Early Melbourne typified Australian colonial towns, its small houses dotted through surveyor Hoddle's street grid plan. Ambitious buildings included the first St Paul's and St Francis', St Peter's Eastern Hill, St James' Old Cathedral, a graceful single-span Princes Bridge, and an early gaol, all recalling colonial Regency or the picturesque architecture of New South Wales and Tasmania. Notable houses included Invergowrie (1846-55), Banyule (1846), and The Hawthorns (1846-47), all picturesque Gothic. Como (1846, 1854-74), and Mandeville Hall (1867, 1876-78) maintained Tasmanian practice, adding monumental frontispieces to earlier bungalows. James Blackburn, Tasmania's leading architect, moved to Melbourne, designing Bishopscourt (1849-53) and drawing up the concept plan for Yan Yean Reservoir (1859). Blackburn's style lived on in Melbourne's towered, Italianate houses till the 1890s, and the next two Government Houses - Samuel Jackson's Toorak (1849-51, 1854ff.) and William Wardell, J.J. Clark & Peter Kerr's final Government House (1872-76) - were conspicuously Italianate. Clarendon Terrace, East Melbourne (1856-57) and Royal Terrace in Fitzroy (1853-58) reflected 1840s Sydney, as did the scale and formation of early suburbs.
Gold rush Melbourne embraced temporary and prefabricated housing: two iron houses survive in South Melbourne (1853-54). Wooden prefabs came from England, as with La Trobe's Cottage (1839), Scotland, Canada, the United States, Singapore and Malaya. Some still stand in Brunswick, Collingwood, and Fitzroy, though mostly replaced by terraces or workers' cottages.
Larger prefabrications like the first Exhibition Building (1854) used iron framing. Iron mills developed after 1860, spreading the use of metal, particularly as a retardant for urban fires. Melbourne launched a monumental building program in stone, challenging that of great British industrial cities and sometimes even London itself. Joseph Reed's Public (State) Library and National Gallery (1854-1961) and Kerr & Knight's Parliament (1856-92) drew variously on the British Museum, Bank of England, St George's Hall, Liverpool and Leeds Town Halls. Parliament also employed Venetian Renaissance, Hellenistic and Roman sources. Smith & Johnson's Supreme Court (1874-84) fused Venetian Renaissance with an expansion of Dublin's 18th-century Four Courts. Reed's Royal Exhibition Building of 1878-80 went a stage further. It saluted Brunelleschi's dome for Florence Cathedral, over a vast hall, cruciform like London's Crystal Palace and recalling the Exposition buildings and railway terminals appearing in London and Paris from the 1850s. It is the first Australian building to gain World Heritage listing.
Churches moved from stiff Commissioners' Gothic (St Peter's Eastern Hill: Charles Laing, 1846-48ff.) to rich and scholarly Gothic Revival in Pugin's direct tradition: the second St Patrick's Cathedral (George & Schneider, 1857), absorbed inside William Wardell's even greater structure (1858-97; spires 1936-40). Wardell's spatial skill, superb use of light and controlled scale showed in St Ignatius Richmond, his boldest church (1867-83, spire 1927), the intimate St Mary's East St Kilda (1871) and his Anglican St John's Toorak (1860-62). Wardell had a major British reputation and, appointed colonial architect of Victoria, contributed significantly to Australia's great tradition in government architecture. He guided subordinates' graceful, often brilliant work: John James Clark's old Treasury Building (1858-62), Customs House extensions (1873-76), Royal Mint (1871-72), Mental Hospital (1864ff.), and Titles Office (1874-79); Gustav Joachimi's forbidding Pentridge (1858-64), imposing Victoria Barracks (1860-67) and Old Melbourne Gaol (1862-64) entrance; and Michael Egan's New Treasury (1874-76). The civic gesture in these government buildings was measured and impressive, Bourke and Collins streets being literally drawn into the fronts of Parliament and the Old Treasury and answered in turn by the Treasury's slowly turning arches, then Parliament's open colonnade, expressing Victoria's new democracy. Leonard Terry's Melbourne Club (1858-83) recast London clubs on a similar scale, reviving 16th-century Italian city palaces. Reed's Australian Bank (1858-9) and Royal Society Of Victoria (1858-69) were novel in reviving Venetian Renaissance. In long arcades, the 'Venetian' embodied the movement of street traffic and the empathetic enclosure of public space. This marked Smith & Johnson's General Post Office completion (1859-1903).
