Built Perth authors go head-to-head on the debate around the Cottesloe Indiana development

Indiana at Cottesloe beach, known to locals as the Indiana Tea House, is one of 50 buildings that Built Perth authors Tom McKendrick and Elliot Langdon considered iconic enough to feature in their book.

Last month plans were unveiled to regenerate the area, with four design concepts from four different architectural firms vying to be the final choice and open up the area to a multi million-dollar redevelopment. Now two finalists have been chosen, with the option of simply refurbishing the existing building still also on the table.

Opinion is divided – not just on which of the designs is better suited to the space, but on whether the Indiana building should be done away with at all. The developers, The Minderoo Group, have been consulting the public on the design every step of the way.

So with the recent release of Built Perth highlighting the iconic building once more, we caught up with Tom and Elliot to find out what they think about the issue.


Indiana Cottesloe has become an undeniably iconic part of Perth; it’s the kind of thing you might expect to see on the cover of the Perth Lonely Planet surrounded by the drop-dead gorgeous coastline on which it sits.

Unsurprisingly, people have grown very attached to the building in its relatively short life span. It might look as though it could have been there for 60 years, but in fact it was built only 25 years ago and unfortunately that doesn’t make it old enough for age alone to save it.

The design itself reflects a mix of styles from the 1900s, and as much as we love it because it feels like a part of our identity, it is by no means a piece of architecture that would be celebrated on an international level. Although it houses a very nice upscale bistro and a fish and chip / gelato store during the summer months, the current space is not as public-focused as the one Minderoo has in mind – particularly considering the millions of tourists and locals alike that flock to the area all year round.

I think we are being offered a fantastic opportunity – a wealthy philanthropist willing to very heavily include the public in the decision-making process for a development that so directly affects them. That alone is incredibly rare. The architects who were invited to submit designs include two of WA’s finest firms, and another two very highly respected firms from NSW, though the proposals each have their flaws, which is why the public have been included.

These designs act as a starting point to find out what we as a city want with one of our finest beaches and then whittle away at the scheme until it results in something we can all be proud of and enjoy. Every scheme is heavily focused on the public – beach-side pools, bars, event spaces and promenades – which I personally think Cottesloe would benefit a great deal from.

With a generous budget and internationally recognised architects, whatever ends up there is guaranteed to wind up being seen on the world stage and let everyone know that west is best.


I think the debate over the merit of the Indiana Tea House comes down to whether you believe architecture can have significance which surpasses its attributes in terms of design. Personally I believe it can.

It is fair to say that if the Indiana was placed elsewhere in Perth it would not be an architectural landmark, but that’s not the case. It is placed on one of Perth’s most iconic beaches and has been the backdrop to countless postcard and wedding shoots.

In a city that has made a bit of a habit of knocking down buildings, and which definitely isn’t overrun with iconic, instantly recognisable architectural works, it seems like a mistake to remove this one.

That said, I certainly think there is scope to better activate the area around Cottesloe beach and around the Indiana. With a thoughtful approach, there is no reason at all why the Indiana can’t remain and become part of a slightly new look for the beachfront.


Tom and Elliot will be in conversation with Anne-Louise Willoughby at the City of Perth Library on 2 September. Tickets are currently sold out, but there is a waiting list, which you can sign up for here.

Built Perth by Tom McKendrick and Elliot Langdon is available online at www.fremantlepress.com.au and at all good bookstores.


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