Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Or just a Midcentury Australian Shopping Centre

The monolith that is Southland Shopping Centre looms over its surroundings.

It is located in the Melbourne suburb of Cheltenham and as a kid growing up it was a constant backdrop to my life.  Southland has sprawled and developed over the years, with cinemas added in the 80s and a bridge built in the late 90s (the largest in the southern hemisphere apparently, which is clearly a measure of greatness here in Australia.)

But why the trip down retail memory lane, you ask?

I have often heard about a mythical rooftop garden at Southland where shoppers and staff could get outside and relax by an ornamental lake.  This has always confused me, as the Southland I know is a beigey-yellow box where windows are few and the outside is ignored.

The Southland Shopping Centre of the 60s and 70s was entirely different however!

(Source: http://localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au)

These shots from the City of Kingston local history website show a wonderful green space on the third level.

(Source: http://localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au)

There was indeed an ornamental lake, some lawn and a collection of typically mid-century plantings!

(Source: http://localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au)

What better way to relax after you’ve just bought a lovely pair of slacks!

(Source: http://localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au)

The architect’s perspective of the shopping centre is a great view of what the top level would have been like.  A fantastic outdoor space that is now built in or car park.

When I conducted further investigation into the original landscaping of Southland, I stumbled upon some more great photos.  These are of the interior and were taken by Wolfgang Sievers.

“Interior plants around an opening on the top floor and a view of the terrace gardens through the windows at the Southland Shopping Centre, by architects Tomkins, Shaw & Evans, Cheltenham, Victoria, 1969” – Source: http://nla.gov.au

While I was excited to spot some Monstera (yes it has holes) in there, I was also stunned at how green the interior was!

(Source: http://digital.slv.vic.gov.au)

This part of the centre was even called the ‘Garden Mall’ with plenty of planters greening the space.

(Source – http://digital.slv.vic.gov.au)

So what happened to all of this greenery?  Even this shot from 1988 shows plants literally overflowing from the rafters!

(Source: http://localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au/htm/imgal/6.htm)

Today’s Southland is an entirely different experience.  Maybe the lack of people in these images make it appear more serene, however you would be hard pressed to find plants in the centre now!

Maybe with their next development they can add a fourth level and dedicate it to a rooftop garden…..


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