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Monaro Mall makes history (again)

By Genevieve Jacobs 9 November 2018 65

Monaro mall’s rep design echoes the building’s 1963 origins. Photos: Dianna Snape.

When the Monaro Mall opened back in 1963, it was a landmark moment for the locals, a sign that the big country town was growing up. It was Australia’s first three-story, fully enclosed and air-conditioned shopping centre, important enough to be opened by Prime Minister Robert Menzies.

Now more than 50 years later, the refurbishment project has garnered a national award, the only project co-designed by a local Canberra firm.

“Monaro Mall has always had iconic status in the city. It’s listed as one of Canberra’s 20th-century significant buildings,” says architect Jeremy Mather, whose firm, Mather Architecture, shared project responsibility with Universal Design Studio. Together, they’ve collected the National Interior Architecture award from the Australian Institute of Architects.

“The Centre wanted to celebrate and acknowledge being the first covered mall in Australia. It’s always had that history of being a building of significance. This project gives the building the chance to continue to be that into the 21st century.

“It is great to see Canberra recognised on the national stage. This award is a tribute to the whole project team and the collaborative design and construction process that delivered this outcome. And to QIC who had the vision and leadership to restore and revitalise this significant twentieth-century Canberra landmark”, Jeremy said.

The project involved a major redevelopment of the existing building, across three levels to create a beauty precinct and, in the terminology of architects, “a common language for the retailers, a sense of belonging” that was different from anonymous shopping mall designs of recent years.

Local firm Mathers architecture won a national award for their work on the Monaro Mall re-fit.

To do that, the project architects did a deep research dive into the archives for the old Monaro Mall. They looked extensively at original photos from the 1960s and reintroduced elements like the scalloped awnings on the street front that derived from the original David Jones awnings.

The street itself was also given a greater role. “We wanted the shops to re-engage with Petrie Plaza and Bunda Street,” Jeremy Mather says. “There’s now a shared pedestrian way, outdoor seating areas, new urban design and landscaping, gardens and seating areas, and paving.

“There’s a food offering with outdoor seating on Bunda Street and a more traditional retail space on Petrie Plaza but essentially the retailers now have an opportunity to be part of the life of the street instead of looking inwards.”

The results and the national recognition are, he says, a tribute to everyone on the project team. “Canberra has a very successful history of design excellence. I feel the Design Canberra festival is a wonderful opportunity to showcase that on an annual basis.

“It brings all the different design disciplines together: architects, industrial and graphic designers, artists and craftspeople working collaboratively to showcase their contributions. The great thing about design is that it’s made up of so many different disciplines. There’s a collaborative effort to create a particular outcome.”

Sydney-based architects Hassell received a national commendation for their work on the Australian Federal Police Forensics and Data Centre by Hassell, while BVN were given the Sustainable Architecture national award for their work on the CSIRO Synergy project at Black Mountain.

Do you remember when the Monaro Mall first opened?


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60 Responses to
Monaro Mall makes history (again)
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wottaway 1:33 am 16 Nov 18

I remember when our 3yr old son became temporarily ‘lost’ in ’70, and Donald Campbell’s ‘Bluebird’ speedboat was on display.

Robyne Mitchell 2:04 pm 14 Nov 18

Michelle Nagle Tracy Lord is the one you are looking for.

Kat Bee 10:35 pm 13 Nov 18

I worked in the Coles during the '80s (until they closed their doors)

Lorraine Rochford 1:00 am 13 Nov 18

I remember when it opened and the excitement in Canberra. It was so posh back then. Many years later I worked in Waltons Baby wear section. Loved it.

    Michelle Nagle 1:17 pm 14 Nov 18

    My first ever job was in ladies under wear at Waltons selling Humongous pink knickers!! Probably in 1967.

Mary Green 11:10 pm 12 Nov 18

Friday night shopping in my PJs before the Mall. We parked in Garema Place. Early 60s.....I was a babby....

Sharon McGlinchey 9:40 pm 12 Nov 18

Walking through the doors a smelling the biscuits being made in david jones

planet42 6:36 pm 12 Nov 18

Where the top escalator finished there was a small t-shirt shop where you could get custom designs printed. Also remember the milk shake shop on LG floor. Great times.

Tina Tsakiris 4:27 pm 12 Nov 18

I remember wagging from school and went to Monaro Mall. Used to work milk bar coffee bar and sandwich bar for my late great uncle every school holidays. Friday nights were the best times where lots of teenagers hang around there.

Andrew Deans 4:08 pm 12 Nov 18

I used to go ALL the way in from Gowrie on a Friday night in 1968. It buzzed.

Janine White 1:23 pm 12 Nov 18

Remember the Channel 7 balls as well!! Loved DJs food hall!! 😋

Janet Bradly 12:44 pm 12 Nov 18

I remember as a little kid being overawed by their seriously steep escalators!!!

Lee-Ann Hush 12:37 pm 12 Nov 18

Elvis Presley car and jump suits on display

Chris Pritchard 12:23 pm 12 Nov 18

Yep often went to the mall on Fridays. Lare night shopping in Qbn on Thursday and the Mall on Friday we had the best of both world's. A hot chocolate at Gus's afterwards was the icing on the cake.

Pauline Clynch 12:12 pm 12 Nov 18

Yes, I remember it well

Fiona Edge 8:28 am 12 Nov 18

Thanks Caren. I remember the health food shop right down below. The bottom level always seemed a long way down.

Marlene Collier 7:52 am 12 Nov 18

Friday night shopping was an outing in itself. I went to several balls that were held on each floor, fantastic times.

Caren Florance 7:27 am 12 Nov 18

My first clear view of the world was in Monaro Mall, putting on my first pair of glasses, aged 7 (thank you, Mr Whitlam!) and seeing the optometrist’s black & white tiled floor in full clarity. The tiles were the same scale as those on the gold columns. Overwhelming! I fell down. The new MM is a bit too slick for me.

Claudia Marangon-Montagner 6:41 am 12 Nov 18

I worked at Gantors fabric Shop...love to say Thankyou to Harold and David I enjoyed working with both of you❤️❤️

Helen Withnell 3:49 am 12 Nov 18

Yes I certainly remember!

Damaris Wilson 1:13 am 12 Nov 18

Defence had its annual Ball or Christmas Party there in the early days - can't remember which. And one year it was held in the then Hotel Canberra ... the department was much smaller then, and the Services had not amalgamated ... I remember the dances 👵

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