an underplayed casino instead of a building ‘Mussolini would have loved’

Meanwhile, the crown drawings included a skyscraper hotel, indoor Ferris wheel and roller coaster. A year later, then-Prime Minister Jeff Kennett changed Victoria’s license plate slogan to “On the Move.”

“Someone said, ‘it would not be a good idea if we had the poet’s walk’, and you know lovers can go up there and romanticize and be a part of the Melbourne scene,” said Mr. Cox, whose resume includes designing the Australian pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

“Nothing could have been further from their mindset in terms of casino and gambling.”

Fireworks for the opening of the Crown in 1997.

Fireworks for the opening of the Crown in 1997.Credit:Ray Kennedy

The plans also included roof gardens filled with sculptures in a nod to the cultural area and the botanical garden nearby. The green area was intended to serve as a public park.

“We felt that was what Melbourne was looking for when it was Garden State in those days,” Mr Cox said.

A hollow walkable drum, its curves resembling the Arts Center down Yarra, would have connected the two separate casino buildings across Kings Way.

“We thought the drum was an exciting element of the city itself, it gave presence to the entrance to Melbourne,” said Mr. Cox.

Basically, the intention was to “bury the casino,” he said.

Crown Casino is being built over Kings Way.  The Cox design would have surrounded the road with a hollow drum.

Crown Casino is being built over Kings Way. The Cox design would have surrounded the road with a hollow drum.Credit:Luis Ascui

“It was a kind of guilt that we should not express a casino, you emphasize it instead of celebrating it. You make it something else,” he said.

Earlier this week, a Royal Commission found Crown Resorts was unfit to operate a casino due to a “shameful” series of legal and ethical breaches.

But back in the early 1990s, the local Crown team led by Lloyd Williams and Ron Walker flew high after being awarded the project by the Liberal state government’s casino authority.

Architect Philip Cox.

Architect Philip Cox.Credit:James Brickwood

Professor Peter McIntyre, chairman of the authority’s design review committee, said the decision to choose the Crown plan was unanimous. Unfortunately, he said, the best feature was later removed.

“For me, the excellent part of the design was taken. They needed people who could come from the casino up into a beautiful landscaped garden that would run from Spencer Street all the way up to Queen Street,” he recalled.

“I have never been so disappointed in my life when I saw it – it was a bloody garden of plastic. It was incredible. That was a big mistake. “

Professor McIntyre said there was another part of the casino’s design that he insisted on being changed: the lack of natural light.

“We insisted it should have daylight so players would know what time of day it was,” he said.

Jeff Kennett and Lloyd Williams at the opening of Crown Casino.

Jeff Kennett and Lloyd Williams at the opening of Crown Casino.Credit:Jason Syd

“But they never installed the bloody windows, they turned it into a black cave.”

Crown Casino under construction.

Crown Casino under construction.Credit:Jerry Galea

Robert McLellan, the planning minister who approved the construction, once said of the finished crown that “Mussolini would have loved it”.

“I also said that if it was up to me, everything would look Georgian. But it was not up to me, it was up to the experts, “he said Aging this week.

McLellan also used to tell people that he was not “minister of good taste” when approving buildings.

He said that if Victoria’s recent earthquake had been strong enough to reduce the Crown to rubble, then it probably would not be rebuilt in the same way.

“I think it must be one of the big gaming houses, but not one of the big buildings,” he said.

Southbank, what it looks like now with Crown on the right.

Southbank what it looks like now with Crown on the right.Credit:Joe Armao

Looking back at the Crown design, Mr McLellan said it was important to think about it in the context of the times.

Southbank was really “ugly”, he said, and badly in need of remodeling. Victoria was also heading out of a recession in the early 1990s and was looking to make a big splash.

Crown opened the door to an explosion of towers on the south side of Yarra, including the 300-meter-high Eureka Tower.

Peter McIntyre was an architectural consultant for the casino authority.

Peter McIntyre was an architectural consultant for the casino authority. Credit:Wayne Taylor

“It’s a building that, if taken out of context, would make one deeply sad,” he said. “This site provided an opportunity to bring people back to Melbourne as they left Melbourne in droves.”

Perhaps the most conspicuous sign of Crown’s ostentation was the large flamethrowers spitting fireballs across the promenade along the Yarra.

Sir. Cox said his ideas were too tame for the casino authority, which was more interested in Las Vegas strip showbiz rather than European sophistication.


“They were looking for jazz and, you know, strengthening the Melbourne stage rather than playing to what was there,” he said.

“They were not looking for green; they were looking for red fire on Yarra.

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