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Glyn Davis Building, Melbourne School of Design


Glyn Davis Building (MSD), Masson Road, Parkville VIC, Australia


Exterior – Free to view

Interior – Open 7AM–7PM, some areas may be restricted to university personnel

Architectural History

The western facade of the Melbourne School of Design has an interesting history. Once the facade of the Bank of New South Wales on Collins Street, it has been transplanted to its current location, where it is embedded on one side of the University of Melbourne’s Glyn Davis Building.

In 1856 the Bank of New South Wales offered a prize of £75 for the best design of their new headquarters in Melbourne. The winning proposal was that of prolific Melbourne architect Joseph Reed. Construction of the building was carried out by Cornish and Burgoyne at 368-374 Collins St, but due to structural issues, the building was demolished in the 1930s. However the facade, a prime example of Renaissance Revival architecture, was preserved and gifted to the University of Melbourne in 1932. The facade is based on Sausarino's Library in Venice and consists of two levels; the lower level comprises capped columns in the Ionic order with fluted scamozzi capitals and carved stone pedestals. On the upper level, fluted Corinthian columns are topped with an ornate entablature. The upper frieze is decorated with nude figures holding flowers and fruits, while the lower half contains ornamented wreaths carved by sculptor Charles Summers.

Social History

The facade was erected at the University of Melbourne in 1938. During demolition each stone was removed separately, cleaned and numbered to facilitate re-erection. At this time it was discovered that the sculptor Charles Summers had carved his initials into each stone on which he had worked.  The facade became the front to the newly erected commerce building which later became the Architecture Building. Today the facade stands on the western side of the new Melbourne School of Design, which has won received numerous awards in testament to its commitment to sustainability and green architecture.

Prompts & Activities

  • Why do you think the architect used Greek influences in this building? How does it relate to its purpose, and the people who would have occupied it?

  • In comparison, how is it used today, and is this thinking still relevant? Or does the modern use of the building subvert its history?

  • How many of the mentioned Greek architectural elements can you see? Can you count columns or other design features? Which types of columns are used, and why do you think this is?

  • What do you think of this facade in relation to the rest of the Glyn Davis Building, especially given it is a Design School? In transplanting the facade to its new home, have the architects of the Glyn Davis Building honoured the intention of the architects of the original bank? What does the mixed facade say about the Melbourne School of Design?

  • What is your favourite element of this building? Does it have interesting ornamentation? What part does this element play in the overall design of the building, and why might it have been included? You might like to draw your favourite components! Observational sketching is a great way to get a deeper understanding of something.

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