Having grown up in Canberra, I remember when Woden was trendy, and actually called Woden Plaza before the corporate W took over. There was a giant fountain area near Centrepoint Plaza (did it get removed because of the fish?), the mindbending Camel Train shop in the interchange, the Cosmopolitan Twin Cinemas and Snake Pit nearby plus the bowling alley.
The Camel Train was my favourite place – slightly forbidden and just so full. There’s a wonderful photo in the Canberra Times (1992, May 5) that shows how crowded it was with jewellery, candles, clothes, everything. I think it opened around 1982 (before that it might’ve been Aladdin’s Cave, a rug shop), and I’m not sure of when it actually closed. Some of the more recent uses of the space have been as a Christian book shop and now a mini-mart.
My focus was so much on the Camel Train and the fountain that I never really connected with Hinder’s sculpture (look closely in the picture in that link, you can see a maroon sign for the Camel Train on the right! The photo was taken from the fountain side, you can see the steps leading down). In the photo above, the fountain and steps used to be in the same location as the fancy paving.
Now that the sculpture is under maintenance, I chastise myself that I didn’t love it more when it was free range. It is much easier to feel the pain of art that is a battery hen, a sense of loss. There is a sticker on it which says “Please don’t litter your mind”. I look forward to a cleaner and happier sculpture being free at the end of August.
The artsACT site notes the benefits of keeping the sculpture healthy:
“By polishing the aluminium surface to a soft patina, and allowing it to bulge around the middle, the sculpture resembles a large soft heart, appearing to be made of several chambers but actually one connected and vital whole.”
Woden’s heart in a cage.
The Snake Pit was painted by community groups. This “in progress” shot dates from 1994, from a 2005 report on ACT Government public art.
Here is the Snake Pit today – the entry is where you used to get into the movies. Capital Yarns even spun a tale of Snake Pit Armageddon, perhaps that’s what happened.
I have fond memories of the bowling alley too – I wonder how the space is used now, it is in the weird island building in the middle of the interchange – as well as the cinema. It was a magical place, just like our beloved Electric shadows. It is easy to love the past when you’re no longer in it.
We weren’t actually allowed to hang out in Woden very much, because of the horrifying missing person case of Megan Louise Mulquiney that is still unsolved. Her unknown story is really the only truly heartbreaking part of the place, I’m not really sure what else to say. Please click to see her profile on the Missing Persons website.
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