In the Clouds

January 24th, 2014, 2pm

One of the world’s tallest residential buildings, the Eureka Tower is said to be home to more than a thousand people. No doubt other superlative statistics might be dredged up, but I am more interested in the explicit historical symbology of this structure than in the Freudian interpretations of the great poles that dot our global landscape, leading to the inevitable ‘mine is bigger than yours’ talk.

Symbolic ornamentation of buildings is found from the earliest periods of urbanization, from Peru to Mesopotamia, and has continued ever since; but, with the advent of the modern skyscraper, came Louis Sullivan’s injunction that this new “tall, every inch of it tall” format should rise “in sheer exultation from bottom to top” as “a unit without a single dissenting line.” Such thinking, together with the idea that skyscrapers were designed to make money, not to serve as symbols, may be heavily responsible for the many thousands of unornamented, upended kleenex boxes found in cities around the globe.

The Eureka Tower, a “proud and soaring thing” in spite of its heavily accented horizontal lines, clearly satisfies Sullivan’s “vertical aesthetic”. At the same time, perhaps the upper 20% of the building is given over to structural ornamentation which can be seen, and read, from miles away.

The tower is named after the Eureka Stockade rebellion during the 1854 Victoria gold rush (the building crown is gold coloured with a red stripe representing the gold and the bloodshed). The . . . blue façade with white lines is supposed to represent the blue and white flag of the stockade.


This rebellion, in which 27 people died, is no doubt a worthy moment for Australians to remember, although its actual significance has been called into doubt by several eminent historians. Some have deemed it the birth of Australian democracy while others call it an “uprising by outsiders who were exploiting the country’s resources and refusing to pay their fair share of taxes”.

Speaking personally, and speaking as a proud Australian, I would prefer to think of the field of gold and the trickle of red at the top of the Eureka Tower as blood on the golden wattle, commemorating two centuries of bloodshed perpetrated by European Australians upon many thousands of the country’s original inhabitants.

Adrian, Jack, Cassie, Steve and 2 others said thanks.

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David Wade Chambers

Born in Oklahoma: 30 years in US. 6 years in Canada, 40 years in Australia. Academic field: history and philosophy of science. Currently, teach indigenous studies online at Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM) and Brandon University (Manitoba). Come visit our B&B on Australia's Great Ocean Road. Mate's Rates for Hi community! (

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