Spending time in the city of Melbourne recently on a Saturday morning I wandered into some of the city’s old buildings. I had more time than usual as I stepped away from my busy weekday routine where I tend to walk past buildings without really noticing them. In fact, I have often walked past the Manchester Unity building and admired it from the outside, but this time I was captured by the appeal of what was inside: its little arcade, lift and golden mailbox corner.
It had a certain glamour about it and the quietness of the Saturday morning allowed me to wander around in peace. I easily imagined myself dressed in fancy clothes from the 1950s or 1960s turning up to work as a secretary to some very important person, a man no doubt. Something out of Mad Men I guess I was drawing upon.
This got me thinking about how our modern buildings lack this level of sophistication. They seem more functional, more colorful, more abstract. Old buildings like the Manchester Unity remind us of times gone by, glamourous times, when buildings were an investment. Perhaps they were seen as important because they contributed to the making of Melbourne when there weren’t many buildings there. They helped to define the character of the city.
Perhaps they were also competing with Sydney and wanting to make buildings that Sydney was jealous of. This building has certainly stood the test of time. For me even now it adds character and richness to the city.
I wonder if architects and builders of today have this same sense of value and responsibility for what they are building.
Do they see their building standing the test of time? Do they think of their building being walked through in 50 or 100 years with people finding it special? Do they expect it to conjure up experiences of the bygone era? Or is it just one of so many new buildings that this doesn’t matter anymore? Is it more about getting it built, more focus on the commercial aspect of their work?