Freer Gothic marked F.M. White's University of Melbourne Quadrangle (1854-57), Charles Webb's Melbourne Grammar (1856-58), the Methodist Ladies' College (1885) and Wardell's English and Venetian ES&A (ANZ) Bank (1883-84). The renowned English Gothicist William Butterfield was persuaded to design a new St Paul's Cathedral (1880-91, spires 1926-31). Reed supervised, curiously omitting Butterfield's spectacular external striping. He had made coloured striping and patterns his signature since returning from Italian travel, applying it in St Jude's Carlton (1866-70), Rippon Lea (1869-80) and the Independent Church, now St Michael's Uniting (1866-67). The patterning was repeated in thousands of domestic and public buildings around Melbourne, becoming a signature of the city.
High Victorian affection for Venice prompted wider use of Venetian Gothic, by William Pitt: Olderfleet Building (1889); Melbourne Safe Deposit (1890), Old Stock Exchange (1888-91), Rialto Building (1889); Oakden, Addison & Kemp: South Australian Steamship Co. (1890), Rourke's Building (1897); and Reed, Wright & Beaver: Goodes House (1891-97). These reflected prosperity from a long land boom, ended suddenly by the bank and financial crashes of 1890-93. Tradition pictures a crescendo of crassness and corrupted taste, but recent historians argue that the dynamics of 'boom' architecture were very different, reflecting complex architectural movements and upheaval and new technology (Miles Lewis) and exploring theories of empathy, urbanism and form usage (Peter Kohane). In this view architects' styles, later seen as closed, sham systems, were often secondary to composition, urbanism and projected meaning. Kohane notes similar 'cathedral' composition and structural representations in Pitt's Old Stock Exchange and, nearby, the 'classical' Mercantile and Commercial Banks of Salway, Wight & Lucas and Alfred Dunn (1887-88), and Twentyman & Askew's Block Arcade (1891-93). Certainly the Block's 'Renaissance' looks unstable over its prevailing fabric of plain structure and sheet glass. 'Renaissance' was similarly unstable in other designs, such as W.S. Law's Westella (1890) and Benvenuta (1892) in South Melbourne and Carlton.
These buildings replaced simpler gold rush streetscapes, marked in the CBD by Greek temple-porticos like the now vanished Oriental Bank in Queen Street. Two survive in the First and Second Baptist Churches by Reed and Thomas Watts respectively (1861-62, 1859-63). 'French Renaissance' (17th to 18th-century Baroque) with mansard roofs and complex, overlapping orders, appeared in Crouch & Wilson's initial General Post Office design (1859), and informed Smith & Johnson's final version. This parallel of Baroque revivalism in France and Britain was also evident in Reed's Melbourne Town Hall (1867-87). Both buildings developed a conspicuously 'Melbourne' theme, using corner towers to break the gridded street pattern and assert diagonal links to wider surroundings. This diagonality returned in Ellerker & Kilburn's Federal Coffee Palace (1888-91), and, in Caulfield, the spectacular asymmetry of J.A.B. Koch's Greco-Italianate Labassa (1889-91). Pitt's Princess Theatre (1886-87, interior 1922) was symmetrical, but took French Renaissance to a festive, kinetic height: Sutherland hailed it as rivalling the new Paris Opera. By then German and Austrian design was gaining influence and Collins, Bourke, Chapel and Smith streets soon resembled Berlin's Friedrichstrasse, Frankfurt's Kaiserstrasse or Vienna's Kaerntnergasse.
