Behind the face

20150901_104222 (2)This year is the 85th anniversary of the opening of Brisbane’s City Hall. It’s the largest in Australia, and the only City Hall of an Australian capital city. The tower boasts the biggest clocks in the country. This week I saw behind the face.

Over the building’s entrance is the superb relief of early settlement by Australia’s utmost sculptor Daphne Mayo. The auditorium’s copper dome is the largest in Australia. Look up at the tower and you’ll see St Mark’s Basilica in Venice on which the design is based. For forty years it was the tallest construction in Brisbane.

Australia’s oldest working manually-operated cage elevator, and its original 1927 time machine enclosure, rattles you skyward. “What happens if the bell rings,” asks a friendly-faced old man on the observation deck. He’s heavily accented. His eyes sharp. The guide is helpful while others go about their viewing. The man takes small steps and needlessly apologises for being slow.

Joseph is 81 and came from Malta when he was 18 following the war. He delivered fruit in the West End but I sense he did a lot more. In Malta he rang the bell for his church. “I used to ring the bell every hour, couldn’t hear for 30 minutes, and then go back to ring it again.”

His memory and passion was mesmerising. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

Earthward the elevator hummed, behind the 5 metre faces and 3 metre hands. Through the cage you spy shadows and light. The mechanism that makes it work. “I wish you good luck today,” Joseph said. I thanked him and smiled. His eyes gave a twinkle.

Click here to read about sculptor Daphne Mayo.

BTW the other capitals only have Town Halls.


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