Marrickville’s eccentric industrial icon to be replaced by affordable housing

It’s been immortalised on tea towels, greeting cards and posters and lampooned for its outrageous lime mint colour scheme and retro space age frontage.

But now Marrickville’s most iconic industrial building is proposed to be demolished for an affordable housing building.

A development application has been lodged with Inner West Council to flatten Addison Rd’s Ming On industrial building and instead build 62 apartments, which will be used for social and affordable housing for at least 25 years. 

The Ming On Trading Co Building at 35-41 Addison Rd, Marrickville

The application states that older women, and women experiencing domestic violence, will be accommodated in the new four-storey building.

There’s no question that Ming On – believed to be built in the early 1980s – has a curious and offbeat architectural approach.

Compared to the bland brick or grey facades of most commercial or industrial buildings in Sydney, Ming On sticks out due to its mint colour and two frontage fins which run from the street and through the roof.

As Vanessa Berry from the Mirror Sydney website said: “The style of the building – like a rectangle has swallowed a triangle – is less 1970s-functional, more a kind of industrial Googie, the post-war, space-age American architectural style that was given to Californian diners and petrol stations.”

“There’s no functional reason for its preposterous outfit, the fins on its roof and bright green coat. But the building is a reminder of the importance of eccentric spaces, in a city where, increasingly, the oddities are being ironed out.”

The famous Ming On fins

Berry researched the building’s history and found it was most likely first used for a furniture display room in the early 1980s, before being used by wholesaler Ming On.

Berry went inside the building in 2018 and appeared to find the original source of goods for most of Sydney’s $2 shops.

“An arrangement of boxes inside the entrance displays some of the miscellaneous goods that Ming On trades in,” Berry wrote. “Tubs of washing powder are stacked up, there are plastic baskets of socks and sticky tape, bird cages hang from the ceiling.

“Further inside, almost the whole lower floor of the showroom is dedicated to sewing thread. The metal shelving makes narrow aisles, lined with a rainbow of reels of thread.”

In other words, eccentric on the outside, eccentric on the inside.

The side of the Ming On building…still mint

The building was sold around this time, with Ming On moving to south-western Sydney.

Clearly many have embraced Ming On’s “so bad it’s good” style of defiant, nerdish architecture.

You can buy Ming On greeting cards, posters, tea towels or prints, based on artist’s sketches of the building. In many ways, it epitomises the Inner West’s love of everything retro – like the Newtown Jets, Federation homes, gritty industrial precincts and corner pubs.

Ming On card and poster
A Ming On tea towel

However, the Ming On building is not heritage protected, which means its days are numbered.

While the Ming On building seeks to gain attention, its proposed replacement takes exactly the opposite architectural approach and, when built, is likely to effectively disappear into the surrounding area.

The proposed replacement building on the Ming On site

“There are no significant natural or landscape features in this locality that would influence the design,” the application says. “Rather, it has been carefully chosen to integrate with the urban mixed use surrounds.”

In other words, not stand out.

Comments on the application are open until 9 September (look up DA/2021/0688 for 35-41 Addison Rd, Marrickville at the Inner West Council DA tracking site).

What do you think? Should Ming On be protected? Or should we support the site’s new use for affordable housing?

4 Comments

  1. I totally want affordable housing and DV places but let’s not get rid of old awesome architecture, it would be a real shame: surely there’s another place to revamp?

  2. I am all for affordable housing in this area, however, it should not have to come at the loss of such an iconic building. Newtown & Marrickville are quirky and need quirky. It’s distinctive to the area and I’d much prefer to see it restored.

  3. “But”…”however”…maybe the people who say they are for affordable housing, aren’t really for affordable housing.

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