Beyond Bluestone features archival photographs of major capital projects in Melbourne, Australia, which pushed architectural boundaries and transformed an international city.

The City Loop
From 1971 to 1985 excavation work on Melbourne’s Underground Railway Loop (City Loop) dominated the central business district (CBD). Once opened, the loop transformed the navigation of the city centre. 

Four underground tunnels were constructed stretching 3.7 kilometres underneath La Trobe and Spring streets. The underground system had been envisioned as early as the 1920s, but it took the exponential growth in commuter traffic disembarking at Spencer Street (Southern Cross) and Flinders Street stations in the 1960s to push the project forward. A giant boring machine known as The Mole cut the first few sections.The loop covers the outer edges of the CBD grid opening it up for better exploration. All 16 main metro lines can enter the tunnel system; during peak-hour eastern lines run clockwise in the morning and anti-clockwise in the evening (the reverse pattern applies to northern and western lines).

Swanson Dock
These aerial views of Swanson Dock appear to be decorated with shipping containers resembling Lego blocks lined up neatly along the harbour. 

This image comes from a photographic collection capturing port activities from the 1880s onward, created by the Melbourne Harbour Trust. The dock was named after Victor Swanson, Chairman of the Trust and former Vice-President of the International Association of Ports and Harbours, who foresaw the shift away from random sized cargo toward uniform metal shipping containers which are more easily transportable.

Opening in 1969 at the beginning of this trend, the dock boasted space for up to eight berths and a kilometre-long wharf dressed with quay side cranes (which make for an almost sci-fi silhouette at sunset). The dock now services over 30% of Australia’s shipping container traffic and makes a major contribution to Melbourne’s economy.

Sidney Myer Music Bowl
With its distinctive design, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl is one of Melbourne’s most enduring and iconic outdoor entertainment venues. The idea for an outdoor ‘orchestral shell’ in Melbourne’s Kings Domain dates back to at least 1942, when it was first raised as a possibility by the Melbourne City Council but was delayed due to the priorities of World War II industrial production and rationing. 

Since its completion in 1959, the Music Bowl has hosted countless events ranging from Vision Australia’s annual Carols by Candlelight, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s free summer concerts, winter ice-skating, and rock concerts by the likes of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

The structure is composed of steel cables and masts supporting a tent-like skin of aluminium-clad plywood (a material known as ‘Alumply’) which gives the distinctive freeform flow of draped material. The Music Bowl has undergone a number of refurbishments, most recently under the direction of Gregory Burgess Architects in 2001, which included significant improvements to amenities such as toilets and catering facilities.

West Gate Bridge
Few public works in Australian history have attracted as much continued attention as the West Gate Bridge, largely due to being the scene of Australia’s worst industrial accident, killing 35 workers. 

Originally called the Lower Yarra Bridge, it began construction in 1968 and became very successful in linking the industrial areas of Melbourne’s west with the burgeoning populations of the east, providing a route over the Yarra River that by-passed the city centre.

These photographs, both taken from below the eastern approach, exemplify the steel box-girder design; long concrete and steel box-girder spans were manufactured off-site and then placed into position.

In October 1970, one of the spans collapsed due to a poorly executed attempt to correct two spans that were out of alignment by 11 cm. It was the worst of four steel box-girder bridge accidents globally between 1969 and 1971 and forced an international review of this approach to bridge building, empowered trade unions to demand safer work conditions and strengthened legislation on occupational safety.

Keith's Lodge
During the 1950s, architect Keith Lodge's strikingly modern East Kew home in suburban Melbourne caught the attention of his neighbours by using two interlinking M-shaped steel frames as part of the exterior. The use of steel was uncommon however Lodge embraced it in a Melbourne style described by Robin Boyd as ‘structural-functional’. The frame determined room sizes, window shapes and enclosed spaces, blurring lines between the outside and inside.

This photograph was taken by renowned photographer Mark Strizic during his employment with the Commonwealth Trade Publicity Directorate. The Directorate aimed to stimulate and develop overseas investment, trade and tourism in Australia. Strizic’s signature style is abundant in this collection of photographs; shooting into the light, creating high-contrast silhouettes of post-war Melbourne.

This photograph of ‘Keith’s Lodge’ is not only a demonstration of Melbourne embracing the playfulness and experimentation of modernism, and its use in marketing Melbourne as an international and progressive city; it is a celebration of our post-war migrant photographers who captured our city so magnificently.

Melbourne Airport
In September 1966, readers of The Herald were invited to envisage landing at Melbourne’s $40 million international airport at Tullamarine, designed with automatic baggage carousels, cocktail lounges, restaurants, a cinema, gift shops and a beauty salon. 

Melbourne Airport was the first in the world to be based on the ‘Airport City’ model where airport land was also used for non-aviation revenue purposes.

Once complete, it featured the largest terminal ever built in Australia; wider than the Melbourne Cricket Ground (the city's premiere sports stadium) and bigger than a city block.

