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The sounds of 180 Bank St

The sounds of 180 Bank St
Robin Grow

Buildings often show characteristics of change of purpose, architectural style, design and decorative features. 

Such is the case with 180 Bank St, which was part of an industry noted for breaches of health laws, unclean premises, the sale of impure milk and the spread of diseases (such as typhoid and diphtheria) until the government introduced sweeping new legislation in 1906 including closing sub-standard dairies. But that’s a story for another time!

The building became empty in the early 1960s and was in a derelict state when discovered by Melbourne music entrepreneur, Bill Armstrong. He had been operating his music business from four houses in Albert Rd but was expanding and needed more space, preferably in a single building. Armstrong’s Music factory became legendary as he churned out a succession of hit records, including John Farnham’s Sadie and then, through the ‘60s and ‘70s, artists such as the Easybeats, Daddy Cool and Skyhooks. 

The building at 180 Bank St was a significant training ground for the next generation of audio engineers. It then became to home of DDP Studios where it became a film production studio, with post-production work on highly successful films such as Mad Max. 

A dispute over unpaid rent led to the landlord changing the locks and shutting out the film studio in 2006. The significance of Armstrong’s studios upon the Australian music was profound – just think that many those hits from the ‘60s to the ‘80s were produced in South Melbourne! 

The latest iteration is under way and sees number 180 being converted to high-quality office space, demonstrating the effectiveness of adaptive re-use of heritage buildings into office sites.  

We should be grateful that the developer chose to retain the Art Deco style signage of Melbourne Butter Supply across its frontage. •

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