Architectural neighbours #6 – Decay and Progress in Elizabeth St

One of Melbourne’s most impressive inter-war buildings (and the birthplace of much of Australia’s early journalism), the Argus joined a growing number of unloved and disregarded older places as the property boom of the new Century gripped the city. Traded in succession by speculators who baulked at her asbestos infestation and her lowly prospects, they left her to scoop up ready profits from slap up tower blocks or less risky investment options.

By 2012 this exceptional building was officially branded an ‘eyesore’ by Bruce Guthrie in the Age – (journalists still have some love left for her) – along with a number of her sisters.

With a gaping and gutted interior, she sat patched up with concrete render, traumatised with graffiti and abandoned until some miracle – i.e. the threat of a significant rise in rates – kicked the owner into action.

While a relief to see the scaffolding down and a revived facade, the newly painted stone looks hard and showy – a renovation in the spirit of ’The Block’ with a bulk buy of heritage-white from Bunnings, rather than a loving restoration worthy of such a strong presence in the city.

Meanwhile, close by, the big boy developments get on apparently unhindered.

The new neighbour of the Argus will be ‘Everything You Imagined’ – a glass wonder which trampled into the ground one of Melbourne’s modest buildings which sat demurely for 100+ years imposing on no-one. The installed residents of this tower of dreams will pay for the luxury of a view of the Disney-fied Argus – I leave you to think on incentives and progress in Melbourne’s development game. 



Hard to resist posting some hyper-realised before and after photos of the Argus Building on the corner of Elizabeth and Latrobe Sts. Nearby other buildings and a tree were sacrificed to make way for the unimaginable allure of yet another ‘life of endless promise’ apartment building.


2 thoughts on “Architectural neighbours #6 – Decay and Progress in Elizabeth St

  1. Unfortunately, it seems that today anything new and shiny and containing as much glass as possible (buildings) takes over something that would be classified as ‘old’, outdated, ‘antique’, in need of too much renovation and so on…


    • Hi – yes the sad side of any economic boom – which Australia has continued to enjoy while much of the rest of the world swallowed a strong dose of economic reality – has meant heritage values are often ignored &/or handed to the private sector to manage. This has been Melbourne’s story since the city started – so I suppose we have to view the current overlay as yet another stage of her history. We’re certainly an Asian city now and the expectation for rising density will no doubt continue to put pressure on the the older fabric of the city. It will be interesting to see whether the growing number of inner urban Melbourne residents starts to push back on these developments – i.e. objecting to having ‘their’ views blocked out etc.


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