1929 – Parliament House, Melbourne, Victoria

Architect: Peter Kerr



In the early 1850s a competition was held for a design for the building, but all the entries were rejected and the government architect, Charles Pasley, came up with a design of his own. The design was later modified by another architect, Peter Kerr of Knight & Kerr.

In December 1855 construction began on the site in Spring Street, and the building was completed in stages between 1856 and 1929. The chambers for the Victorian Legislative Assembly and the Victorian Legislative Council were finished in 1856, at which time Bourke Street ran between the two chambers. The library was completed in 1860, and the Great Hall (now Queen’s Hall) and the vestibule in 1879. In the 1880s, at the height of the great boom fuelled by the Victorian Gold Rush, it was decided to add a classical colonnade and portico facing Spring St, which today gives the building its monumental character. This was completed in 1892. The north wing was completed in 1893 and refreshment rooms at the back of the building were added in 1929.

Despite its protracted construction and the inevitable evolution of the design, the building today feels very much a single entity. The flow of the rooms, particularly taken in context with the main facade leading to the Queen’s Hall and the Parliamentary chambers, is both logical and visually impressive.

Both Pasley and Kerr’s designs included plans for a dome, but these were abandoned when a sharp depression began in 1891, and the dome was never built. From time to time governments have expressed interest in completing the building by adding the dome, but have been deterred by the enormous cost.

From The Irish Builder and Engineer “The design, as revised, is by Mr. Peter Kerr, of the Department of Public Works. The ordonnance employed encircling the entire structure is Roman Doric, in unison with the library front in all its details, standing on a rusticated bluestone basement, the entrance, or Spring-street faqade, is approached by a grand flight of bluestone steps, 140 ft. in length, to a noble portico of the same length, by 13 ft. in width, between the fluted columns and pilasters, and 45 ft. in height. The columns, &c., are 4 ft. in diameter above the base ; and in the centre of the portico in three of the bays are coupled columns on each side supporting an entablature, having three large recesses, semicircular- headed doorways, which lead into the grand entrance vestibule, communicating with the main hall, and members’ private corridors, and to the right and left at the extreme ends of porticos are similar entrances to the several committee, conference, ministerial and opposition rooms, &c., of assembly and council.

A group of allegorical figures representing Legislation surmounts the attic over the centre of portico, in front of the stylobata of dome, which is surrounded with an Ionic ordonnance crowned with an entablature, &c. ; also allegorical figures, &c., representing Science, Fine Arts, Commerce and Agriculture surmount (in the centre) the wings that flank the portico, and rusticated semicircular-headed windows, enriched balconettes, moulded window jambs, alto-relievo and festoon enrichments in the panels between the attic-pilasters, facing north and south. In the retaining walls of the portico steps are the entrances to the strangers’ galleries, with couchant lions on pedestals. In the centre, projecting forward from the two flank elevations, facing north and south, are colonnades on the principal floor, and balconies on the first floor, with semicircular-headed windows, &c., in the recessed walls, the front sur- mounted with an attic ; and at the extreme ends of the colonnades in the basement are entrances, those nearest the Spring-street front are for the officials of parliament, and those towards the library or east front are the speaker and president’s private entrances, also members’ entrances to the library and refreshment rooms. To the right and left are the flanks of the front and back wings, having rusticated semicircular-lieaded windows, enriched balconettes, moulded window jambs, panelled and enriched carved festoons between attic pilasters. The east elevation, or library front, is flanked at both ends with wings of a similar description to that flanking the present library, having, in place of windows in the attic, enriched festoons, with colonnades and balconies between the wings and library of a similar kind to those of the flank elevations, except that they are surmounted with balustrades. In the centre of the above elevation on the basement floor are tho reporters’ entrances. The stone most likely to be employed in the erection of the exterior faqades will be colonial Mount Abrupt white sandstone. “