Wilson Hall – University of Melbourne
Bates Smart & McCutcheon
date of commission:
date of completion:
Wilson Ave, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria
– Victorian Heritage Register
– National Trust of Australia (Victoria)
– DOCOMOMO Australia Register
Wilson Hall is one of Australia’s most highly crafted and art adorned buildings of the 1950s. The university community, devastated by the 1952 burning of its Gothic Revival hall, decided on modern architecture after much heated and very public controversy. Described by Robin Boyd as ‘the crowning jewel of Australian Featurism’, Wilson Hall has a finely veneered interior with four different external facades. Inside the foyer, a curved timber ceiling sweeps low overhead before one passes through a glass wall that contains an etched and stained-glass mural, which honours women graduates and was designed by Sydney artist Douglas Annand. Outside is a glazed curtain wall to the east and a series of elms planted at the time of construction. To the north and directly above the main glazed entry doors, a textured brick wall is relieved by The Trial of Socrates, a copper sculpture by Tom Bass. To the west, a translucent egg-crate window diffuses light onto the dais. Four cement relief sculptures, further along on this west wall, and also by Bass, indicate parables of Observation, Contemplation, Teaching and Learning and The Talents of Knowledge. To the south is another textured brick wall, studded with decorative Gothic details retrieved from the burnt-out original hall. A protruding copper bulge houses an 1890 organ by George Fincham installed there in 1956.
Text adapted from an entry by Philip Goad in Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape and Design 1925-1975 (2019, Thames and Hudson).