Bon Marche Arcade Buildings (1901)
Are there any better buildings than old buildings? No. I am glad you agree. This one initially posed quite a challenge: the middle of the city, on a busy Sunday, broad daylight. Not only that, but on Barrack street! Striding down the side alley, we initially thought that the required task would be to jump up and pull down a fire escape staircase on a pulley before using it to climb up. However, standing below, we soon realised that this was a pipe dream. Largely because the pulley was concealed y PVC piping and the stairs were about 2.5 metres above us.
It was then that one of our company, J suggested we use the elevator in the building itself. Likely more conspicuous, sadly one of our other comrades, L told him that the entrance he referred to was always locked. J was surprised by this and led us into one of Perth’s earliest buildings where we stepped into one of Perth’s earliest elevators. As it engaged in the great struggle to pull us up against gravity, it moaned and creaked enough to make even a seasoned elevator man nervous. Up the top we were happy to see an easily accessible fire escape on the roof, and happier still to see that the office holder on the top floor was wont to observe Sunday as a day of rest.
On the roof it was an exceptional mix of freedom and enclosure. There was no real sight of anything but colossal structures around and the various levels of the roof on which we were perched. We could be as noisy as we like and no one would care. We climbed up a scorching tin roof to get a better vantage point. High above the city it’s quite soothing to watch the bustle below, you feel above it all in more ways than just height. The towering high rises are your kin.
Sadly all things must end, and to add a bit of spice we decided to exit via the fire escape that had foiled our earlier entry attempts. A brave soul staggered out until the retractable stairwell began to be leveraged down. Our exit was again strangely ignored by those walking past 5 meters away and as we walked out we found that the perspective of the roof had not yet dissipated. We were observers of the structured lives of others, unnoticed in return.
Tom Camp & Levi Neeson