Younger architects shared this interest in changeful, often asymmetrical forms and empathy. But they focused on the emerging British and American arts and crafts 'Free Style' architectures, variously and inappropriately dubbed 'Queen Anne' or 'American Romanesque'. These expressed materials and interior circumstance more directly, had freer internal plans and accentuated structure and links to local climate, nature and even perceived social patterns. This shift was informed by national sentiment, and led to a new fusion, Federation architecture, evident in more centralised plans where possible, plain brick or timber exteriors, complex roofs drawing wings and porches together under a hipped, tiled homestead form. From c. 1887 Melbourne leaders were Alfred Dunn in Hawthorn and Toorak, Christopher Cowper in Hawthorn and Camberwell (Grace Park, Broadway), Arthur Fisher in St Kilda, A.B. Rieusset in Caulfield, Henry Kemp and Beverley Ussher in Essendon, Kew and Canterbury.
After 1900 Harold Desbrowe-Annear, Robert Haddon, Nahum Barnet, Walter Butler, Rodney Alsop and others moved to new levels of open planning, new materials and Art Nouveau balances of line and plane, while maintaining formal origins in Federation architecture. Haddon's Fourth Victoria Building alterations of 1912 and Swinburne College Art School of 1917 epitomise the new simplicity of form, echoed in contemporary Smith Ogg & Serpell designs, probably also involving Haddon: Milton House (1900-02), Eastbourne Terrace (1901), and The Kilkenny Inn, Lonsdale Street (1915). Butler, Alsop, Haddon, Alexander North, Louis Williams and August Fritsch extended this exploration into churches, as in Malvern: St Alban's (1897-98), Presbyterian (1906), St Joseph's (1908), and in Parkville at Trinity College Chapel (1911-15). Fritsch, Williams, and later colleagues dominated Melbourne's Catholic and Anglican church design through to the early 1960s. Public buildings were similarly inventive, as with the South Yarra and Flemington post offices and courthouses by A.J. McDonald and the Public Works Department (1891-99), the American skyscraper influence in Oakden, Addison & Kemp's Australian Building of 1888 (as tall as any US building at the time), Sulman & Power's Royston House (1898-9), Fawcett & Ashworth's Flinders Street Station (1901-11), J.J. & E.J. Clark's new (Royal) Melbourne Hospital (1904-10), Barnet's Auditorium and the Tompkins brothers' Centreway (1911-13).
The last four reassert public architecture as distinct from domestic, also using grandly figured 'English Renaissance' (Edwardian Baroque Revival). This celebrated Britain and the Empire, but its heavy sculpture allowed climatic adaptations. J.S. Murdoch brought the mode into federal usage with his inspired, vivacious Commonwealth Offices, Parliament Place (1910-12), Spencer Street Mail Exchange (1917), and suburban post offices at Hawthorn and Canterbury (1910-20). Oakden & Ballantyne's 1911 Dalgety building in Collins Street sustained the mood, and Bates, Peebles & Smart joined in with their department stores: Ball & Welch (1899), Leviathan (1912), and Buckley & Nunn's (1910-25), in offices such as Chanonry Chambers (1911), and the Public Library Reading Room (1909-11), for a brief time the largest reinforced concrete dome in the world. Bates, Peebles & Smart reflected an emergent corporate organisation in CBD-based offices, dominant ever since, where the 19th-century system of individuals competing for CBD commissions, sometimes equitable but often corrupted, yielded to private client networking and specialist designers, as in the US. Training through articles with a practising architect gave way to diploma programs offered from 1895 at the Workingmen's College (RMIT University) and from 1919 linked with the University of Melbourne's Architectural Atelier. These programs emphasised the technology and engineering increasingly needed in contemporary building and reinforced systemic and instrumental approaches to design.
Larger buildings gradually discarded their earlier projected energy, particularly after 1919 when a pervasive memorialism in Australian culture encouraged simpler massivity and permanence. Examples are Hudson & Wardrop's Shrine of Remembrance (1927-34), Bates, Smart McCutcheon's AMP block (1928-31), Godfrey & Spowers' Argus and National Bank buildings or Kingsley Henderson's T&G tower, all 1926-28. Restrained Renaissance marked several striking religious buildings, in particular Schreiber & Jorgensen's Xavier College Chapel (1927-34), and Nahum Barnet's long-awaited Melbourne Synagogue (1928-30). Government architecture went a similar way under Evan Smith, as in his Neo-classical Emily McPherson College (1926) and American Gothic Melbourne Boys' High School (1925-28). His revived colonial Georgian in Box Hill and University High Schools (1927-29) matched a Georgian revival in wealthier house design by Barlow & Hawkins, Arthur Plaisted or Blackett, Forster & Craig, but their designs were unequivocally contained and domestic, without the kinetics that made Federation architecture so flexible in large and small usage.
