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  • Writer's pictureRegional Design Service

Revitalising a 1950's Township

In 2019, the team at Regional Design Service set out to assist the township of Tallangatta, Victoria to reinvigorate their 'Main Street' retail strip while celebrating the unique Mid-Century Architecture of ...'the town that moved'.

Tallangatta is a 1950's town that was relocated 8km to higher ground, allowing for the expansion of Lake Hume. At the time over 100 buildings were relocated from 'Old Tallangatta' but the majority of the civic and commercial buildings were built in a restrained Mid-Century Style. Due to this and the considerable number of 1950's buildings that are still intact, The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) named the town with ‘Notable Town’ status in 2016.

Before and After Photographs

As the project facilitator our role wasn't necessarily to 'design’ in a literal sense. We felt that it was also our responsibility as designers to help the community understand the context of Mid-Century Design in Australia.

Our approach was to engage in conversations with owners and other locals about why people either loved or despised the 1950's heritage of the town. Some felt that the buildings were poorly built and not worth saving while others felt that some owners were destroying the buildings by modernising. Most owners felt that painting their buildings grey or black would be the best course of action as '...the one down the road looks better since they painted it black and hid all the ugly'.

While listening to all their thoughts and desires we shared our knowledge of post war Australian construction, the limited availability of building materials and how this might have influenced the construction of the town. Drilling down in to the 1950's we also looked at advertising posters, fashion illustrations and art throughout the era to inspire the owners to consider bright and colourful painting or business signage.

Good Golly Miss Molly's new 1950's inspired business identity developed by Studio Scerri

To our delight, the community and owners embraced a brighter colour scheme and set out to work with each of their neighbours to use contrasting or complimentary shades to great success. Many also took up the offer to have their veranda posts painted white to create a consistent and uniform treatment, fixing years of disagreements around who 'owned' the column on the boundary lines.

Once each owner had applied for matched funding to undertake improvements the remainder of the allocated project budget was to be used for the delivery of other creative projects in the street. Collaborating with Alyce Fisher from Murray Arts a brief was developed for a series or public art installations. Following additional community consultation and an EOI process, Artist Kirrily Anderson was engaged to deliver a series of murals that will capture stories and concepts from the past, present and future of Tallangatta.

On average, each shopfront received around $4,000.00 worth of improvements which included veranda post restoration, uniform highlight window treatment, removal of redundant overhead power equipment and the additional works by each owner. In this day and age it is hard to imagine this amount of money being able to deliver so much, however, due to the ability to bundle up works, such a painting works for the whole street, we have been able to make a major impact and difference. It was also estimated that every dollar contributed by the funding was matched dollar for dollar by the building owners, resulting in over $300,000.00 of investment in the community.

We're extremely proud of what the owners have / will continue to achieve and congratulate Towong Shire Council on the foresight to undertake this project. If your community is looking at strategies to revitalise your rural or regional township, we would be more than happy to share our experience and lessons learnt with you.

See more photography of the project here.

Project Collaborators

Studio Scerri – Good Golly Miss Molly identity

KW Roofing – veranda roof repairs

True Style Painting – veranda post and lintel restoration / painting, shopfront painting

KB Painting – Shopfront painting

Signs by Knight – Signage and highlight window Tinting

Kirrily Anderson – Murals

Murray Arts - Public Art Consultancy


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