La Ronde Restaurant

Client: Turner
Address: Main Rd cnr Cecil St, Eltham. VIC 3095
Job Number:

I conceived the idea of a basically round restaurant area with a small, hexagon-shaped kitchen on one side and an identical shop area on the other. The plan was based on a series of l.8-metre-sided hexagons. The final shape was a large half-hexagon to dine in, flanked by the kitchen, the shop, an asymmetric living area, and a three-sided fireplace with two bedrooms to the rear that reduced to a bathroom and facilities. The overall floor plan, which looked like a bow kite, was a masterpiece of economic resolution that my clients gave all indications of being able to afford. It was built straight onto the ground on strip footings, and the internal walls were made from reinforced plaster about 65mm thick manufactured in the factory. Castley Bros., the inventors of this structural system, only made a few walls using this process, but I think the idea well worth resurrecting today despite all the 'space age' adaptions that have come and gone. The ceiling of the restaurant was 200mm x 55mm hardwood rafters fanning out from the centre. These were lined with 150mm x 25mm green hardwood planks that are still in perfect condition more than thirty years later.

Drawing Location: Unknown

La Ronde was demolished in the mid 1980s

Alistair describes the birth of 'La Ronde' in his autobiography, A Middle Class Man.

One day, a new client and his wife came to see me riding pillion on a motorcycle. Our early clients were often far from wealthy, but Mr Ribson Turner - an Englishman - and his beautiful Belgian wife appeared to have even less cash than any of the others. As I was an eternal optimist, I did nothing to dissuade them from their hopes of building a restaurant in Eltham. They returned a few days later with a contract to purchase three 16-metre-frontage blocks of land at the corner of the Main Road and Cecil Street, adjacent to our small local shopping area, for a total of £650 - which was a very good deal indeed. However, buying the land was one thing, and erecting a restaurant and dwelling-place, another - especially as Mrs Ribson Turner always seemed to be pregnant, and it was she who was to be the cook and the one to make the business function.

Margot paving the terrace at La RondeMargot Knox laying the paving at La Ronde

Margot decided she would slate-pave the restaurant despite the fact that she was six months pregnant, so she employed Betty - the wife of future film director Tim Burstall - to act as her labourer. Betty's athletic brown figure made short work of mixing the mortar and carrying the slate slabs. It was mid-summer, and the weather was very hot. Both girls dressed in brief sunbathing attire, especially Betty, who was in constant danger of falling out of her bikinis, which were still somewhat advanced garb even for the beaches in 1954. The building - which was set back about twelve metres from the street - and the floor levels of the restaurant formed an elevated platform that showed the two females off to full advantage.

Keywords: restaurants,demolished

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