You will find much of Melbourne's most notable architectural sites along its main thoroughfare. Take a gentle stroll – or better still a bicycle tour – to get to know these buildings.
Architects: Denton Corker Marshall
Location: Carlton Gardens, Carlton
In designing the Melbourne Museum, architects Denton Corker Marshall were faced with the challenge of complementing the old building with an uncompromisingly contemporary structure. Its cantilevered east-west roof, with a further plane jutting out toward Canning Street, is visible for miles. Denton Corker Marshall are often called Australia's greatest iconoclasts and are known for their angled structures and cantilevered planes, as well as their use of colour, which is evident in the cubic Children's Museum at its western end.
Royal Exhibition Building
Architect: Joseph Reed
Location: Carlton Gardens, Carlton
Designed by the architect of the State Library and the Melbourne Town Hall the Royal Exhibition Building, with its wooden frame, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 as one of the last remaining buildings of its kind. Conceived at the height of the mid-19th century International Exhibitions movement, which demonstrated the confidence and achievements of the Industrial Age, the building has survived many incarnations, ranging from housing the inaugural Australian Federal Parliament to an influenza hospital.
The dome was modeled on that of the Florence Cathedral.
RMIT University Building 8
Architects: Edmond and Corrigan
Location: 368 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Edmond and Corrigan's RMIT Building 8 is home to the School of Architecture and Design. Corrigan designed a colourful, patterned mask for the façade, which veils and extends an existing building that once consisted of pragmatic concrete and glass blocks. The architecture program is housed on the top floor, and from the street below you can see – jauntily cantilevered – a bright tiled protrusion that accommodates the meeting room. Each floor is fondly tiled in colours inspired by Victorian football teams.
Architects: Tappin Gilbert and Dennehy (original building),
Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM) (redevelopment)
Completed: 1887 (original building), 1995 (redevelopment)
Location: 342 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Legend has it that idiosyncratic Storey Hall, designed by ARM architects, was kept carefully veiled during construction because it was going to be a controversial building (needless to say, it was). The building was originally conceived in a neoclassical style and has accommodated the Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society and passed through the hands of the Women's Political Association in the past. The colours of the new façade, green and purple, make reference to these earlier inhabitants. In the interior, a further reference is made to the so-called Yellow Peril sculpture, which is now located on the forecourt of ACCA.
State Library of Victoria
Architects: Joseph Reed (original building), Ancher Mortlock & Woolley
in association with Geyer (redevelopment)
Completed: 1856 (original building), 1990–2005 (redevelopment)
Location: 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne
The recently refurbished State Library of Victoria with its terraced lawns in front of the neo-classical portico offers the most successful public platform along Swanston Street. A visit to the famous domed reading room is a must.
Newly inscribed on the interior walls that support what was once one of the largest domes in the Southern Hemisphere are the words of writers reflecting on words, literature and libraries: 'One reads in order to ask questions', writes Kafka. 'Books are the threads from which our culture and civilisation are woven', suggests Richard W. Clement.
Architects: Kisho Kurokawa, Bates Smart + McCutcheon and Hassell
(original building), Ashton Raggatt McDougall (refurbishment)
Completed: 1988 (original), 2005 (refurbishment)
Location: Corner Swanston and LaTrobe streets, Melbourne
The Melbourne Central Shopping Complex is a reminder of the influx of foreign architects in the 1980s, who were commissioned with large-scale construction projects in the city. The fact that the original mall was infamous for its disconnection from the urban fabric of the city was often attributed to the fact that the architects weren't familiar with the character of this city. Local firm ARM was invited to alleviate the problem in 2005. They did so by creating new openings to the street and streamlining its interiors, replicating Melbourne's laneway system to enable shoppers to traverse several city blocks while remaining undercover.
Architect: Nonda Katsalidis | Completed: 1999
Location: Corner La Trobe and Queen streets, Melbourne
Taking a detour toward the south-western end of La Trobe Street, and the last remaining block of the Hoddle Grid, you'll catch a glimpse of the sculptural Republic Tower. The 36- level tower was one of the first residential high-rises built in the city and contributed to a strategy aiming to encourage an influx of private dwellings in inner Melbourne. Its architect later designed the 92-storey Eureka Tower at Southbank. The Republic Tower's prominent billboard features works by different artists, making evident the strong connections between the city's artists and its architects.
Architects: Denton Corker Marshall, Lyons Architects, Kerstin Thompson Architects, John Wardle Architects, McBride Charles Ryan
Location: Corner of Swanston and Lonsdale streets, Melbourne
Adjacent to the State Library is the Queen Victoria Village (QV) development, the design of which saw a diverse cross section of this city's most renowned architecture practices interpret the character of contemporary Melbourne. This
montage of buildings spans an entire city block, incorporating laneways and a small square, though what masquerades as a series of public spaces is actually a commercial shopping mall. In addition there are around 600 apartments, car parks and the 29-level headquarters of BHP Billiton.
Architects: John Wardle Architects, Hassell + NHArchitecture
Location: 50 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Toward the perimeter of the Hoddle Grid at Spring Street you'l discover an office block named Urban Workshop, which towers above a collection of small-scale historical buildings. This building has received much praise – and many awards – for its new interpretation of public and private space. By making this space available for anyone to enjoy, the planning permit of the building was extended from 10 to 32 storeys. Again, the use of the laneway is employed as an urban characteristic for Melbourne. Its foyer is strung with sturdy, custom-designed furniture, reminiscent of oversized wooden building blocks.
RMIT Capitol Theatre
Architects: Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin
Location: 113 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Capitol Theatre was designed by Chicago architect Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahony Griffin, the first licensed female architect in the US. The pair had won the competition to plan Canberra in 1912 and subsequently moved their practice to Australia. Opened in 1924, this remarkable theatre was more recently repurposed as a lecture hall for RMIT University. The cavernous interior is strung with elegant, geometrical stalactites that form the receptive surface to a magic lantern array of 4000 coloured lights, as the walls of the theatre threaten to become both immaterial and all-engulfing. Robyn Boyd, one of Melbourne's most renowned architectural personalities and an ardent campaigner for modernism in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, was cited in The Age in 1965 saying that the Capitol Theatre was 'the best cinema that was ever built or is ever likely to be built'. Guided tours take place on