Arcadia in Australia

Nicole Davis
During the second half of the nineteenth century, entrepreneurs eagerly built numerous European-style shopping arcades in Australia's cities and regional centres. Popular throughout the world, they were ostensibly elegant shopping spaces for a genteel middle-class clientele. Such was the enthusiasm for them in Australia that both Sydney and Melbourne possessed arcades in a quantity that rivalled many other international cities.Today only a few of these spaces survive. The best-known examples,
more » ... stored to an approximation of their original form, have become iconic heritage sites that are drawcards for both locals and tourists. Marketing campaigns and tourist brochures invite shoppers to step back in time and encounter the bourgeois elegance of Australia's retail past.But these often idealised and simplified interpretations elide the far more diverse, complex, multilayered and sometimes uneasy histories of these sites. Arcades were not static spaces, forever caught in the nineteenth century, nor simply bourgeois shopping malls. Rather, they were significant social spaces that housed a variety of businesses and attracted patrons from all walks of life and underwent diverse historical trajectories.For the handful that survives, many more have been lost, only living on tenuously in the collective memory. Looking beyond the imagined façade, this paper examines the forgotten histories of some of the Australian arcades, peeling back the layers in order to reawaken their hidden stories and the complexity of their role in the urban past.
doi:10.25916/5c26bd7523077 fatcat:rwmccndltjcnrd4d6q7z4mqiqi