Melbourne Architecture: 1870 to the present

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Duration: More than 3 hours
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Melbourne Architecture: 1870 to the present

Put together by local Melbourne architect Stuart Harrison, this is a tour of significant architectural sites around Melbourne from its boom period in the late 19th Century, through to its sometimes controversial modern developments of the early 21st Century.

This tour is a great illustration of how you need to look up when walking around Melbourne. It can be very generic at street level, but quite spectacular above that.

Starting the tour

Outside the Council of Adult Education, 253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.

Section 1:
Directions:

From the CAE, head just a few metres west until you are standing outside the chemist on the corner of Degraves Street, opposite the beginning of Centre Place.

Stopover:

where you can wet your whistle.

Section 2:
Directions:

Take a few steps back towards whence you came and you’ll find yourself standing outside Ross House, formerly Royston House, at 247 Flinders Lane.

Stopover:

These days it functions as home to a number of not-for profit, self-help and small, community groups, providing them with a central Melbourne base without the central Melbourne rents. If you’re doing this tour during business hours you may be able to go inside and have a little look around.

Section 3:
Directions:

Just a stumble further east up Flinders Lane and you’ll find yourself at the Nicholas Building on the southern corner of Flinders Lane and Swanston Street.

Stopover:

to be done here.

When you leave the Nicholas Building, exit via the Swanston Street exit and look down St Kilda road axis to the Shrine of Remembrance, which was designed in 1934 by Hudson Wardrop. The Shrine is classical in style, with a Mausoleum of Halicarnassus pyramid-type roof.

Section 4:
Directions:

Walk down Swanston Street as though you were walking to the Shrine, on the other side of the road is St Paul’s Cathedral, the Anglican cathedral of Melbourne.

Stopover:

c interior. Then, from 1931, James Barr took on the spires, creating them in a more conventional gothic style and in different stone. The original building was built in Waurns Pond and Barrabol sandstone.

In 2007 and 2008 St Paul’s was undergoing major renovation and restoration to both the interior and exterior. You may find scaffolding obscuring some parts of the building. The church is open throughout most of the day, seven days a week, but be careful not to disturb any services if you choose to look inside.

Section 5:
Directions:

From the corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets outside the cathedral, it’s across the road to the south-eastern corner of the intersection for your next stop and a total contrast in architectural style – Federation Square.

Stopover:

The Federation Square project was controversial from the word go and was subject to a number of revisions to avoid obscuring the view of St Paul’s from St Kilda Road. It is now home to a great number of Melbourne’s favourite places to go including ACMI, NGV Australia and many bars and restaurants. During special events – such as the Australian Open, Soccer World Cup, football finals, Olympics and other major sporting and cultural events – there is often a live telecast on Fed Square’s big screen, bringing a carnival atomosphere to the space.

Section 6:
Directions:

On the south-western side of the Flinders Street and Swanston Street intersection is the quintessential Melbourne landmark, Flinders Street Station.

Stopover:

Flinders Street Station was designed in 1911 by JW Fawcett and HPC Ashworth of the Railways Department. It is classical – Edwardian Baroque with ‘blood and bandage’ brick and stucco.

Much of the interior space of Flinders Street Station – outside of the public areas – is now derelict and abandoned. At the western end of the station is a once magnificent ballroom, used for parties up until the 1950s or so. There is a push to restore the station space and use it for artist studios, along the lines of what has happened at the Nicholas Building (stopover 3).

Section 7:
Directions:

Done with Flinders Street Station? Then it’s off up Swanston Street with you, just one block. And there you’ll find the Melbourne Town Hall, on the north-eastern corner of Collins and Swanston Streets.

Stopover:

In addition, free tours are conducted Monday to Friday at 11am and 1pm.

Section 8:
Directions:

Just across the road from the Town Hall, on the north-western corner of the intersection, is the Manchester Unity Building.

Stopover:

Manchester Unity Building is at 91 Swanston St and was designed by Marcus Barlow in 1932. The building is modelled on the Chicago Tribune tower and was the first to break the then 132ft (40m) height limit. It has glazed terracotta tiles as cladding and is Commercial Gothic Modern.

Section 9:
Directions:

Just a little further north on Swanston Street, closer to the corner with Little Collins Street, is the Century Building.

Stopover:

The Century Building at 125 Swanston St was designed by Marcus Barlow in 1938 and is a Moderne updating of Manchester Unity featuring terracotta tile.

Section 10:
Directions:

Continue north along Swanston Street until you reach the Bourke and Swanston Street corner.

Stopover:

.

Section 11:
Directions:

Continue north up Swanston Street to the corner of Swanston and Lonsdale Streets, cross to the north-eastern corner and go up a few doors to 172-254 Lonsdale Street.

Stopover:

This is the Women’s Centre (former Melbourne Hospital), designed in 1910, by JJ EJ Clark, It is an example of classical Edwardian Baroque with ‘blood and bandage’ brick and stucco.

From there, look up Lonsdale Street to Orica (former ICI) House. Designed by Bates Smart McCutcheon in 1958, it is an example of Modernism. It contains the first free-standing fully glazed curtain wall in Australia and was another to break the 132 foot height limit.

Section 12:
Directions:

Built around the old Women’s Centre is our next stop, the QV development.

Stopover:

QV development was built in 2004/05 and is a contemporary structure, re-introducing lanes with mixed urbanism and restating the height limit on Swanston St. The podium was created by NH Architecture; the offices (Sensis) by Denton Corker Marshall; the QV2 Residential by McBride Charles Ryan; the QV1 Residential by John Wardle; BHP Headquarters by Lyons and childcare and carpark by Kerstin Thompson.

The structure features glass, steel, aluminium, brick, concrete, timber.

Section 13:
Directions:

Continue north up Swanston Street to the corner of Swanston and Latrobe Streets.

Stopover:

in 1854 and extended in 1870 Reed Barnes. The Domed Reading Room was added in 1911 and designed by Bates, Pebbles Smart. The recent restoration work, most spectacularly to the Domed Reading Room, was designed by by Ancher Mortlock Woolley. The building features stone.

Section 14:
Directions:

Just across the road is the multiple entrances to Melbourne Central shopping centre and, deep in the bowels of the building, Melbourne Central train station.

Stopover:

while you’re there!

Section 15:
Directions:

and Building 8, at RMIT University.

Stopover:

RMIT University’s Building 8 was designed by Edmond Corrigan in 1994 and is an example of postmodernism; Storey Hall is the work of the aforementioned ARM from 1996 and is also postmodernism.

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