Our history

A brief history of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning and the Melbourne School of Design at the University of Melbourne.

1860 First subjects offered

The first architectural subjects at the University of Melbourne were offered from within the School of Engineering in the 1860s. The new program sought independence, but a proposed Chair in Architecture was quashed by the severe economic depression that engulfed Melbourne in the 1890s.

In 1902, the University approved a four-year full-time architecture course leading to a Diploma of Architecture but Engineering ceased to offer architecture lectures in 1903 because of an economy drive.

1907 Diploma course offered

The call for architectural education remained, and a program (albeit part-time and shorter) was reinstated as its own diploma course in 1907, on the recommendation of a University Council enquiry, with the support of the Royal Victoria Institute of Architects (RVIA).

The initial single-figure enrolments grew by 1914 to fifty-one, when credit was offered for prior work done in technical colleges.

1919 Architectural Design Atelier established

Within Engineering, Architecture was taught as a science. However, two lecturers in Architecture, Anketell Henderson and his successor Rodney Alsop, both stressed its aesthetic aspects. In 1919, Alsop succeeded in establishing an Architectural Design Atelier, formally known as the Melbourne University Architectural Atelier (MUAA).

It was open to holders of the architecture diploma or those who met work-experience criteria, and it offered a three-year Postgraduate Diploma of Architectural Design.

Teaching for the Diploma continued in the overcrowded Engineering building until 1923, when separate accommodation for architecture was allocated in the new Anatomy building, today the Richard Berry Building. After World War II, Architecture occupied a series of army huts located outside the Engineering building and near Grattan Street until 1968.

1931 Faculty established and first Bachelor degrees conferred

Faculty status for Architecture was attained in 1931 and the first bachelor’s degrees were conferred.

1947 Brian Lewis appointed to Chair in Architecture

Brian Lewis was appointed to a Chair in Architecture in 1947 and revolutionised the course by introducing leading European ideas, with an emphasis on design.

1950 Addition of studies in Town and Regional Planning

A Department of Town and Regional Planning was also established in the 1950s, affiliated with the Faculty of Architecture, but with its own Board of Studies. Its energetic first director, F.W. Ledgar, managed to attract significant numbers of students to a postgraduate course, and a degree was introduced in the 1960s; in 1972 the Department merged with the Faculty of Architecture.

1968 Stand-alone Architecture building obtained
Photograph: Dianna Snape

Architecture obtained its own building in 1968, and it was wrought through compromise. Severe funding constraints led to an inadequate grant being offered for construction and Lewis acquired materials as donations from the construction industry.

While functional, the building fabric was compromised and by the early 21st Century, enrolments of over 1,200 students had exhausted its studio space.

2010 The Melbourne Model led to the Bachelor of Environments and the establishment of the Melbourne School of Design

Lewis’s basic course structure for Architecture endured for nearly five decades. Under the Melbourne Model, (a revision of the University’s curriculum) the undergraduate course was incorporated into a Bachelor of Environments, offering a range of majors taught by the Faculty, but now combined with majors from Engineering, Science and the School of Land and Environment.

This new degree now leads to a range of postgraduate courses taught through the Faculty’s Melbourne School of Design (MSD), including architecture, construction management, landscape architecture, property, urban planning and urban design, all of which provide professional accreditation and position the university centrally within the built and natural environments as a gateway to practice.

2012 Old building demolished

The 1968 building was demolished at the end of 2012 to accommodate a new building on the same site.

2014 New MSD building
Render: John Wardle Architects and NADAAA in collaboration

The Faculty’s new home is a purpose-built, studio-focused facility for contemporary courses in Architecture, Building and Planning - an outcome of an open call for expressions of interest from architectural firms worldwide. Melbourne’s John Wardle Architects and Boston firm NADAAA combined their expertise to deliver the winning design.

The building was completed on October 1, 2014. The Japanese Room and the Joseph Reed fa├žade, key features from the previous building, are incorporated into the new building.