Architecture and Place

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UMA holds a wealth of records relating to the architectural history and social geography of Victoria. The records include architectural plans from tens of thousands of Victoria’s buildings and built structures, as well as residents’ associations and campaigns, housing and social surveys and policy discussions, photographs and much more.

Collage of details from the drawings of the Melbourne City Baths, 1904. JJ and EJ Clark collection 1981.0089
Collage of details from the drawings of the Melbourne City Baths, 1904. JJ and EJ Clark collection 1981.0089

As part of its business collection policy, UMA has acquired the records of both architectural firms and of individual architects. These collections contain a range of records, including job files, specifications and plans and drawings relating to Melbourne buildings as well as regional cities and towns including Geelong, Ballarat and Sale. A smaller number of projects in other parts of Australia and in other countries are also held by UMA. An example of international material is the records of land use in Britain and the Caribbean during the 18th and 19th century, within the Bright Family papers.

Architectural records can be found in many places in Archives and you may need to consult a range of record types:

  • Architectural drawings
  • Technical drawings by engineers
  • Contracts and specifications
  • Photographs
  • Client records
  • Builders’ records
  • Records created by investors and property developers
  • Site records, such as MWB drawings and topographic records
  • Real Estate records – subdivisions, specific properties
  • Insurance records – city block plans showing materials used in buildings
  • Catalogues of materials used in construction
  • Records from manufacturers of building materials
  • Legal records
  • Personal records

Examples of the breadth of collections that contain records of architecture and place in Victoria can be found in this online exhibition, Melbourne Architecture. The buildings featured include the Melbourne City Baths, the Shrine, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Trades Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Drawings may be produced in multiples, with a copy retained by the architect, one by the builder (for example, Clements Langford Pty Ltd), another by the client or developer and others by engineers (eg Reinforced Concrete and Monier Pipe Construction Co. Pty Ltd) or local or state authorities. Bates Smart McCutcheon (BSM) includes drawings created by architects who did not work for the practice – these drawings may have been collected by BSM in the course of subsequent work they undertook on a building. Architectural records may turn up in records of legal firms such as Blake & Rigall, and in investor and developer records such as Graham Brothers and the City Property Company.  Tenders and recipients of contracts may be found in Cazaly’s Contract Reporter along with all sorts of details about materials in use over time.

Real estate collections may include subdivision maps, sales brochures and newspaper clippings which document the growth of Melbourne and its suburbs from the 1860s to the 1960s, as well as recording valuable information on many of the city's houses and buildings of business and industry. Notable real estate collections include:

Mahlstedts block maps of Melbourne visually describe the site, neighbouring properties and materials used in construction. For more maps, see the University Library's Map Collection. For records about materials used investigate Hoffman Brick & Pottery (and others) and other manufacturers – such as Tesselated Tiles and Wunderlich.

Records of Architectural historians such as George Tibbits and Miles Lewis may suggest additional sources to investigate. To understand the visual language of drawings, processes to create them and materials used, refer to Professor Lewis’ most recent book Architectural Drawings (2021).

Finally, there are many collections that document housing conditions, suburban development and residents’ campaign. These include, but certainly aren’t limited to: the Parkville Associationthe Carlton Associationthe Wartime Survey on Housing Conditions, Jack O’Brien’s photographs of 1960s inner-city Melbourne (available through the digitised images database) and much more.

Architectural plans require particular access conditions, so please contact the reference service to book an appointment or to enquire about our holdings.

Architectural collections held at UMA: