare and substantial example of late Art Deco design in a distinctive 1950s colour scheme. The parcels siding and dock and associated infrastructure at the western end of platform 1 are also largely intact and demonstrate the original functions of this platform. The six early surviving signalling and electrification structures remain an integral part of the Station infrastructure. [Criteria A and E)

The main station building at the Flinders Street Railway Station Complex is of aesthetic significance for the high standard of detailing using many of the architectural decoration techniques available in the early twentieth century, including pressed metal work (ferrous and non-ferrous), cast and wrought iron, copper domes, leadlight and stained glass and glazed Majolica and 1950s wall tiles. It has the most extensive use of Edwardian and 1950s wall tiles of any Station or building in the State. Campbell Arcade, designed in 1949, is of aesthetic significance as one of the most intact early post WWII public interiors in Melbourne with its salmon pink wall tiles, pink and black terrazzo floor, polished black granite columns and chromed steel shopfronts. The Flinders Street Station Mural, a mosaic mural by renowned Melbourne artist Mirka Mora is of aesthetic significance as an outstanding example of Mora’s playful and sensuous iconography that is beloved by many Melbournians. The brick facade of the Banana Alley vaults dating to the construction of the railway viaduct in the early 1890s is of aesthetic significance for its balanced composition of exposed bluestone foundations, brick walls and rendered dressings. [Criterion E]

The inclusion of Campbell Arcade’s significance as part of the station complex makes it clear that the arcade is an integral part of the listing, no less significant than the iconic dome and clocks.

The shopfront on the right would be demolished
The shopfront on the right would be demolished

The plans as proposed seem to involve the complete destruction but all but one tenancy on the eastern side of the arcade, and it and all but two tenancies on the western side placed behind ticket barriers. The demolition involved here would include the pink tile walls, intact chrome steel shopfronts, original doors and doorframes, perhaps leaving only the pink terrazzo flooring and black granite columns. An intervention of this size would surely be one of the largest destructions of a Victorian Heritage Register listed interior in decades, and would significantly diminish the heritage value of the arcade as a very well preserved example of post-war design. The destruction of one half of the space would seriously diminish it’s role as an arcade, and diminish it’s heritage status as much as demolishing half of a building facade would.

Besides consideration of built heritage impacts, the destruction of nearly half the shops and placing most behind the ticket barriers presents a serious loss of cultural fabric for the city. The arcade is currently home to a number of independent businesses, including independent jewellers, a men’s hairdresser almost as old as the arcade itself, a niche record store, vintage and consignment clothing stores, cafe, a City of Melbourne commissioned artist run space, and most notable Sticky Institute zine space, who have called the arcade home since 2001. niche, low rent spaces such as Campbell Arcade are absolutely essential to the city’s character and liveability, providing spaces for arts and independent culture/retail in the heart of the city, something that makes Melbourne a unique place among most world cities that leave no room for different expressions of cultures, uses and incomes in gentrified city centres. Besides local liveability, this provides Melbourne with a unique selling point across Australia and worldwide for attracting tourists and migrants, something made obvious by Campbell Arcade featuring in a number of tourism campaigns by both the City of Melbourne and Tourism Victoria.


Like many cities worldwide, rising rents, development pressures and gentrification are eroding the space left for arts, alternative culture, and independent retail in Melbourne’s CBD. The loss of cultural spaces is bad enough when forced by private developers, but for the State Government and consortiums contracted by the State to be responsible when other options are available would be much worse, when Governments should be fostering and supporting such communities.

Sticky Institute in particular is an essential part of Melbourne’s social and creative fabric, and is the sort of place that can only exist in a low rental, quirky place such as Campbell Arcade. Besides being home to a unique community of creatives, Sticky is a great contributor to visitor numbers in Melbourne, with it’s ‘Festival of the Photocopier’ attracting thousands of attendees from all across Australia.

Most notably Sticky’s place in the arcade, and it’s status as one of the few zine specific stores in the world, was one important part of Melbourne’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature. The loss of sticky and other independent literature spaces across the city would put this listing in jeopardy.

