Trades Hall was constructed in ten stages, the most significant period of building being that between 1874 and 1925. It was during this period that the imposing classical facade to Lygon and Victoria Streets was established. Trades Hall is largely a two-storey building, with bluestone foundations and brick walls with unpainted cement render finish. The facade is articulated primarily with the use of Corinthian pilasters. An entrance portico in Lygon Street features eight Corinthian columns supporting a triangular pediment between two flanking towers. The Victoria Street wing features large parapet urns. It was designed as a combined Trades Hall and literary institute.
Trades Hall is of historical significance for its associations with the trade union movement and Labor Party. The existing building occupies the site where the first, temporary Trades Hall was opened in May 1859. Since its construction, the building has been the site of numerous important events in union and working class history. Its origins lie in the successful eight hours day movement, in which Victorian artisans led the world, and has long been regarded as a splendid monument to this achievement. In addition, the building has significant associations with the development of Victoria's trade unions, numerous unions having had their headquarters in the building. As Australia’s oldest and largest Trades Hall, it stands as a symbol of the importance of organised labour within Australian society. The building continues to serve as a focus of union organisation and left-wing political activity in Victoria.
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 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.
Explore other landmarks:
Hellenic Museum • State Library of Victoria • Glyn Davis Building • Immigration Museum • Temple of Boom • Parliament House • Shrine of Remembrance • Melbourne GPO • Nicholas Building • Eureka Tower • Greek Centre • Trades Hall • Former Mail Exchange • Collins St Baptist Church • Royal Australasian College of Surgeons • Emily McPherson College