Friday, January 29, 2010

Queensland Country Life Building

A tourist or an infrequent visitor to Brisbane might look at the building in the image below and congratulate Brisbane for at last seeking to preserve its older buildings. This building has been known as the Queensland Country life Building or the United Graziers Building, or even the Hill's Building, depending on which era you are referring to. It stands at 432 Queen St, seemingly surrounded by modern high-rise developments.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The building was constructed in 1888-9 to a design by prolific Brisbane architect, Richard Gailey, and was originally part of a group of warehouses cleverly positioned at the port entrance to Brisbane and opposite Customs House. It was known then as Hill's Building, after one of the original owners, investor Charles Lumley Hill. Towards the turn of the new century, the warehouses were tenanted by the United Graziers Association and the Queensland Country Life Newspaper, which by 1964 was the principal tenant. In Brisbane's "redevelopment" frenzy of the early seventies, part of the original construction was demolished to allow the construction of a high-rise building.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

And now, if the tourist were to look more closely, she would notice that the building hasn't been retained. At least not in full - the wonderful architecture on display is what the developers refer to as a facade, meaning the front of the building. I also refer to it as a facade, meaning a superficial appearance or illusion. In the photo above, you can see the truncated former building stuck on to its modern usurper as if by super glue.

Would I rather have the facade than no remnant at all? Undoubtedly yes. But it's a bit like kissing your sister - it is not fully satisfying. Other cities have managed to construct their new buildings without terminating their history. Brisbane's history is brief enough - let's not obliterate what little of it remains. But I fear that we have not learned from our past errors. Watch out for my post on the Regent Theatre in Queen St, appearing here next.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Picture palace


  1. I would not normally be a huge fan of ornamental Italianate architecture with a rendered brickwork facade and curved pediments.

    But in 1888 it must have felt totally appropriate to a growing city; citizens must have looked at the workers and products with great pride. So I get so furious at developers who hack away at our precious history.

    Like you, I am glad the facade survived, but it is ambivalent at best. We have facade-saving projects in Melbourne as well.

  2. I understand that the city has to grow - I just wish there were a way to retain the whole building!


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