For these reasons, we strongly ask for a rethink of ways to link Town Hall Station to the Flinders Street Station platforms. The previously published option of a tunnel leading to escalators rising through two tenancies on Flinders Street, and then into the concourse, seems to have significantly less heritage impact, with only the loss of pressed metal ceilings and two altered shopfronts with no longstanding tenants.

Another option worth exploring is the re-routing of the tunnel into the other end of Campbell Arcade, emerging out of the larger tenancy closest to the ticket barriers, currently home to a newsagents. Out of all the shopfronts in the arcade, the enlarged shopfront here contains the least amount of original fabric, having been substantially altered, and it’s loss would have a far less detrimental impact on the arcades heritage values.
The nature of the tenancy currently occupying it also allows for much easier re-location, with the newsagency business much more likely to survive a move behind the ticket barriers into a new space, where similar businesses are common in most stations around Melbourne. . This option would also mean ticket barriers only need to be moved 5 metres forward from their current position, keeping most of the arcade open as a free public space.

Besides the Campbell Arcade, we have concerns about the vagueness in the draft plans over the positions of various artworks removed by construction on City Square and Port Phillip Arcade.

charles bush sculpture now WM
Poseidon sculpture and mosaic background, Charles Bush 1963, port Phillip Arcade facade

Regarding the 1963 Charles Bush sculpture of Poseidon and its mosaic background on the façade of the Port Phillip arcade, it is not clear how it will be re-located, and whether or not it includes saving the mosaic panel. The current proposed location in the Public realm plan, has it on the back wall of the Nicholas Building in the narrow Croker Alley. This location would be totally unsuitable, as no one would be able to view the sculpture from the distance it was designed for.  Perhaps it should be a condition of any ‘over station development’ that it go back more or less where it was on the Flinders Street façade. Alternatively, perhaps it could go within the station itself, perhaps as a feature sculpture on one of the tall wall spaces in the main hall under the city square.

The location of the Burke and Wills sculpture has clearly not been given much thought, as it is simply located more or less where it was, but with the station portal providing a distracting backdrop. The location of Beyond the Ocean of Existence more or less where it was may be acceptable. But it may benefit from a more considered placement. There is no indication of where Larry La Trobe would go, nor is there any indication of the reconstruction of the John Mockridge Fountain.

In fact, the design of the square seems to simply repeat the square that there until recently, with about 1/3 occupied by the station entry and raked seating above, with minimal stairs and seating, and some regular planting. Perhaps the design of the square should be completely rethought in the light of this alteration, and that many of its original functions are now met by Federation Square. Perhaps the City Square should be more or a park-like space, or more like a network of lanes and arcades as well as landscaped areas, or even be the location of a the public facility the City of Melbourne has proposed for the other side of Swanston Street. Perhaps all of these could be accommodated, creating a multi-level continuously activated, but still largely green space.

We also want to express concern about the ‘over station development’ on the site of the Port Phillip Arcade and the Swanston Street shops, which has indicative ground level, but no three dimensional envelope. A low level building, especially one with a cultural facility as requested by the City of Melbourne would be ideal; on such a prominent site, any new construction must be carefully considered and meant for long term public good, including public facilities and generous civic design, and not driven by private commercial concerns maximising return to the consortium or the State Government.

Overall, we believe the metro works are overwhelmingly positive for Melbourne, but hope you seriously consider our heritage and cultural concerns, in order to reach a position that incorporates all the best aspect of Melbourne’s identity, without sacrificial important spaces for short-term thinking. There seems little point to adding connection and transport to a city if doing so means the loss of significant things that make it a great place to live in and visit for all.


3 thoughts on “Metro Tunnel – Campbell Arcade Under Threat.

  1. A very interesting post. I need to read it a couple more time to take in the detail as I’m not from Melbourne and haven’t visited for a year or two but I am concerned at the destruction of the special and unique features of the city.


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