Friday, November 6, 2009

Cloudland

Tomorrow is the anniversary of one of the worst acts of vandalism and political bastardry in Queensland's history. It was twenty-seven years ago, in the early hours of 7th November 1982, when Brisbane's iconic Cloudland Ballroom was demolished - it was sent tumbling into a pile of dust and rubble in a matter of hours. The hilltop Bowen Hills site was wanted for the development of units, but there was fierce community resolve not to let this happen. I don't think that the appropriate development approval ever eventuated - what happened instead was that the infamous Deen Bros were contracted to knock the building down in the dead of night, all with the tacit approval of the Bjelke-Petersen government of the day. The unique clam-shell entrance to Cloudland is shown in the photo below, and for a further nostalgic glimpse of its history, take a look here.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #61681)

My own memories of Cloudland are varied. Initially, I went there as a student, to sit exams from time to time. Then a girlfriend asked me to be her partner for a Debutante Ball, for her "coming-out" - the quaint term of the time, meaning entering society. We had to rehearse the Debutantes' Waltz over a period of several weeks prior to the event. On the night, the girls were dressed in their absolute finest, including a corsage bought by each male for his partner. The boys wore dinner suits, and if memory serves me correctly, a pair of white gloves. We had to escort the girls as they were introduced to the dignitary of the evening (I'm fairly sure that it was the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane), and then we all performed the waltz before the rest of the attendees joined in. I recall that I was hopeless during the rehearsals for the waltz. They kept clashing with my football matches, so I missed a few. The ones I did attend didn't go well either- I kept making mistakes, much to the annoyance of my girlfriend who was so keen for all to be perfect on the night. Fortunately, when the evening finally arrived, I performed magnificently for her - didn't miss a step, so she was very pleased with me. Following that event, I remember attending several balls at Cloudland - always a ton of fun, too. All of that is history, but, more importantly, whatever future Cloudland may have had as an entertainment venue has been destroyed along with the building.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

And what did we get instead? A gated complex of town-houses and units. I'm sure they have superb views, and even though I'm now an apartment dweller myself, I didn't welcome their arrival. This is the street view to the entrance to the place - all that is left of Cloudland now is the name that is included in the stylised logo visible above the garage at the front.

Click here for a Google Map.

tff

Next: Trades Hall

3 comments:

  1. Your timing is perfect. I was discussing the vandalism involved in destroying the Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago this month. The article was called Gropius' Chicago Legacy Lost because it wasn't just the beauty of the architecture; rather its part in architectural history was critically important.

    In the response to American readers who were incensed by American vandalism, I wrote about the destruction of Cloudland in Brisbane. See http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com/2009/10/walter-gropius-legacy-destroyed.html

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  2. My friends and I 'grew up' at the one-and-only Cloudland... 1978-1982/3 or thereabouts.
    Student nurses living in-residence at the nearby Royal Brisbane Hospital, we saw every live band who performed there... in particular I remember Split Enz in their earliest days, all made up; Cold Chisel when Jimmy Barnes was young and wild and crazy; the Angels... the sprung dance-floor was quite an experience with hundreds of us dancing en masse!
    Socio-politically, those were unfortunate times with all that political corruption, and trashy glitzy, greedy 'progress'.

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  3. What a shame to lost such a wonderful and inspirational design. There are many other modernist buildings that are at risk of being lost today and buildings like them need to be protected, as heritage doesn't just mean 19th century architecture and social history.

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