This domesticity largely focused on the Bungalow, the major suburban mode of c. 1915-26. Federation form was simplified to basically four-square 'servantless houses'. Open corners or porches replaced return verandahs, and a new horizontality and Japanese detailing stemmed from an influential US Bungalow movement. Witness Oakden & Ballantyne's Martin house, Malvern (1908). Melbourne Bungalows differed from their generally more solid and densely packed Sydney counterparts, had a heavier grain than Brisbane stump-house Bungalows and were tighter - visually and physically - than spreading Adelaide Bungalows. Contained and sheltering, they fitted Australia's inward-turning 1920s mood and were usefully cheap in that uneven economy. Bungalows proliferated in subdivisions of ostensibly older suburbs like Richmond, Brunswick and Northcote, and dominated bayside housing from St Kilda to Portsea. Leading architects included Marcus Barlow, the Tompkins brothers, G.B. Leith and the State Savings Bank office. Designer-builder real estate firms, from Dunlop & Cornwell in Murrumbeena to Algernon Elmore in Blackburn, extended packaged design and financing that marks housing construction to this day. The Bungalow could stretch to churches (Mount Pleasant Uniting, Nunawading, 1917; Church of Christ, Balwyn, 1926), railway stations (Mentone, Hampton), and even walk-up flats - 'Manhattan bungalows' - in Prahran and South Yarra. They were not simply one-storeyed: 'Bungalow' meant informal, healthy living and shelter at day's end, resonant notions after the Great War and its influenza pandemic.
Bungalow form was moderated by other, conspicuously applied styles later in the 1920s and the early to mid-1930s. These included suburban Tudor and French Provincial modes, and Spanish Mission gained lustre from Hollywood, a new metropolis for Australia's imagination. Subdivisions in the 1920s and 1930s such as the Golf Links and Hassett estates in Camberwell and fringe suburbs - East Malvern, Ashburton and Ivanhoe - all reflected this shift. 'Spanish' modes, particularly, looked weightier than the bungalow, and found a wider resonance in public and commercial buildings, particularly cinemas and festive buildings: Ballantyne & Hare's Regent-Plaza (1928-30) and Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson's State (Forum) of 1929, or shops and flats: Bernard Evans' Toorak Village (c. 1936) and Harold Lawson's Beverley Hills apartments (1935-36).
Corporate architecture continued reworking American ideas. The Tompkins' hotels and department stores (Thomasetti Building, 1906; Commercial Travellers' Association, 1912-13; London Stores 1926; Myer, 1927-35) demonstrate this, assuming by turns, Chicago Skyscraper, French Baroque, austere Neo-classical detailing and a dramatised verticality in skyscraper Gothic. Harry Norris' buildings for the Nicholas 'Aspro' family show this also, from classically detailed frame designs - Nicholas House (1925-26), Wesley College, Prahran (1933ff.) - to richly decorated glazed tile - Majorca Building (1928-29), Coles Bourke Street (1928-40) - to orchestrations of Art Deco and streamlined Moderne: Burnham Beeches house, Sherbrooke (1930-33) and Mitchell House (1936). Norris' Art Deco was closely tied to structural expression, a distinctive Australian characteristic in Art Deco and paralleled locally in display houses and industrial buildings at Flemington and Clifton Hill respectively, by Hudson & Wardrop, the Shrine's architects. Marcus Barlow's city towers - Howey Place (1931), Manchester Unity (1929-32), Century Building (1938-40), Oddfellows House (1939-41) - draw wall treatments from Raymond Hood's Chicago and New York towers. But in form and layout all differ markedly from Hood, being asymmetrical streetscape compositions where corner towers pitted diagonal force against Hoddle's grid.
