Saturday, March 11, 2006

Edifice Complex

(Where in the world is this building?)

Photo copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This photograph was taken just before sunrise in one of the world's most beautiful cities. But can you identify the building and do you know (or can you guess) which city this is?

Prague, perhaps, with its stunning architecture and striking skyline? Or is it Paris, where every street corner leads you to beautiful buildings and immaculate gardens? Or Istanbul, maybe, judging by the amazing minarets?

None of the above. The photograph was taken on Flinders Street, in Melbourne. The building is the State Theatre, now called the Forum. It was built as one of a series of so-called ``million-dollar theatres'' an ambitious project announced in 1921 by Union Theatres. According to historical records kept by the architect, Charles Bohringer, staff worked day and night and the drawings for the theatre were completed in the unimaginable time of one month.

The theatre's Wurlitzer organ was the real showpiece of the splendid building. The newspaper `The Argus' reported (a trifle breathlessly) that the organ cost the princely sum of twenty-five thousand pounds sterling - a king's ransom at the time. Its arrival at the Melbourne docks was nothing short of a sensation and it was transported from the wharf to the building site in no fewer than 27 trucks, each of which was emblazoned with a large notice (welcome to the age of advanced marketing strategy) saying it contained components of the Wurlitzer organ for the State Theatre.

There was an interesting footnote to this event. Because all the trucks had to travel in a convoy from the docks to Flinders Street, all other city traffic (such as it was at the time) was reduced to chaos until each truck had been unloaded and driven away from the precinct. In high dudgeon, the City Council proceeded to slap the maximum fine on the State Theatre management - for traffic obstruction!