Stanhill is an apartment building with shops and offices on Queens Rd South Melbourne. Frederick Romberg designed it in 1942, one of his early commissions in Australia. Because of the War and the postwar materials shortage it wasn’t completed until 1950.

Stanhill is Melbourne’s most prominent example of pre-war European modernism. For a detailed description of its heritage listing click here.




Newburn is a four storey row of bachelor flats at 30 Queens Rd, Melbourne, designed in 1939. The Swiss-trained architect, Frederick Romberg, had only recently arrived in Australia and was 26 years of age. He worked in partnership with Richard Hocking and Mary Turner Shaw.

Newburn is an early example in Australia of functionalist architecture, and contrasted dramatically with surrounding architecture. Each apartment has a balcony with a view of the large garden which runs the length of the property. The building is long and narrow, and originally all apartments were to face the same direction, but the developers wanted the end turned around to face the facing Albert Park, and charged more for these premium units.

See vintage photos by Wolfgang Sievers on the National Library collection



One of Frederick Romberg’s earliest commissions in Australia, at 2 Horsburgh Grove, Armadale, and completed in 1941.

With its decorative features of stone chimney, portholes and projecting eaves, Glenunga is described as having Heimatstil attributes, (“a nationalist culture based on the traditional rural society, as opposed to the grandeur and modern functionalism of cosmopolitan urban culture.” – It predicts the postwar styles of Mid-Century Modernism, with the crazy-brick stonework, and bold shapes.

See details on the National Library of Australia website




One of the the first multi-storied Modernist buildings in Australia, Woy Woy is on Marine Parade, Elwood and was designed in 1936 by Geoffrey Mewton, then partner of Roy Grounds. The design is extremely minimal, just plain cubic forms punctured by steel windows. The only gesture to decoration is the quaint Deco name above the entrance.




Hosies was built in the early 1950s in anticipation of the Melbourne Olympics of 1956. The architects were Mussen, McKay and Potter. The smaller front section seems to have detached from the tower, like a dis-assembled machine part. This didactic piece of Modernist design is at the corner Flinders & Elizabeth Streets.

“An extremely balanced building of refined geometrical collisions composed of different textures and colours for a flamboyant and abstract visual effect”

Richard Beck’s abstract mural is perfectly suited to the building, continuing the architectural theme in the two-dimensional plane.                        …………………..IMG_5807-x


TREASURY PLACE – State Government Offices


Designed by architect Barry Patten of Yuncken Freeman, this is an austere ensemble of high modernist concrete buildings which emphasize their grid structure. Despite their severity, they relate well and comment on the classicism of the adjoining 19th century building. The design competition was launched in 1962, and the buildings were opened in 1970.





MacRob High was built in 1934 with a donation of £40,000 from the confectioner MacPherson Robertson. The design competition was won by  27 year old architect Norman H. Seabrook (1906-78) who was influenced by the Dutch modernist Willem Dudok. Seabrook had travelled extensively in Europe soaking up the new architecture.

The building shows signs of De Stijl aesthetics in the cubic forms, rectilinear patterns and primary colours of the detailing. Robin Boyd stated that this was where modernism started in Melbourne. Considering the importance of the school and its benefactor, the prominence ofthe site on Queens Rd, and Seabrook’s youth, it was a very public declaration of modernity..





The design competition for the Olympic pool in 1952 was awarded to the group of Kevin Borland, Peter McIntyre (aged 25), John and Phyllis Murphy, and engineer Bill Irwin. The building was completed in 1956, just in time for the Melbourne Olympic Games.

The building was daring and novel for its naked engineered quality, structure without architecture. Clearly the engineer Bill Irwin made an important contribution to the design. It is still a building that expresses the forces of nature.

The Australian Register of the National Estate describes it thus: The roof truss form, with glazing below, dominates the principal elevation and gives the structure its architecturally distinctive shape. The stadium is based on two angled concrete seating ramps facing each other and connected by roof trusses. The ramp/roof intersection is held down by light vertical metal rods. The north and south walls were all glass, emphasising the V-shape of the basic structure.


Construction in 1954. Image from



Mordechai Benshemesh designed one of Melbourne’s first large scale modernist apartment blocks, on Marine Parade St Kilda. The giant building has one hundred apartments, with views across Port Phillip Bay. It was completed in 1960

Lyle Fowler, 1962. State Library of Victoria Accession Number: H92.20/7306

This photograph shows the pristine new building, before the facade was ruined by enclosed balconies.



Designed by Osborn McCutcheon of Bates Smart McCutcheon and opened in 1958, ICI House was Melbourne’s first International Style skyscraper. It was modelled on Lever House and United Nations building in New York. At 19 storeys is was the tallest building in Melbourne at the time, breaking the 12 storey limit. This change to planning laws opened the floodgates to skyscraper construction and the associated destruction of Victorian Melbourne.




JW Rivett, 1948-51. 3 Tahara Rd, Toorak


caringal tahara-1




Roy Grounds, 1941, Mathoura Rd, Toorak





Peter McIntyre, 1953. Corner Aquila St and Taurus St North Balwyn.



Robin Boyd 1959-62, Domain Road South Yarra




Frederick Romberg and Mary Turner Shaw, 1940, Walsh St South Yarra



Anatol Kagan, 1956. Corner The Belvedere and Yarravale Rd, Kew.



Peter McIntyre, 33 Holroyd St, Kew. 1954



Robin Boyd of Romberg and Boyd, 1970. 669 Toorak Rd, Toorak



Main Drive Kew is a new development of modernist-style villas in the leafy suburb of Kew. Controversially built on the site of the former Kew Cottages, it is a self-enclosed estate with numerous iterations of the Bauhausy white box, set in very beautifully landscaped streets. It is very reminiscent of Weimar-era housing estates such as Werkbundseidlung in Vienna, and the Baba Estate in Prague.

dKO Architecture designed the villas.


.Main Drive Kew is an echo of the Werkbundsieidlung, Vienna. It too was an architecturally progressive housing estate. Created in the early 1930s on a green fields site at the edge of Vienna, the project attracted 32 modern architects including Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, Richard Neutra, Gerrit Rietveld, Jean Lurcat and Hugo Häring. Seventy houses were built in various modern styles.




2 thoughts on “Melbourne

  1. Hi Greg,

    I’m assuming you’re the same Greg Neville who taught at ACPAC in the 90’s.
    I was a student there at the time. I’m a filmmaker now and my partner and I have been working on a documentary on Modernist, residential architecture from the late 1950’s to the late 1970’s. Here’s a link to our teaser Thought you might be interested.
    I’ve enjoyed viewing your Modernismus blog.


    Naomi Bishops

    1. Hi Naomi, yes it’s me from Acpac, still going strong. Thanks for the comment about Modernismus. I looked at the Vimeo link and your film looks great. You’ve certainly been speaking to the right people – Gunn, Clerehan et al. The more people know about this architecture, and the architects, the better.

      By the way, you might be interested in my other sites:, and
      All the best.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s