Melville House, Collins St, 1990

Original post 2 April 2020:

Dear readers – do you like the Postmodern ‘interpretive’ stuff that comprises the ground level of the 1881 Melville House in Collins Street next to the Melb Club ? You might think it’s original but actually it’s from 1991, when it was ‘restored’, by removing the 1920s shopfronts, but it’s entirely invented …. ok I’m wrong, the architect Peter McGann says what’s there now is based on a drawing of the original from the 1920s in the council archive (though it doesn’t quite match the photo and plan below). It won a RAIA (Vic) award in 1992. I used to like it as appropriately detailed but obviously not accurate, but I now realise maybe it’s too close enough. (though the fence is clearly just a bad attempt). Since it’s now part of a huge redevelopment, should they try to recreate the ground level more accurately ? The best i can find is a blow up of a photo from c1890 which clearly shows some wing walls (damn trees!), and the MMBW shows some porches of some kind wider than those there now. There’s other photos that if looked at closely would reveal more, and there must be plans in the archives too (in fact just realised they’re on the #VictorianHeritageRegister, so this was built with a permit from them).

4 thoughts on “Melville House, Collins St, 1990

  1. I didn’t know the ground floor façade was not part of the original! Thanks for the heads-up. I must admit, the lack of symmetry in the two porticos always bothers me each time I walk past the Melville House, but judging from the old photos, it looks like the eastern-most portico was built over a carriage entrance, which goes some way to explaining the lack of symmetry.

    The line of trees in the second photo doesn’t help to clarify the issue, but judging by the photo above it, I would swear that the ‘projecting balustrade’, as you call it, is actually a modern replacement for a narrow stone balcony before the first-storey windows.


  2. Your article is interesting but inaccurate. The facade is now as originally built as it is based on the existing conditions drawings in the City of Melbourne files from when the shopfronts were being proposed in the 1920’s. It is not as you say entirely invented. I suggest you research the council files and seek the truth.


    1. Thanks for commenting peter – it’s good to know the research was done ! Though what’s there now doesn’t exactly line up with the photo and mmbw plan, so it was more or less like that ? If only those plans were on line !


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