Australia's cultural Americanism between the wars partly explains the enthusiasm for Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin. Melbourne gave them scores of building projects and several neighbourhood designs - East Keilor, East Ivanhoe, Park Orchards, Mount Eliza among them - besides their Canberra work. Their CBD designs included the Australia Café (1915), Collins House north side (1915), Leonard House (1922-25), Newman College (1915-17), the Capitol Cinema and offices (1921-24), and the Kuomintang Club (1926). The last three survive. The Griffins' expressed nature, projected rhythm and movement, and sought contemporary spirituality through architecture. This showed most in the Capitol auditorium-cave, its entry tunnels laced with crystal forms over each light and the main ceiling, in wood and plaster crystal, light-swept with changing colour. The Griffins saw building materials as transformed, from stone, concrete and plaster to living rock, living nature. They influenced other Melbourne architects such as Philip Hudson, Edward Billson, Frederick Ballantyne, Eric Nichols and Les Grant. Robin Boyd believed an unappreciative Melbourne forced the Griffins to 'retreat' to Sydney, but their Melbourne work continued just as strongly after that move.
Boyd's later idea of 'popular revolution' in Melbourne architecture around 1934 has been equally persuasive. But a conditional Modernism was already standard in industrial and warehouse design all over Melbourne after c. 1905, and was public enough in the CBD's little streets. Boyd argued that a plain, unornamented architecture in new materials with clearly expressed structure had to emerge on Melbourne's main streets and spread to houses. A series of suburban and CBD buildings did just that as the great depression was receding: Oakley & Parkes (Yuille House, 1932; Heidelberg Town Hall, 1936-37), Stuart Calder (MacPherson's Building, 1934-37; Hawthorn Football Stand, 1937), Stephenson & Meldrum/Turner (Newspaper House, 1932-33; Mercy Hospital, 1934-36; Freemasons and Bethesda hospitals, 1936; Royal Melbourne Hospital, 1936-41) Arthur Purnell (Melbourne Cricket Ground Old Southern Stand, 1936-37) and a new Government architect, Percy Everett (William Angliss College, 1936; State Insurance, 1939-41; Police Headquarters, 1940-43). Cinemas by Taylor, Soilleaux & Overend, Cowper, Murphy & Appleford or William Le Poer Terry, now resembled streamlined machines, as with the Padua, Brunswick (1936-37), the Sun, Yarraville (1938), the Astor, Prahran (1939), the Rivoli, Camberwell (1940). The epoch-maker was undeniably Seabrook & Fildes' MacRobertson Girls' High School of 1933-34. Detailed in brick from richly stylised Dutch Modernism, its strongly episodic and gestural character made it a successor to Federation composition. To make sense, Melbourne Modernism needs to be read as local synthesis as much as importation. Overseas architectural Modernism was heterogeneous anyway - witness the Bauhaus, de Stijl, Scandinavian classicism and Modernism, German Expressionism, streamlined Moderne - all embraced by Melbourne architects.
In houses, open-planned wing forms, linked by service areas, were hailed by Robin Boyd as a 'Victorian type' in architectural Modernism, but this actually derived from American suburban plans, mostly by eclectic or 'traditionalist' architects. Again it speaks of domestic Modernism as a fusion and balance of approaches. This is further reflected in the interest shown by Mewton & Grounds, Best Overend, and Edward Billson in their prewar houses, flats and homesteads; Boyd saw Grounds' architecture as 'very new and very old at the same time'. They were joined by modern architects fleeing Europe - Frederick Romberg, Fritz Janeba, Ernest Fuchs. They brought European architecture's true heterogeneity. Romberg's flats, in raw, off-form concrete and complex, undulating forms to break up their scale, are signature Melbourne buildings of the period: Newburn and Stanhill in South Melbourne (1939-41 and 1943-51) and Hilstan in Brighton (1945-51). The last two recalled terrace house verandahs and wing walls, extending an idea in Roy Grounds' Clendon Corner and Quamby flats, Toorak (1940-41). Grounds, Billson, Mewton and Overend increasingly focused on softly coloured and textured materials and semi-rural sites: Grounds' Ranelagh houses (1934-57), Overend's Koornong School (1939-40). They generated a Melbourne regionalism sustained, after World War II, by the builder Alistair Knox and others active in the Eltham-Warrandyte area, and the 'Port Phillip Idiom' of Boyd, Chancellor & Patrick and others. This extended into the 1960s and 1970s, in work by Morrice Shaw, Charles Duncan, Kevin Borland and many others.
