By RUSSELL GUY
I was reading recently about the historic Lutetia Hotel in Paris (pictured) and how it has undergone renovation to reintroduce it to Four Star clientele.
I like reading about historic hotels as I made a point of staying in a few when I was a globetrotter in another time.
I stayed at The Peninsula, Hong Kong and Claridge’s on the Champs Elysee, eating sardines for days while living in luxurious, tasteful surrounds, but not The Chelsea, New York, plus a few others whose names are lost in the streets of time.
The renovations to the Lutetia, built in 1910, drew comments from the manager who said the goal was to “create a contemporary hotel by enhancing everything that was historic.”
The hotel housed the Nazis when they took Paris in WW2 and “celebrity intellectuals in the 1950s”.
Charles de Gaulle honeymooned there, James Joyce wrote part of Ulyssess, with editing suggestions by Ernest Hemingway, Josephine Baker, the singer, dancer and actor was a regular as were Picasso and Matisse.
The hotel had not lost its soul and this comment brought to mind the destruction of much of the Alice Springs CBD in the 1980s and more recently, when its history went under the bulldozer.
There is a place for history in a savvy mind and a tourist-based economy. This is not lost on those like-minded people who champion the history of Alice Springs and are involved in the conversation that revolves around current projects such as the newly proposed art gallery.
Getting the architecture of a town or city right is paramount to its ongoing prosperity in an increasingly mobile world, not excluding the Grey Nomad domestic putsch, but getting the architecture of alcohol availability is integral to the success of Alice Springs, if it is to embrace the challenges of tourism.
I thought of Albert Namatjira’s Alice Springs history, something which is not just exclusive to Hermannsburg and that reminded me of the rich missionary history of Alice Springs in terms of its various churches. The history of Alice is still being gathered and presented. We can’t afford to lose anymore.
The Hele Crescent Precinct in Alice Springs is an example of what can be done by someone with an eye for history and the diversification of a traditional CBD to a mini-CBD concept, without losing the line of sight to the surrounding ranges, such as has been the case with the new courthouse.
It was recently declared by the Warumungu, that Tennant Creek has 10 alcohol outlets and one supermarket.
The hit that town has taken in terms of tourist appeal of late should be a reminder that Alice Springs needs to get back to preserving what made it an iconic destination in the first place.
That, of course, includes its Arrernte pre-contact history and should impact any ideas that may form part of its future architecture. Tennant Creek is a reminder of how not to do it.
By RUSSELL GUY