Friday, 20 October 2017

Melbourne Creative Landmark: The Nicholas Building

I originally wrote this profile as part of a walking tour submission to Melbourne's City of Literature office. With its consent, I'm sharing it with you...

This 1926 office building is at the heart of Melbourne’s creative traditions.

It was built on the fortunes of the Aspro company which manufactured aspirin, and for a long time it was a hub of Flinders Lane’s fashion industry, or ‘rag trade’.

There are still aspects of that trade active here today, including a company making buttons using traditional methods.

However, in recent years the building has broadened its creative activities, becoming what’s called a ‘vertical laneway’.

Like Melbourne’s famous ground-level lanes, a vertical laneway is composed of numerous small-scale businesses – located in a high-rise building.

Literature is a strong element of the Nicholas Building’s mix. This is where convicted bank robber Gregory Roberts wrote the novel Shantaram, based partly on his fugitive life in Mumbai.

It’s also the long-time home of Collected Works, Melbourne’s top poetry bookshop.

Walk to the list of tenants in the beautiful barrel-vaulted arcade, and look for enterprises that welcome visitors.

You’ll find the poetry bookshop, art galleries exhibiting local artists, the button shop selling its attractive creations, and other outlets selling handcrafted fashion and gifts.

Take some time to ascend in the old-fashioned lifts which retained attendants well into the 21st century, and explore the creativity of this extraordinary place.

As you leave the Nicholas Building, cross the street and take a moment to admire its impressive facade. Covered with terracotta tiles, it was influenced by the Chicago School and was at the cutting edge of Melbourne architecture in its day.

The Nicholas Building still stands out among its neighbours along Swanston Street. It may be a little wrinkled with the passage of time, but it has great bones.

The Nicholas Building is located at 37 Swanston St, Melbourne, Australia.