Public library

I have been into this building many times, but it is only this week, while gathering a few more images for my upcoming book Type Town, that I took proper notice of the words. I never knew it said ‘public library’! I knew there were words, I know this is a library, but I know it as the State Library—which is what the sign around the corner on Macquarie St says. I also discovered that this section of the street is called Shakespeare Place. One thing I am still unsure about, however, is the architectural term for the part of the building where the text appears. Above is the pediment and cornice, below is the architrave—but the section in between—I think it is the frieze, but I’m not sure. Perhaps I could find the answer inside, on the library shelves.

The pool room


It’s views like this that make me love the city so much. I have passed this building hundreds—perhaps thousands—of times since I have lived in Sydney, but on this day I was walking towards it from a particular direction at a particular time of day with particular light conditions, and I saw, for the first time, the sideways neon sign in the window and the reflection of the M. It’s not just the pool room sign on the reflection of antennas that I love, but the shape of the windows, the rich colours, and the beauty of the architecture despite the fact that the building has seen better days.



The Iao Theater in Wailuku, just 35 kilometres from the Queen Theatre in Lahaina, holds no surprises with its spelling of theater. The challenge—for a non-Hawaiian—is learning to pronounce a word consisting solely of vowels! (Although not so hard once you learn how.) The Spanish Mission-style Iao Theater opened in 1928 and was originally both a movie theater and vaudeville house. It closed in the early 1980s and was almost demolished, but the community and county made efforts to save it, and in 1995 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra have performed here, as well as Maui musicians Keali‘i Reichel and Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom. Typographically speaking, I find that my preconceptions are challenged. I would usually keep well clear of this style of type, but on this sign, in this context, it’s exactly right.



Wailuku was once a thriving centre, although the few times I’ve been there not much has been going on. A walk along Market Street reveals hints of former glory, where the varied architecture sits against the dramatic backdrop of the Iao Valley. I liked the simplicity of this building, the 1932 almost too subtle to be noticed, especially on this drizzly grey day.



I’m not a big fan of vertical words, but in this instance I kind of like it—the vertical on vertical on vertical of all those tall palm trees and that tall architectural detail. Mallams was a family owned and run supermarket, in Mullumbimby NSW, that traded for more than a hundred years, starting as a general store that made home deliveries by horse and cart, and serving as a hub for the local farming community. In recent times, Mallams had plans to expand, but they encountered so much local opposition that they sold up to Woolworths.



What a magnificent building this is, despite—or because of—its dilapidation. The faded and peeling paintwork, rotting window frame and patchy painted glass are not enough to disguise its beauty. I love the decorative frieze of circles and lines and the irregular letter shapes and spacing of Eclipse. The Eclipse Theatre is situated in the small town of Deepwater, on the NSW northern tablelands. Deepwater’s population is not much more than 300.There is an annual race meeting and a Scarecrow and Wool Festival. Despite the proximity of a river, the Ngarabal name for the area is Talgambuun, meaning ‘dry country with many dead trees’. It’s hard to imagine how this art deco theatre got here, and I haven’t been able to find out, which only adds to its allure.



Seventy-seven years have passed since this building was erected, and while Ray White had been in the real estate business since 1902, I doubt his company occupied these premises until much more recently or there would surely have been evidence of an earlier incarnation of the logo, perhaps more sympathetically matched in materials and execution to the building. While there is nothing exceptional about the facade, the stark white of the modern screenprinted sign is undoubtedly unsympathetic. This doesn’t detract from the attention-grabbing number 3, however.

The Royal


The Royal theatre, in Quirindi NSW, dates from 1930. It closed in 2006 but a couple of years later the building was bought by the shire council with the aim of restoring it to its former glory. The community rallied, and volunteers  helped with the clean up and painting. In April 2010 the theatre officially re-opened with a live performance, and by September, movie screenings were resumed. I would have loved to have seen inside, even caught a show, but it was closed on the day I was there so I had to be content with admiring the name above the door.

Steel and coal


My first reaction to this spiral detail was how clever it was, to include a company logo in the facade of the building in such an aesthetic way. I was convinced it was the BHP logo—before they merged with Billiton and modernised their corporate identity—but now, after quite some time online trying to find evidence that my memory served me correctly, I’m not so sure. I’ve checked every Newcastle and Wollongong steelworks-related name I can think of, but I can’t find the logo anywhere! It’s bugging me that I can’t identify it, yet I can picture it so clearly, in that spot at the back of my mind that is just beyond reach. I am hoping that synchronicity will work in its usual way, and that some time over the coming days or weeks I will see it somewhere else, and experience that ‘ah, of course’ moment that is so eluding me now.

Police station


This building, in Police Lane, Geelong, is no longer an operational police station, but the chiselled words remain. The area is more of an arts precinct now: look one way and there is the art gallery, look the other way and there is a large mural on the wall of the performing arts centre and a recording studio aptly named ‘Lock Up’. The lettering is surprisingly refined: I particularly like delicacy of the L and E.