Stephenson & Meldrum
date of commission:
date of completion:
Grey St, East Melbourne, VIC
The launch of the Mercy Hospital on to the Australian architectural scene heralded the arrival of international modernism in Australia. The first building from the office of Stephenson & Meldrum after Arthur Stephenson’s highly-significant tour of Europe in 1923-33, the hospital embraced and echoed multiple modernist elements that Stephenson had witnessed on his travels. These included the use of balconies and triple hung-windows, which allowed the patients easy access to fresh air and sunlight.
The design itself was a masterful composition of horizontal lines, carefully weighted and balanced by the vertical lift tower: its coherence as a composition and confident massing and detail make the Mercy much more than a agglomeration of European ideas. Its international significance comes from the combination of American ideas of efficiency, management and servicing of the hospital, with the modern dress and therapeutic architecture of Europe, realised for the first time at the Mercy.
It received international attention and was featured in the British journal Architectural Review in 1937. The Mercy’s design – epitomising progressive ideas of health and architecture – became the foundation for a series of world-leading hospital designs built in Australia by the firm, many of which appeared in the decade following its completion. Text adapted from an entry by Julie Willis in Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape and Design 1925-1975, Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad (2019, Thames and Hudson)
– Victorian Heritage Register (H1954)