Tuesday 27 December 2022


The Manchester Unity Building is an Art Deco Gothic inspired office and retail building in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, constructed in 1931–32 for the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows. The soaring stepped corner tower on a prominent intersection opposite the Melbourne Town Hall makes it one of the most prominent and best known buildings in Melbourne. Architect Marcus Barlow designed the building, which was built by W E Cooper Pty Ltd, contracted for the price of £215,000.

Barlow's design clearly draws heavily on the Tribune Tower in Chicago, Illinois. This design by Raymond Hood won an international competition in 1922, was completed in 1925, and has very similar vertical ribbing, buff coloured cladding, and a stepped Gothic crown complete with flying buttresses also seen on the Manchester Unity. Another more direct inspiration might have been the very similar but less ornate Grace Building in York Street, Sydney designed by Morrow and Gordon, which was completed in 1930 before the Manchester Unity started construction, but both are said to have been inspired by the Tribune Tower.

The building is of concrete-encased steel construction, with the exterior cladding consisting of two hundred and fifty tons of terracotta faience tiles. Australian marbles are used extensively on interior walls throughout the building. Two escalators, the first in Melbourne, were installed by Austral Otis to provide access to the basement arcade and first floor from the ground floor arcade (though only one now survives). Three high-speed elevators were installed, capable of speeds of 600 feet per minute (3.0 m/s). The building's roof reaches 40 m, which was the height limit for buildings in Melbourne at the time of its construction, but the ornamental tower and spire extends a further 24 m, as was permitted for non-habitable portions of buildings.

This post is part of the Travel Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Blue Monday meme.

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