Profiling Melbourne's signage / Quantas Travel Insider Magazine / by rophoto

Excerpt from article published in  the October issue of Quantas Travel Insider magazine on the recent book  by Stephen BanhamCharacters: Cultural stories revealed through typography, Thames& Hudson. "… Melbourne’s idiosyncratic typography has long shaped the city’s character. Some signs were pulled down long ago and discarded, existing now only in photographs or design sketches. Others have been preserved by dedicated locals and given a new lease of life, or are in storage somewhere awaiting resurrection. But whether old or new, they all have stories to tell..."

Our Magic Hour

Artist Ugo Rondinone’s striking installation was built in 2003 as part of an exhibition alongside the likes of Jeff Koons and Christo. Purchased by the Kaldor Foundation, Our Magic Hour was brought to Melbourne, where it sits on top of the headquarters of the Sportsgirl fashion label in Richmond. Creative expressions of such joyous wonder are not without precedent in Melbourne. In Bourke Street in the late 1800s one of the most striking features of the streetscape was the rainbow signage above the Cole’s Book Arcade. Owned and operated by eccentric utopian Edward William Cole, the arcade was described as a “palace to the intellect”, overflowing with new and secondhand books and other wares. The atmosphere was more like a circus, featuring a menagerie of animals, a fernery, distortive mirrors and an assortment of curious machines and entertainments. Cole’s distinctive rainbow motif was also featured on the cover of his best-selling publication, Cole’s Funny Picture Book. When Cole’s Book Arcade was pulled down in 1929, 10 years after its founder’s death, the cheery rainbow entranceway was sadly missed. The installation of Our Magic Hour gestures back to that sense of public optimism

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