All we leave behind are the memories. That was the proud boast of the Deen Brothers. Never was it more appropriate than when the notorious demolition company tore down Cloudland, moving in on the Bowen Hills ballroom in the middle of the night in 1982 at the behest of owner Peter Kurts.
For years even simple black-and-white photos of the cherished Brisbane icon were relatively hard to come by. Now, though, Brisbane management consultant Magnus Eriksson has given the venue new life online, digitally reconstructing Cloudland as it stood in the early 1950s. The high-resolution renders are striking in their detail and realism.
“Everyone in Brisbane who was an adult up until 1982 had some relation to it,” Eriksson says. “Everyone had been there, for dances and parties and exams or concerts. That’s what really attracted me to it, that it carries such weight in Brisbane culture. And I wanted to see what it actually looked like.”
Built in 1939, the venue saw many a debutante, school exam and concert in its prime, playing host to the likes of Buddy Holly, the Bee Gees, AC/DC and Midnight Oil. The Queen of England even paid Cloudland a visit, just three years before it was demolished.
Eriksson describes the architecture of Cloudland as interwar – an amalgamation of styles unique to the era. By the early ’80s the building was listed with the National Trust, but neither that nor the lack of a permit for demolition was enough to save it in an era when Queensland had a habit of knocking down its old buildings.
George Deen told the ABC in 2008 that it took just 20 minutes to pull down Cloudland. Eriksson’s reconstruction took over 12 months. “The research, working out the proportions took a long time,” he says. “Then you have to model it in 3D and then you have to render it, which is technically very complex. I was pretty much a novice when I started so there was a really big learning curve.”
Public reaction to the reconstruction has been overwhelmingly positive. “There are touching comments when you read through them on Facebook,” Eriksson says. “People in their eighties, sitting down with kids and looking through it and reminiscing. It’s great.”
The full recreation of the Cloudland Ballroom can be viewed here.
Correction: the original story stated that the Cloudroom Ballroom was demolished by the Deen Brothers at the behest of the Queensland state government. It was in fact owner Peter Kurts who hired the Deen Brothers to carry out the demolition. The story has been updated to reflect this.