Melbourne, Australia, the city with the second-highest population in the country, the city with a fusion of European(Victorian) Architecture and modern buildings, and the city with the most skyscrapers in the Southern Hemisphere, has had a remarkable architectural evolution from era to era. From being the wealthiest city in the Boom era to its devaluation after WWII to its current status as one of the world’s top liveable towns, Australia’s garden city has witnessed many highs and lows. Melbourne’s mix of old and contemporary has earned it the distinction of being a city with no distinguishing architectural style but rather an accumulation of structures dating from the present to the European settlement of Australia.

“This is the place for a village,” observed John Batman, one of the first Europeans to arrive in Melbourne in 1835 in search of sheep pasture. Freshwater, valleys, hills, and greenscapes were the major highlights of Melbourne, Australia. Day after day, month after month, year after year, there was an increase in wealth, architecture, and population.

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Silhoutte skyline of Melbourne city, Australia_©

The Golden Era(1850s–1890s)

Melbourne was the second wealthiest city in the British Empire after London from 1850 to 1890, when the settlement era gave way to the golden period. The introduction of major public structures, as well as the growth of railways, suburbs, stores, and local businesses, were seen thanks to £100 million in gold. Parliament House, Town Hall, General Post Office, Royal Exhibition Building, Stalbridge Chambers, Venetian Gothic Old Stock Exchange, and so on were among the buildings included. The city of Melbourne’s central municipal building was built in the Second Empire style in 1887, making it the oldest town hall in the Melbourne metropolitan area. South Melbourne Town Hall, Australia’s second-oldest town hall and civic center, was built in Victorian Academic Classical style with French Second Empire characteristics in 1979.

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State Parliament house in Victoria, Ausralia_©
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Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton, Melbourne_©Free tours by foot
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Stalbridge Chambers_©
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South Melbourne Town Hall _©

The Edwardian to Art deco Era(1900s–1940s)

Melbourne, Australia’s Victorian state, drew more architectural inspiration from the United States (Romanesque Revival style) than the North-Western culture (England). Flinders Street Station, Melbourne’s busiest station, was designed in the Edwardian style, although the city’s architecture has since evolved to Federation Architecture, Stripped Classical, and then art deco. Victorian Railways finished the station in mid-1909, and it has only been painted five times since then, trying to replicate the original colors as closely as possible. Manchester United Building, Myer Emporium (1920), T&G Building (1929), Australasian Catholic Assurance Building (1935), and Mitchell House(1937) are some more public structures having an art deco architecture. By the late 1940s, Melbourne boasted an array of styles and the eras in which it prospered, including Victorian-Gothic, and Queen Anne, but had taken a halt due to the Second World War in 1942.

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Flinders Street Station_©
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Victorian-Gothic style_©

The Modern Era(1950s–1970s)

Post-war, a boom in high-rise structures was in Melbourne, Australia. The ICI House, the country’s tallest building in 1955, was the first international-style skyscraper and paved the way for modern-day high-rise construction. In that age, the building represented modernism, efficiency, development, and growing corporate dominance. One of the enterprises, Whelan the Wrecker, witnessed urban vandalism through historic demolition during the same decade (1950-1960). Following that, in 1972, the government enacted legislation for the preservation and enhancement of architectural, historical, and scientifically significant buildings, works, items, and locations. The Historic Buildings Preservation Act was passed two years later, protecting 100 sites around the state, and heritage preservation has continued since then.

Residential architecture, on the other hand, was influenced by Tudor, Victorian, Georgian, Tudorbethan, and other forms. Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, two American architects, even had a massive impact on Melbourne’s home design.

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Mitchelle house conservation_©

The Skyscrapers Era(the 1970s–Present) 

Melbourne’s skyline was taking shape at this time thanks to skyscrapers. The BHP house, built-in steel, and concrete with an imposed dark glass façade were ranked first on the list in 1972. The buildings, heavily influenced by Chicago’s Contemporary skyscrapers, continued to add to the list. Some of the main examples include:

Nauru House of 182 meters in height(1977)
Collins Place(Image 11) of 185 meters height(1978)
Rialto towers(Image 12) of 251 meters in height(1986)
101 Collins Street of 260 meters in height(1991)
120 Collins Street(Image 13) of 265 meters in height(1991)
Eureka Tower(Image 14) of 297.3 meters in height2006)
Q1 of 322.5 meters height(2011)

With the urban renewal opening of the Melbourne Docklands in 2000, a continuance of skyscrapers and towering structures was evident at the turn of the century.

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Melbourne’s skyline_©The Guardian
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Contemporary style and Collins Place_©
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Contemporary style and Collins Place_©
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Rialto towers and 120 Collins Street _©
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Rialto towers and 120 Collins Street _©
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Eureka Tower_©

The Future Era 

Melbourne, Australia, is on the lookout for greater chances(Image 15) to make it more future-ready. Pandemics, climate change, habitat loss, and poor living conditions will be replaced with more sustainable developments, societal affordabilities, and environmental conservation techniques. “Melbourne 2030” will be remembered as a recent proposal for future cities in which people might live better lives.

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Future of Melbourne?_©The Guardian


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  2. 2012. Thematic history- A history of city of Melbourne’s Urban environment. [ebook] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 April 2022].
  3. n.d. Marvellous Melbourne | State Library Victoria. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 April 2022].
  4. n.d. Global status for our greatest building. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 April 2022].
  5. n.d. Heritage Conservation – Entry – eMelbourne – The Encyclopedia of Melbourne Online. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 April 2022].
  6. n.d. Melbourne Architecture. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 April 2022].
  7. n.d. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 April 2022].

Anmol Billa is an architect by profession, but he is also a student with a thirst for knowledge. He portrays architecture as a synthesis of art and technology, with a primary focus on the needs of the community. He enjoys upgrading himself regularly by carefully analyzing numerous parameters ranging from context to culture, origins to contemporary life, and accessibility to sustainability. "If my design fails to bring betterment and connectedness to society, I fail," he says.