09 June 2009

Marvellous Melbourne Architecture: Rialto

Collins St cityscape 2009

Collins St Melbourne had some amazing commercial buildings in the late C19th; architects seemed to take pride in presenting an extraordinary mix of glamorous styles. I want to examine the Winfield Building briefly, then move to William Pitt and the Rialto Building.
Heritage Victoria said the architects of the Winfield Building were Charles D’Ebro and Richard Speight, commissioned by J R Murphy of Murphy’s brewery. From 1892-4 this Queen Anne style building was Melbourne's first amalgamated wool exchange and incorporated an auction hall which brought together all the Melbourne wool sales. The front section to Collins Street is all that remains of the original, much larger complex.

Winfield Building (L), Rialto Building (R)

William Pitt (1855-1918) was a Melbourne born and educated architect who was fortunate to be building in the money-flushed era of Marv­el­lous Melbourne. It is an absolute tragedy that some of his most spectacular buildings, especially the Melbourne Coffee Palace (1879) and the Federal Coffee Palace (1888), were pulled down by later developers. However the Rialto Building survives, his second master work after the nearby Olderfleet Building.

Next to the Winfield Building and completed in 1891, the Rialto Building housed Melbourne’s wool stores, an impor­t­ant part of the city’s financial base in the C19th. The two buildings were part of a streetscape that was unified by its height limits, if not its building styles.

Jedi Master in Former Rialto Building and Winfield Buildings noted that the Rialto Building took its style from its famed Venetian name­sake. Built in the neo-Gothic taste, Jedi Master focused on the col­our­ed tiles, poly-chromatic banding, pointed arches and columnettes. The bluestone cobbled laneway between the two buildings were busy with workers and beasts, carrying the precious wool to Melbourne’s very busy docks.

Laneway atrium between the two buildings

Today this warehouse/offices complex is the Rialto Hotel, retaining the original bal­conies, a cobbled laneway and according to brandoneu in The Melbourne Golden Mile, even its cast-iron privies. You can see how the dining area of the hot­el was creat­ed from the laneway between the original Rialto and Winfield Build­ings. The hotel’s towering glass atrium sits between these two buildings, retaining its original form as much as possible.
Winfield Building rear, with men's toilets


Mott said...

Can you tell which of the 19th century buildings in the cityscape photo are preserved in total and which are preserved only as far as the facade?

Albinowilson said...

Thanks for sharing such an amazing information.......
bluestone tiles melbourne

Hels said...


Pleasure. What is your favourite architecture?