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History

08 Aug 2018

History Image

Art Deco panels at the ABC

The ABC has finally finished its refurbishment of its headquarters in in Sturt St, providing an ultra-modern facility for its operations. But they haven’t forgotten the past.

Inside the foyer is a group of stunning wall panels depicting aspects of life from the interwar era. They were originally located in the ABC building in the city, on the site where the County Court is now located.

Constructed in 1940, the building housed ABC offices and studios, in front of a former church hall used for live broadcasts. The ceiling of the entrance vestibule was adorned with the colourful bas-relief panels, lovingly created in 1942 by the sculptor Stanley Hammond, who was responsible for many of Melbourne’s public sculptures.

In the Southbank area he worked on sculptures at the Shrine of Remembrance, the Macpherson Robertson Fountain and the South African War Memorial.

He was also a teacher and was highly regarded by his peers in the profession and was a leading light in the Victorian Sculptors’ Society, started in 1947.

Panels like this were rare in Melbourne. Attached to a barrel vault ceiling in the William St building, they had suffered the indignity of being covered over when a flat ceiling was installed in the 1950s or 1960s, causing Hammond to believe that they had been lost when he made a visit to the building.

The 10 panels are great examples of the Art Deco styling used throughout the original building and comprise representations of figures from the worlds of art, drama, music, education, industry, sport, agriculture and transport.

My favourite depicts a female figure, with her hair streaming behind her, touching the top of a tower that is sending out radio waves. All very symbolic for a public broadcaster. When the ABC first moved to Southbank in the mid-90s, the building company was informed about the panels and thought that they would make a great addition to the foyer of the new building. After they were retrieved they were then restored by conservators, who removed years of dust, undid some over-painting, fixed some parts that had been dislodged, and were installed against a timber background in 1994.

Hammond was delighted to see them restored and back on public display. When the ABC undertook its most recent building works, the panels were retained and installed at ground level behind the foyer. He passed away in 2000 but not before he saw this wonderful work again able to be viewed by the public.

Robin Grow

President - Australian Art Deco and Modernism Society

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