Modernist mural from 1956 Olympics to be restored

Richard-Beck-Hosies-Hotel-Mural-1955-photo-by-Rohan-ShearnConservators will soon begin work to restore an abstract public artwork on a former city hotel, which dates back to the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

The City of Melbourne has invested $55,000 in a grant for a specialist conservator to restore the Hosie’s Hotel mural on the corner of Elizabeth and Flinders Street.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the abstract mosaic mural by Richard Beck and was created in 1955 and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

“The mural shows pots clinking together and it was considered a bold design at the time. We’re helping to restore the 64-year-old mural to its former glory,” said the Lord Mayor.

“The mural is of historical significance to the state of Victoria due to its connection to the modernist movement in architecture and design.”

Modernism was key to presenting Melbourne to the world as a modern, contemporary city at the time of the 1956 Olympic Games. We have a chance to protect this modernist architectural legacy,” said the Lord Mayor.

Hosie’s Hotel was one of two hotels constructed to provide modern accommodation for the 1956 Olympic Games. The conservation work is being undertaken using a grant from the $600,000 multi-year Melbourne Heritage Restoration Fund.

Heritage Lead, Councillor Rohan Leppert, said the grants are designed to fund works on heritage listed properties however the works must be visible from the public realm.

“Thousands of people pound the pavement underneath this artwork every day and may be surprised that the mural dates back to the 1956 Olympics. This work is all about recognising the places that have importance to us as a community,” said Cr Leppert.

“The City of Melbourne recognises that heritage restoration works are valuable but can also be expensive which is why we are providing incentives for owners through the Melbourne Heritage Restoration Fund.”

More than $130,000 in grant funding remains available to help facilitate other restoration works in the City of Melbourne.

“We have previously funded the restoration of a historical nautical weathervane at the Mission to Seafarers in Docklands and the reinstatement of decorative keystones on Alcaston House on Collins Street,” said Cr Leppert.

In 1953 Carlton and United Breweries announced plans for the new air conditioned 13 floor hotel that would provide better accommodation facilities for the 1956 Olympic Games. Only one other hotel, the Graham Hotel in Swanston Street, was built to provide modern hotel accommodation for the Games.

Works to conserve the four-storey mural will take up to four weeks and will involve specialist trades skills in tiling and glazing.

Last year the City of Melbourne recommended heritage protection for 55 postwar buildings constructed between 1945 and 1975 identified in the Hoddle Grid Heritage Review, including Hosie’s Hotel.

“The Hoddle Grid heritage review was the most comprehensive review of heritage buildings in the Hoddle Grid since the 1990s. It’s also the largest study of postwar heritage we’ve ever completed,” said Cr Leppert.

Image: Richard Beck, Hosies Hotel Mural, 1955 – photo by Rohan Shearn