Pink Palaces on Valentine’s DayPosted: February 14, 2013
The giant bears of Burwood stare out from behind the glass of the pink palace at the corner of Parramatta and Burwood roads. The bears watch tens of thousands of cars travel past every day. For drivers going east they are yet another sign that they are approaching the city. For those travelling west, the beady eyes of the bears farewell people from the inner west. They are the subject of countless conversations in the cars stopped at the intersection, all of which centre around the same question: who would want a bear that big?
On Valentine’s Day the bear display is in some measure of disarray: bears have fallen sideways and there are gaps where bears have been bought and removed from the display. The showroom is busy as men pull at the bears’ ears to check the price tags. The largest bear, a colossal beast of over 6 feet tall, costs just short of $2000. A man reads the tag on the giant bear’s ear and I ask him if he’s thinking of buying it. “It’s too expensive!” he said. “I should just get her a diamond ring!” I put in my opinion on the matter, that the ring is safer. A bear that big would need a room of its own.
It is the busiest day of the year at the teddy bear specialist florist. Staff rush back and forth with armfuls of roses, inflate helium balloons, and conduct conversations with people in the market for bears. Most of the people considering the bears are men looking confused at the variety of sizes, styles and coats available. It is likely that anyone who enters here has never been in a room filled with so many teddy bears, and the effect is slightly claustrophobic: there are a lot of little beady eyes. Outside, staff load flower arrangements and bears into a van parked on the footpath. Rose petals and leaves litter the concrete around it and soon the van speeds away to join the Parramatta Road traffic.
While the upper storey is still hot pink, the street level of the building is now painted a sensible black and white, as if it is growing up and leaving its pink phase behind. Across the street is more pink, a window coverings showroom, providing the unusual sight of a road flanked by two hot pink buildings. While paler tones of pink are a relatively common colour for buildings, a true suburban pink palace is a pink so bright it shocks.
My favourite pink palace is the Pavlova building in nearby Croydon, gaudily visible from the trains as they pass through Croydon station. I like to imagine that a Pavlova business is still operating there, although now the building is shared by architectural and archaeology businesses. The large letters on the side, spelling out PAVLOVA, are as anachronistic as if they said TYPEWRITERS or VHS: the world has moved from the large, gooey communal pavlova to the individualism of the macaron. Passing by on the train my eyes focus on the word “perfection”, and thoughts of a pink, perfect, pavlova world stay with me as the train moves me onwards.
As I take photos of the building a man who works in there stops on his way inside to ask what I’m doing. Although my appearance (70s polyester, pigtails)makes me an unlikely detective I understand his concern and tell him I just like that it’s so pink. It will only be pink for another couple of months, he says, it’s being updated to something more contemporary. Secretly I’m heartbroken, but my only reply is that I guess the era of the pavlova has passed.
This might be the last time I see it, mid afternoon in the late-summer sun with the crepe myrtle trees along the street flowering in clusters of pink blossoms. I will miss this pink palace once it has been painted over.
Other pink palaces: Peters of Kensington (pale pink, but vast)… Please let me know more if you can think of some.