This work reacted against a perceived 'postwar vernacular' linked to speculative builders, A.V. Jennings in particular. The form actually originated with prominent trained architects in the early and middle 1930s: the King brothers, G.M. Sneddon, Arthur Ziebell, Hume Sherrard and Burridge Leith. In part it fused Colonial revival hipped-roof forms with streamlined elements of Modernism, though those were less pronounced after c. 1960. It spread through Australia from the late 1940s and was quickly adapted to house and shop combinations, flats, suburban hospitals and clubhouses. Using all materials, it absorbed integral garages, sunroom-family rooms, patios and other planning changes. A 1970s transformation saw its earlier bright colours sharpened in conjunction with Mediterranean building techniques and details brought by immigrant families to the middle and outer suburbs, particularly in gestural balustrading, arcading, terrazzo, and paved yards. More consciously Austral variants developed a contrasting palette of umbers, ambers and native gardens. These echoed architects' increasing forays into project housing, in particular Graeme Gunn's designs for Merchant Builders (1965ff.), and Cocks & Carmichael's project houses (1972ff.). Gunn pushed zoning laws to develop landscaped cluster housing at Elliston, Rosanna, and Winter Park, Glen Waverley, around 1970-71. These broke the determinants of private land blocks and regular street patterning.
In recent years, however, 'the profession' has almost abdicated conspicuous active involvement in middle and outer suburban design. Speculative houses take a new form: vertically proportioned, totally frontal, composed in modular channels on frontages with tight car spaces, night refuges geared for transients rather than for any long stay. This is logical given Melbourne's changing demographics, but the social and political amnesia is breathtaking: from 1980 double density laws pulled thousands of suburban houses from their sites, and schools were demolished to be subdivided as 'strategic properties'. Outer suburbs remain under-served as ever, promised compensation with a forest of imagined freeways that, on 1990s street maps at least, rivalled Los Angeles.
Arguably, Australian suburban culture was never well understood, but it still prompted boldly reactive experiments in Melbourne's newer 'architect' regions - Kew, Brighton-Beaumaris, Frankston, Toorak. Peter and Dione McIntyre's houses of 1953-59, especially their own, Boyd's polemical houses of 1951-71, including Gillison, Richardson, Clemson and his own; Roy Grounds and others' 'shape' houses of 1951-59, houses by Kevin Borland, John and Phyllis Murphy, Peter Burns, flats by Joyce & Nankivell, were all vivid and improvisatory in structure, coloration and materials. They spoke of austerity and limited means, lingering from the depression and the 1940s, and reasserted another Melbourne tendency, making big architectural gestures with limited finances and dimensions, often stretching those means conspicuously. Winsome Callister and Ian McDougall described an insouciant 'Melbourne Optimism' linked to Melbourne's 1956 Olympic Games. Melbourne gained new grandstands at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a structurally impressive Olympic Pool by Borland Murphy & McIntyre, with suspended cantilever roof, engineered by Bill Irwin, who also worked on Yuncken Freeman's Sidney Myer Music Bowl (1956-59), in cladding strung on cables. Stephenson & Turner, Hassall's and other firms designed landmark factories: Holden, International Harvester and Heinz at Dandenong, Kodak and Ford at Coburg and Upfield, ICI and Volkswagen at Clayton, all 1954-63. Standouts were Romberg's 1957-58 Eta factory at Braybrook, with a 'streetscape' in diagonal framing, and Boyd's elegant cube for Turner tools at Lilydale (1958-61).
