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We built this city...the architects who made Melbourne

/ 27 Mar 2018
As the clocks go back and outdoors weather becomes indoors weather – it’s a good time to appreciate some of the more significant buildings and interiors in Melbourne and the architects and designers who built them.

Joseph Reed was one such architect with probably the most prolific influence on Melbourne’s skyline, his architecture stamping its mark on the city in the ‘marvellous Melbourne’ era of the second half of the nineteenth century.

An extremely versatile designer, the styles of his now iconic buildings range from the second empire Melbourne Town Hall, the Lombardic St Michael’s Uniting Church, the neoclassical The State Library of Victoria and the World Heritage Listed gothic architecture of  Royal Exhibition Building. All of Reed's buildings are accessible to the public and many used for tours, major arts, cultural and other events.

The State Library Victoria offers free tours to guests and a program of talks, lectures, exhibitions and events on all and every subject matter. The much revered Dome, or La Trobe Reading Room, was added by designer Norman Peebles in 1913. The library is opening further renovated spaces as part of its 2020 vision.

Moving into the twentieth century, the much-admired Manchester Unity Building on Swanston Street is a striking example of the commercial gothic style of the era. Built in 1932 during the great depression by progressive local Marcus Barlow.  The architect thought Melbourne needed to emulate the great skyscrapers in America and was inspired by the Chicago Tribune building. It was Melbourne’s tallest building when it was completed. Visitors can walk through and admire the detail and elegance of the interiors and grab a coffee at Switchboard, one of the smallest cafes in the city. 

Regent Theatre was designed by Cedric Ballantyne and built by James Porter & Sons, completed in 1929 to be part of a franchise of some of the most lavish and largest theatre cinemas in Australia, demonstrating the city’s early adoption of arts, popular culture and entertainment. The style is a combination of Spanish Gothic and French Renaissance. The Spanish Baroque and mediaeval style of the plaza ballroom was originally meant as a cabaret but ended up being another cinema. The venue has had a colourful history and now the best way to appreciate its awesomeness is to see one of the many blockbuster theatre performances held there thanks to David Marriner who ensured the venue's continued legacy in Melbourne’s cultural story.


Transit bar, Federation Square
Rooftop bar at Transit, Federation Square

The twenty first century welcomed Melbourne’s piazza for the public, Federation Square. Designed by London-based Lab Architects after a global competition and built alongside Bates Smart, Melbourne Architects, it was officially opened in 2002. The space has been purpose built for arts, events, culture and tourism with an open amphitheatre to hold up to 15,000 people.

Home to arts institutions, ACMI and the Ian Potter Gallery Centre, NGV Australia, Fed Square has become the beating cultural heart of the city. A $5.4 million project will see the current outdoor big screen replaced by a "sculptural wall of interactive LED panels” high-definition screens that can function as one large screen, or display separate images, set to open April 2018.

After ‘Fed Square’ Eureka Tower is the next major icon to change the face of Melbourne forever. Its 297.3-metres makes it the second tallest building in Australia. The reflective golden panels with a red stripe is symbolic of blood spilt during the Eureka Stockade during the gold rush and can be seen from north to south of the city changing colours with the position of the sun. The project was designed by prolific modern day Melbourne architectural firm Fender Katsalidis Architects and officially opened on 11 October 2006. It’s now home to Melbourne’s highest observation deck complete with the world first, The Edge, attraction.

As a city on the move, and one that is set to become the most populated in Australia by 2030 - Melbourne continues to evolve. New hotels will include the Mandarin Oriental, the last building designed by the late and great Zaha Hadid. More cultural, residential and commercial buildings planned in the coming years will all contribute to improving the world's most liveable city and provide the needed upgrades for the ease, comforts and entertainments of residents and visitors alike.

Architecture tours are available with Melbourne  Walks and  Meltours


This content can be shared and edited for the purpose of promoting Victoria as a visitor destination. Not for use in paid advertising. Please credit Visit Victoria.


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