Modernist Architecture in Melbourne and the Growth of Urban Living

By Denise Whitehouse

This video tour explores of Melbourne modernism from 1930s to 1960s using newly shot footage of the exteriors and interiors of significant buildings. It comprises 3 parts: 1: Modernism between the wars.   2: Art Deco/ Streamline/ Moderne. 3Post WW II Modernism.

Produced by Denise Whitehouse for the 20th Century Design (history) unit at Swinburne’s School of Design and Swinburne Online, its focus is Modernism (with a capital “M”) as a cohesive, wide spread, design movement grounded in ideology- a set of principles and theories about the social and ethical purpose of professional design. It was filmed and edited by KAS Creations.

Modernist design is explained here as being best exemplified by the Bauhaus but there were several groups throughout Europe who pursued Modernist design ideas. It was international and first manifested in Australia in the 1930s as the language of economic and social recover from the Great Depression of 1929. Other concepts explored in the video narratives are: modernisation (lowercase ‘m’) - the process by which the world became modernised, that is industrialised; and Moderne/ Art Deco/ Streamlinestylistic labels used to describe design that looked modern and progressive – expressions of modernisation.

Part 1: Pioneer Modernism: Between the wars, 1930-1941.

MacRobertson Girls High School (1933-34) Queens Rd, South Melbourne.

Architect: Norman Seabrook

Newburn Flats (1939- 1942) Queens Rd, South Melbourne.

Architects: Frederick Romberg and Molly Turner Shaw

Moonbria Flats (1941) Mathoura Rd, Toorak.  

Architect: Roy Grounds

Freemasons Hospital (1937) 166 Clarendon Street, East Melbourne.

Architects: Stephenson and Turner


Part 2: Art Deco/ Streamline/ Moderne 1930s

Newspaper House (remodelled 1932-33) 247-249 Collins St, Melbourne.

Architects: Stephenson & Meldrum; Mosaic: Napier Waller

Lyric House (1930) 250 Collins Street, Melbourne .

Architects: A&K Henderson

Kodak House (1934-35) 252 Collins Street Melbourne.

Architects: Oakley and Parkes

Manchester Unity Building (1932) 220 Collins Street, Melbourne.  

Architect: Marcus Barlow

Century Building (1939-40) 125-133 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Architect: Marcus R Barlow

Yule House (1932) 309 Little Collins Street, Melbourne.

Architects: Oakley & Parkes


Part 3: Post World War 2 Modernism (Internationalism)

River House (1955) 2 Hodgson St, Kew.

Architects: Dione and Peter McIntyre

ICI ANZ House (now Orica House)(1955-58) East Melbourne

Architects: Osborne McCutcheon of Bates, Smart and McCutcheon

Sydney Myer Music Bowl (1956-59) Kings Domain, Linlithgow Ave, Melbourne.

Architects: Yuncken and Freeman, and Griffith and Simpson

Olympic Swimming and Diving Stadium (1956) Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct.

Architects: Kevin Borland, Peter McIntyre, John and Phyllis Murphy