The National Trust's formation, ironically, coincided with the removal of all CBD lean-to verandahs, thought parochial and old-fashioned embarrassments for Olympic visitors. Geoff La Gerche's genial curtain-wall offices appeared along Collins Street (20, 100, Allens, 1954-59). Grounds, Romberg & Boyd, now partners, planned the Parklake tower at St Kilda (1953-54) but this was not built. Bates, Smart, McCutcheon's ICI house in Albert Street, which broke Melbourne's 132-foot (40 m) height limit in 1958, echoed US designs, in particular the Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco. Later CBD towers pursued the distant American metropolis with equal vigour, as in Yuncken Freeman's 'Chicago' BHP tower (1970-75), Bates Smart's 'Atlanta' Collins Place atrium (1972-81). Bates Smart's St James centre for AMP (1963-69) recalled the Black Stump CBS tower in New York. As with Barlow's 1930s designs, these all had local inflections: ICI's detailing was interchangeable with their domestically scaled designs for Monash University. Suburbanism was another component: Bernard Evans' Consolidated Zinc tower (1961) gained a suburban front-yard forecourt, as did three other towers opposite the Stock Exchange. Increasing demolitions, and the difficulties these buildings all had in engaging a genuinely urban form, prompted concern in articles from 1955 on. By 1975 younger architects were dismissing the CBD as 'lost' to corporatism.
Progressive architecture often fused localist and counter-cultural attitudes with a gritty chamfered style in cement block, raw concrete and other basic materials, inspired by Corbusier, Stirling, Rogers and others. Its inner-suburban scale and demeanour, threaded inventively into context, was recognisably 'Melbourne' and distinct from the ruralist ideology gaining ground in Sydney architecture. It showed from c. 1971-73 in elegant and relaxed houses by Peter Crone or Cocks & Carmichael; in tenser designs by Morris & Pirotta or Max May, in Kevin Borland and Jackson-Walker collaborations: swimming pools, local libraries and schools. This outlook was broadly shared till c. 1978, when both Jackson and Denton Corker Marshall (DCM) decided to 'retake' the CBD. DCM's City Square (1976-80) was a shaky start, but the trajectory climaxed in two huge towers, 101 and 120 Collins Street (1986-91). Jackson's new MCG Southern Stand (1989-92) and a chain of DCM projects under the Liberal Government (1992-99) ringed the CBD. Their Melbourne Exhibition Centre (1993-96) reconfigured Daryl Jackson's Museum part-built under an Australian Labor Party Government. They designed a new museum (1997-2000) opposite the Exhibition Building, and freeway monuments came with Bolte Bridge and their International Gateway at Flemington (1995). These continued an engagement with the monumental that led in varied directions from as early as 1959, when Roy Grounds' Cultural Centre design was unveiled. Sheathed in 'Melbourne' basalt, this reasserted palazzo and other 19th-century forms, in a mode shaped by Italy's historicising Neoliberty movement. Modernism's high tide made it inevitably controversial but Grounds persisted, basing it on formal Beaux-arts plans and drawing more historical references to Princes Bridge, mirrored in its Southbank balcony, and even Rome's Castel St' Angelo and Piranesi in the 'fortress' Concert Hall (1977-82). With Romberg & Boyd, he restated the bay windows and summerhouse tradition of Victorian Melbourne in similarly transgressive additions to Ormond College (1957-68), recalling Italian palazzi in his Medley Tower, University of Melbourne (1965-68). This pluralism in design, historicising and complex in themes, found parallels in contemporary Melbourne projects. Chancellor & Patrick's ES&A Bank, Elizabeth Street (1959-60), combined rough basalt cladding with a monumental address; Bogle Banfield's Metro carpark, Russell Street (1964-65), had a penthouse office by Bernard Joyce, drawing on expressive urban forms in Japanese architecture.
