Part I of a series of photo-essays from Melbourne begins with the city’s historic architecture across housing, learning and leisurely structures. Keep an eye out for the December 2017 issue of Home Review for Part II of Melbourne’s Historic Architecture.
Since its founding as a city less than two hundred years ago, Melbourne has witnessed a series of upturns and downfalls that have given it a characteristic urban fabric, dozens of notable structures and even the tag of the ‘world’s most liveable city’ over the last decade.
It was during the Gold Rush of the 1850s and the economic boom of the 1880s, that a large number of grand buildings started being constructed in the city. An influx of wealth resulted in speculative housing development in the city centre, which was characterized by ornate facades and elaborate details for standalone houses as well as for those sharing side walls with their neighbours.
The State Library of Victoria’s grandest feature is the octagonal La Trobe Reading Room that is six storeys high and can accommodate over 300 readers at its desks. When opened in 1913, its concrete dome was one of the largest of its kind in the world. Another monumental structure is the Royal Exhibition Building designed by Joseph Reed. While it was built to host the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880-81, it was also the venue for the opening of Australia’s parliament in 1901 and for the 1956 Summer Olympics.
Australia’s oldest continuous entertainment venue is the Princess’ Theatre, in an architectural style called the ‘Second Empire’ that incorporates diverse elements, from the Renaissance to the Baroque styles. Melbourne’s central districts are also home to numerous arcades that run in between streets and form important retail and social spaces. Prominent amongst these are the Block Arcade and the Royal Arcade, both from the late 19th century.
Text and photos by Kunal Bhatia and Shuvajit Payne