The 3 storey 1855 building, Le Louvre, at the intersection of Exhibition Street and Collins Street, helped to define the "Paris End" of Collins Street, a term coined by Le Louvre's founding owner Lillian Wightman. The clothing salon has been in business since 1922, but is soon to move. The property has been purchased by the Queensland Investment Corporation who are apparently proposing a, "new retail and office development while preserving the historic facade". [ Age article ]
The site, at 74 Collins Street, only appears to have heritage status as an archaeological site, protecting what is in the dirt below. The owner of the Le Louvre Salon, Lillian Wightman's daughter Georgina Weir, tried to add 9 storeys of apartments to the building in 2003, and was blocked only because of complaints of overshadowing from the building owner across the street. At the time, The Age reported, "If that man stops her from building apartments over her Collins Street fashion boutique, Le Louvre, she will move it to South Yarra. Then she'll lease the building to a fast-food chain. The greasier the better."
In other facadism news, Melbourne University's Old Commerce building, built in the 1930s is to be demolished and the site incorporated into the new architecture building. The facade of the Bank of New South Wales in Collins Street (Joseph Reed 1856), was in 1936 affixed to the Western face of the commerce building, and is to remain. One can only imagine what Joseph Reed would make of it all. [Arch school brief].
From a New York Times article by Paul Goldberger in 1985: "the city is not a place of make-believe, a place of illusion where little buildings exist to be pinned, like brooches, on the front of bigger structures to which they bear only the most distant of relationships. To turn an older building of distinction into a fancy front door for a new tower is to respect neither the integrity of the new or that of the old, but to render both buildings, in a sense, ridiculous."
So are we to get a timid new building trying not to be seen as it dwarfs Le Louvre's tiny facade? Perhaps the solution is to move Le Louvre up to Melbourne Uni where it too can be incorporated into the new architecture building, which would become a refuge for lost Collins Street facades, a Portmeirion or Meiji Mura for Melbourne.
Photo: The Lab