Other urban forays had mixed success. The RMIT Union and Eden Hotel designs (1974-85) by John Andrews, a great hope for Australian architecture, were mute and heavy. Peter Muller's Cinema Centre (1966-69) lost its edge through budget cuts. Harry Seidler's Shell House (1988) reads better on its northern, sculptural side than it does facing the CBD's south-west corner, waiting for pedestrian trails that never came. Peddle Thorp de Preu's contemporary Grollo towers were appropriately gargantuan, almost a landmark and precipitating a major conservation battle for the buildings around their feet. Their example prompted several World's Tallest Tower proposals for the western CBD. Daryl Jackson's Great Southern Stand (1988), a high point in his institutional work, looks undone by its later additions (2002ff.), and the sumptuous classicism of Nelson, Peck von Hartel Trethowan's 333 Collins Street (1990) plays out Reagan-era splendours in a last hurrah. DCM's new Museum of Victoria (1996-2000) is best when answering the old Exhibition Building alongside. From there it trails off: its huge foyer is oddly prosaic; it has strange, vast spaces at unlikely points deep inside. Hugely scaled gangways dwarf the dangling whale skeleton, accentuating how much of the Museum is in storage. Bates Smart, Jackson and Perrott's Casino (1993-97), a behemoth in spatially orchestrated social control and fiscal gradation, drained off CBD activities into a simulated Southbank streetscape, below a battery of gluttonous fireball jets resembling 1780s funerary monuments by Boullee & Gilly. DCM's new Exhibition Building (1996) across Spencer Street is far better. Fragmented patterning that recalls Daniel Libeskind's architecture surfaces in Don Bates and Peter Davidson's Federation Square (1997-2002) with Bates Smart, covering a series of more standard structures underneath. Political alterations aside, the Yarra elevation looks unresolved; the scheme runs out of puff on its Russell Street elevation and there is little protection from the elements. There are fine components: the beautiful blue glass arcade, the lively if convoluted Gallery, the undulating Red Heart of the main paving, the clear excitement it provokes in visitors. But its chance as an urban gateway never came through, and its urban roles seem justified after the event. Remarkably, too, it diverted public discussion from the Westin Hotel, built over the old City Square at the same time.
More inclusive architecture gained ground in Europe and America, particularly via Charles Moore's Californian architecture. Gregory Burgess developed a radical intricacy of theme and association, of constant formal balances and transgressions, in his houses, and in community buildings at Northcote (1984-85), Box Hill (1990) and Eltham (1999). Burgess pulled all manner of Melbourne contexts together with an interlocking geometry that recalls the Griffins'. It shows more recently in his Catholic Theological College (1999-2000), and Koorie cultural centres in the CBD (2001-03). Edmond & Corrigan took another complex path, exploring distinctively Melbourne forms, coloration and identity in their Catholic parish buildings at Keysborough (1974-82), Box Hill (1976-78) and Frankston (1982-87); fire stations at Keilor, Epping, Greensborough, Oakleigh and Altona (1988-2003); and libraries and tertiary teaching buildings: Dandenong TAFE (1987-88), Ringwood (1994-96), RMIT Humanities building (1991-95). Informed by exhaustive scrutinies of Melbourne context and a constant questioning of architectural assumptions, their work was the antithesis of the 'perfected' and landscape-based vision generally sought in Australian architectural ideology. 'Melbourne' architecture became identified with their approach and there is a spectrum of sympathetic work, from Peter Elliot and Norman Day in the later 1970s and the 1980s, and the Housing Ministry 'infills' developed by John Devenish and others to c. 1985.
Younger architects have developed the theme: medical centres and Storey Hall by Ashton Raggatt and McDougall (ARM, 1981-95); houses and offices by Biltmoderne and Wood Marsh, Robertson Chen, Allom Lovell, Alan Powell, and Ivan Rijavec, and by newer architects in the established offices of Bates Smart and the Lyons brothers especially. More recent architects have maintained varied links with both this inclusive architecture and the broad issues of urbanism, though from a different direction. Of these, Nonda Katsalidis gained prominence for tall apartments (1996ff.) and institutional buildings in Carlton (1998-2001) and the CBD's La Trobe street area (1991-94). Others include John Wardle, Field, Minifie Nixon, Hocking Weimar, Harrison & Crist, Kerstin Thompson, Elenberg Fraser, Connor Houle and Sean Godsell, with work based on or around Modernism's more fruitful and confrontational forms.