Oakleigh Motel
1650 Dandenong Road, Oakleigh East 3166.
 
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Oakleigh Motel
Oakleigh Motel
Oakleigh Motel
Oakleigh Motel
Oakleigh Motel
Oakleigh Motel
Summary:
  • Constructed in 1956-7.
  • Designed by James Miller of Tec Draft Machine & Drafting Service.
  • Listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (no. H2193).
Building Description:

The Oakleigh Motel in the south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh was the very first motel ever built in Victoria.

Constructed in 1956, "the Oak" was the official 'turning point' for the marathon in the 1956 Olympics and typical of a new style of architecture developed in response to the boom in car ownership in post-war Australia.

There had been several failed attempts to build motels in Victoria before 1956, but with the accommodation shortage that resulted from the city's hosting of the Olympics, the pressure to build motels increased. Commissioned by former car salesman Cyril Lewis and designed by architect James Miller, the Oakleigh succeeded where others had failed up to that period. Nevertheless, delays prevented its completion until 1957 when the Olympics had ended.

In the United States, motel design had developed into a form that would later be known as "Googie" architecture. Googie architecture typically relied on the use of garish colours, peculiar eye-catching building materials, bright neon signs and unusual structural forms that were all designed to catch the eye of fast-moving vehicular traffic. Australian architects travelled to the United States to examine, learn from, and adapt the Googie style to Australian conditions. The Oakleigh Motel was the first expression of Googie architecture in Victoria, and a good example at that. The Oak's enormous portico with signage, the enormous neon sign above the motel (added in the late 1950's) and the unusual form of the building (especially the dining room) typify the Googie style and would have attracted the eye of many.

Uniquely, up until 2009 the motel was still largely as it was constructed in 1956. Still fully operational, but with a different colour scheme and minor modification to the neon sign, the motel had survived where most others from that period were either significantly altered, or demolished.

The Oakleigh Motel consisted of three buildings. The front one on Dandenong Road contained a drive-in entry canopy, an office, manager's residence and a restaurant. Behind that are two accomodation wings in between which a car park is positioned.

In 2008, the motel was sold to developers who wanted to turn the site into 54 apartments. The National Trust lead a campaign to have the Oakleigh Motel listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. After public submissions were considered (including one from the City of Monash opposing the motel's inclusion on the register), the Heritage Council decided in favour of adding the motel to the state's heritage list, thus protecting it from redevelopment or alteration.

Unfortunately the heritage protection yielded absolutely no result. In 2010, the Oakleigh Motel, which is described by the Victorian Heritage Council as an "unusually intact example of 1950’s modernism in Victoria" and as being "aesthetically significant as an example of the American 'Googie' style of architecture" was totally gutted. The walls remain, but almost everything else was ripped out to make way for 33 apartments to be called "Parkview Terraces". Whilst the reception building will be retained, all of the units will have an (unsympathetic) second storey added and a couple of new blocks will be wedged onto the site.

Many have argued that this demonstrates the relatively worthless nature of Victoria's heritage protection laws. At the project's completion, very little of the original fabric of the building will remain.
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