The Tullamarine Freeway linked the airport with the city and travellers returned with a taste of international café culture, fashion and art. To make way for this progress, some local history and character was lost: the airport runway buried the Moonee Ponds Creek, and the Inverness Hotel (built in 1863) was demolished to make way for the airport.

Housing Commission Flats
The Housing Commission Flats, as they are commonly referred to in Melbourne, were the mid-century solution to an accommodation crisis that had been brewing in Melbourne for decades. 

By the 1950s inadequate slum housing dominated the inner city ring, coupled with waves of post-war European immigration this placed pressure on housing; the city was facing a shortage of around 80,000 affordable and habitable homes. Although a public housing strategy had been planned decades before, innovation in pre-cast concrete technology suddenly enabled apartment blocks to be manufactured rapidly, matching similar experiments underway in the United States and Europe.

40 towers like this one were built, with each one accommodating up to 600 people, with the vast majority made up of two or three bedrooms. Despite their cold aesthetic the design thinking was not unsympathetic to concepts of liveability; planners dedicated 80% of ground space at each site to parks and playgrounds.

Between 1950 and 1980 the Housing Commission of Victoria built 90,000 dwellings across the state, and while the flats are probably their most famous, they represent a small sample of currently available public housing.

ICI House
Completed in 1958, ICI House - as it was known when constructed as the head office of Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd - was Melbourne’s first International Style skyscraper and the city’s tallest building until 1962 (and Australia's tallest until 1961).

At 81 metres tall, the building more than doubled the long-standing height restriction limit, requiring changes to the Uniform Building Regulations, a measure that was partly aimed at rejuvenating development and interest in the city centre.

Designed by Sir Walter Osborn McCutcheon (1899–1983) of Melbourne architectural firm Bates Smart and McCutcheon, the building features a minimalist glass curtain façade, and its construction required innovative steel and concrete engineering techniques.

Just to the left and slightly above ICI House in this photo you can see the CRA building (Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia Ltd) under construction, which became Melbourne’s tallest building in 1962.

Myer, Eastland Shopping Centre
The sleek modernism of arches and brick adorn the Myer department store façade at Eastland Shopping Centre in Ringwood, a place to consume in comfort, with easy access by car and ample parking right outside the front door. 

Ringwood, in 1967 when Eastland opened, was at the crossroads of booming suburbs on Melbourne’s outer north-eastern fringe. This was the era of motor vehicles, freeways, and shopping malls; symbols of post-war affluence, optimism and individual freedom.

Eastland Shopping Centre was one of several that sprung up during this period to cater for a new kind of retail experience and city living – somewhere you could drive to easily, park your car off road and shop for everything under one roof.

Myer continued to operate from its flagship department store located in heritage buildings in Melbourne’s central business district shopping precinct even though during this time the city experienced a slow but steady decline as people headed out of the inner city into the outer suburbs in search of better lifestyles.

State Government Offices, Geelong
The State Government Offices in Geelong were designed by architectural firm Buchan Laird & Bawden (which originated in Geelong) and is shown here nearing completion in May 1979. As Victoria’s second biggest city, the Victorian State Government required more office space for employees servicing Geelong and its region.

Resembling an upside-down pyramid, the building is an example of brutalist design in concrete and features cantilevered external support struts. An offshoot of the modernist architectural movement, brutalism often inspires polarised reactions due to its severe, rugged and raw forms that give buildings an apparent lack of comfort. Featuring exposed concrete, often imposing in scale and emphasising mass, the style became popular among government and institutional clients partly due to the versatility and cost-efficiencies of building with concrete – you either love it or hate it! The photograph also features some iconic cars of the 1970s: Holdens, Volkswagens and Fords.

Enterprise Hostel, Springvale
Quality housing upon arrival was crucial to the success of Australia’s post-war migration efforts. In 1968, there were 9 migrant hostels in Victoria; many consisted of ex-military, prefabricated huts with separate wash and communal areas. With many families requiring accommodation for months, sometimes years, growing numbers of unsatisfied residents demanded conditions improve. 

In 1970, the Australian Government opened the $3.45 million Enterprise Hostel in the Melbourne suburb of Springvale; a new concept in migrant housing aimed to create a ‘non-institutional’ atmosphere with privacy for families. The development was purpose-built double-story accommodation blocks connected by covered walkways with open spaces and courtyards.

The space provided comfortable accommodation to over 30,000 migrants and refugees until its closure in 1992.

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser observed that the Enterprise Community was an example of "what happens when new migrants to this country are welcomed with open arms… they add to its diversity, diversity becomes strength and something that enriches our lives".

Credits: Story

Beyond Bluestone is based on a physical exhibition displayed at the Victorian Archives Centre in Melbourne during 2018.

It was curated by staff from Public Record Office Victoria, Kate Follington and Sebastian Gurciullo, and Jessica Reid from the National Archives of Australia.

To find out any details about the photographs shown within the online exhibition please contact

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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