The 1960s signalled the onset of the jet age and cities worldwide rushed to accommodate this new modernity. The jet age spawned the construction of the Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne: Australia’s first purpose-built jetport. Although now considered purely functional in the 21st century, in 1970, Tullamarine was the height of modernity and progress. Its design was truly minimalist. Built in prefabricated concrete, its brutalist buildings sat like sentinels in the sparse surrounds of Macedon basalt plains. It had Victoria’s first complete freeway while Tullamarine was Australia’s first airport connected by freeway to its city. It was the envy of all Australia.
Melbournians had long waited for Tullamarine’s opening with visitor numbers exceeding travellers even until the mid-1980s. People visited its cinemas, restaurants, bars and other facilities as day trips or on as an attraction on its own accord and the use of such facilities in such a comprehensive fashion to generate revenue from the travelling and non-travelling public made Tullamarine truly distinctive amongst airports of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The airport was an icon of 1970s Australia through its vibe, its facilities, the architecture and interior design. Much of this is now lost in the 21st century. This paper explores the lost iconography of the Tullamarine Airport through four areas of analysis. It first looks at Tullamarine as a monument to the ‘jet age’ in Australia. The paper describes Tullamarine’s initial sublimity from multiple perspectives – the public, the media and academia. The iconic facilities that made Tullamarine a visitor attraction are also noted, particularly the Astrojet Centre, its cinema, the Top Air restaurant and the observation decks. Finally its cutting-edge interior design and minimalist architecture are also described.