Demolition of the 1960s Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning building and the adjacent 1930s Commerce building (except the heritage listed façade) at the University of Melbourne has commenced.

In their place will be a new building for the Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning. It is to be a large and ambitious new building, the design of which has arisen as a result of an international architecture competition, ultimately awarded to the prestigious local firm, John Wardle Architects, in conjunction with internationally renowned firm, NADAAA of Boston, USA.

RBA has been providing heritage management services to the faculty as they plan for their new building.

The new faculty building will incorporate conserved and adapted elements from the two old buildings that the university community considers most valuable. The most notable of these are the J. Reed façade and the Japanese Room.

The 1850s façade, designed by eminent architect Joseph Reed, formerly graced the Bank of NSW in Collins Street. When the bank wished to expand in the 1930s, the redundant façade was moved to the University of Melbourne where it was incorporated into the design of the Commerce building by Department of Public Works architect Percy Everett.

The 1960s installation of three Asian themed meeting rooms (Japanese, Chinese and Indian) into the first dedicated Architecture Building designed by Professor Brian Lewis (first Chair of Architecture) was in response to the broad international representation within the student and teaching body. The Indian and Chinese Rooms had undergone numerous alterations over the years, but the Japanese Room remained largely intact. The Japanese Room was designed by faculty staff member, Shigeru Yura, based on the domestic Shoin style of the 17th century. Features of the room include the hand painted fusuma (sliding doors), fabric wallpaper, shoji (papered sliding screens), a panelled cedar ceiling and chigaidana (split-level shelving). It was funded mainly by members of the Japan-Australia Business Co-operation Committee in Japan and the materials for the room were imported from Japan. It is probably the most authentic example of a Shoin style interior extant in Australia.

The Japanese Room has been carefully dismantled and the elements are currently in storage. The room will be reassembled in a prominent position on the roof of the new faculty building.
Enabling works have begun on the J. Reed façade as part of the demolition of the old commerce building. The façade will be conserved and reincorporated into the new faculty building as the main entrance to the public exhibition spaces.

Commerce Building on completion, c.1940 (Source: Harold Paynting Collection, State Library of Victoria)
Japanese Room


04 February 2013

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