Original post 20 April 2020
Photos 12 September 2019
It’s easy to overlook (in a way) but the former SEC building in #FlindersStreet is actually one of the earliest fully fledged #ArtDeco buildings in the city. Completed in mid 1932, in date it’s just behind Coles in Bourke Street (the oldest remaining), but just ahead of the Manchester Unity building. It was designed as the HQ for the #StateElectricityCommission by their chief architect #ARLaGerche (father of #JALaGerche) and it’s pretty simple, vertical expression with one level set back at the top. The E plan has huge #lightwells that have actually always been the most visible face. Three floors were added in 1999 when it was converted to student flats, in sympathy, but actually destroying the original proportions. The lightwells used to step a lot more too. (I don’t know how those floors got through since it’s not only #heritagelisted but was already at the #123ftheightlimit, which was and is still in force.) Third pic is prob 1932, next one is 1934, showing the decoration for the #CentenaryOfMelbourne. In the future the whole side view might disappear if a similar height building goes up on the metro construction site, where the #PortPhillipArcade was.
All lit up with electric lights ! Another image of the #SECbuilding in #Flinders Street as it was in 1934, from the #MuseumOfVictoria collection. One of the major elements of the #CentenaryOfMelbourne in 1934-5 was the illumination of many city buildings, and this is the SEC’s contribution. The State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) was established in 1919, mainly to exploit the brown coal of the Latrobe valley (too much carbon😔). This was their HQ, and they had a showroom displaying the latest in electric cookers, complete with cooking demonstrations. Hmm just realised, the rival gas&fuel showroom was about 100m away, in the gothic building just the other side of St Paul’s, where they also had cooking demonstrations! (I think). When I was growing up and in my 20s we didn’t talk about gas or electricity, we always just said ‘the gas&fuel’ or ‘the SEC’, and Telecom, which had a more up to date sound. In the 90s Kennett privatised the lot. In 99 this building became student housing, what a downer.