Monday, 24 June 2019

University of Melbourne buildings - arches, the quad and the new

Following my recent post on lunches on campus at the University of Melbourne, I am today sharing photos of buildings on campus.  In 1854 the building of the University of Melbourne commenced.  It continues to be a work in progress.  The constant construction projects are pretty amazing in such a crowded campus but it makes for great variety.  One moment you are looking in awe at a gracious historic building, walk on a bit and feel disappointed at a soulless 1960s building, and then in the next moment you are looking in awe at a marvellous piece of modern design.

The oldest building on campus is today known as The Old Quad.  When I was a student it was the Old Law Quad until Law moved to the Alan Gilbert Building across Grattan Street.  I used to love walking through the Quad on the weekends and watching all the bridal parties competing for space for photos.  It is probably the most photographed place on campus too.

I am among those who love to take photos in the quad.  The cloisters hark back to our European heritage of castles and monasteries.  And it is free to any member of the public to wander.  Just keep off the grass!  And be prepared to pay a fee if you want to take your wedding photos there.

The four wings of the Quad were built in over more than a Century.  The East and West wings were built between 1854 and 1857.  In 1854, builders downed tools in an important moment in history when they marched to Parliament to demand an 8 hour day.  We still celebrate this moment in the Labour Day holiday each year but ironically (or significantly) the University does not take this holiday.  The North wing and extension were built between 1856 and 1875.  The last wing in the South was built in 1970.

These faces are details in the North Wing.  I'd be curious to know who they are.  I wonder if some architecture or history student has written a thesis on how they represent the University's positioning of its heritage, and of the gender representations.

As I said at the start of the post, the University is constantly undertaking building projects to either build new buildings or rework old ones.  The Quad was a recent project.  The Old Quad webpage says there is a reception hall, a grand staircase and the university library.  Perhaps one day I shall get to see them but not yet.  I was fascinated by all the pretty scaffolding while the Quad was being renovated

And I really wanted to peek in while they were doing the renovation work but this was as close as I got.  There are better photos of the renovations on the Old Quad webpage.

When I looked through my photos, I found there were rather a lot of archways.  Perhaps it because I loved the arched window on Playschool and looking through the mirror on Romper Room as a kid.  Archways frame a view and give the sense of possibility.

So here are some more arches from buildings around the University of Melbourne campus.  I love an historic building, as you will see.  But archways can give flair to a modern building.  I love the view through the archway (a.k.a. wind tunnel) beneath the soviet style Raymond Priestly (top right).

Meanwhile the best examples of modern arches is in the Arts West Building, one of my favourite modern buildings on campus (top left, bottom left, bottom middle).  It is a fitting companion to the wonderful Old Arts Building where I spent a considerable amount of time as an undergraduate.  (And laughed at Love and Other Catastrophes when they appeared to be running towards - or was it from - the Old Arts but anyone who knows the campus would know that they were actually running in the wrong direction.)

The Arts West Building is had layer upon layer of wavy steel with handsome arches at the bottom.  And as anyone knows, a good archway has a great view.  Above is the view from Arts West towards the Old Arts.  Swoon!

And here is another view of the Old Arts Building, this time from the East side where it is situated across a courtyard from the Old Law Building.  I highly recommend walking through the Old Law Quad and continuing through the Old Arts from East to West and reading the storyboards about the history of the Arts Faculty.  At the end you come out opposite the Arts West.

Or you could just cycle around campus, skirting around the Old Quad, which is not at all bike friendly.  But I have always enjoyed cycling down Professors Walk between the Old Arts and Arts West where the bricks on the footpath make a satisfying clunking rumble.  Or you could walk and read the plaques to professors as you go.

Best not to look up the ugly old Baillieu library building unless you need go there in search of a book or periodical.  Though so much is now available to students online that I think the days of searching for all the readings in the library are dwindling.  The Baillieu still has some gems.  I was delighted recently to go on a museums day tour of the rare books room where we were able to read a page of a Guttenberg bible (which is as much as the university's budget could afford) and Shakespeare's Second Folio.  The University has many fascinating places.

I would also like to rave about the Union Building, not for its architectural wonders but for its fun activities and food.  However you are best to check out my recent food post.  Today I will just show you a scene I happened upon on the North Court.  It is set up for a student beach party, I guess.  I still miss the days when the Chocolate Appreciation Society gave out free chocolates in the heyday of compulsory student unionism.  Though I was pleased recently to see that the Friends of Unnatural Lama (FOUL) society still exists.  I still don't know what they do but it was one of the typical student societies with a fine appreciation of the ridiculous (or an unfortunate acronym).

Another place I spent a lot of time as a student was the John Medley Building.  Coming from the Old Arts Building is like walking from the sublime to the ridiculous.  It was a very ugly building.  When I was a student the most fascinating part were the little rooms on the walkway between the East and West towers.  Interestingly, today it features in many photos because its archway now has the wonderful welcoming banner that includes the local Indigenous language, the Wurundjeri word for Welcome.  Printing "Wominjeka" large and proud near the South entrance is a symbolic gesture but an important one.

This banner is even more powerful because it is near what is to be the Parkville railway station in 2025.  It is just a big building site for now.  Every time I pass it looks totally different.  It seems a lifetime until it is functional but I am so impressed with the state government for their vision beyond their parliamentary term.  In the distance is the Alan Gilbert building.  It has a magnificent view of Melbourne from the top floors.

This Frank Tate Building has a fine 1930s art deco aesthetic.  (It is by the same architect who designed the Chemistry building.)  I remember it mainly for the ramshackle stationery shop with the fun name of Bullwinkles.  Sadly Bullwinkles is long gone.  In the far left of the photo you will see the old Royal Women's Hospital building.  That has been demolished recently to make way for a university Science precinct.  As I said, there is always building work in progress.

Another fine modern building is the Sidney Myer Asia Centre.  The rusted red walls are rather striking and on top of them is a balcony for functions.  It would be a great place to view the tram terminal and all the frustrated people trying to cross over at one point because years ago someone decided to stop anyone ducking across the road anywhere but at the place they deemed adhered to health and safety guidelines.  I confess I was one of the rogue road users who crossed with commonsense rather than being herded into place.  I admin that these days the intersection is far busier with trans than it used to be but I still miss the freedom to cross at will.

Another fairly recent addition to the campus landscape is the Melbourne School of Design Building.  It has recently been named the Glyn Davis Building after the Vice Chancellor who left last year.  It seems a great honour to have this building named for him.  I love the asymmetry of the blue windows against the white walls.

Even more impressive is how the old Bank of New South Wales facade has been incorporated into the modern design.  It is history with wings!

So there you have just some of the magnificent buildings and views on the University of Melbourne campus.  I have been slightly self-indulgent in reminiscing as I walk you through some of the fascinating areas but I hope it has made your soul soar a little to see such beauty and perhaps given you a little insight into the campus.

Previous posts on the University of Melbourne:
University of Melbourne places to eat (2019)
University of Melbourne Farmers Market: Vegan Lunches (2018)
University of Melbourne - lunches and buildings (2012)


  1. I do like architecture although know very little of the correct terms to use. There is something quite soothing about a lovely arch, or perhaps that's just me.

  2. This post has made me nostalgic for my University of Glasgow. I must admit that is when I begun to appreciate architecture much more too.


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