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Melbourne's Tallest Building

Melbourne's skyscraper record is impressive, by any standards. The city has a history of tall buildings, just as do other cities such as Chicago and New York. Despite a general 40 metre height limit enforced between 1916 and 1957, which precluded anything but decorative towers, the city has had a history of impressive skyscrapers, which included many of the world's first skyscrapers in the 1890s.

Melbourne has for many years laid claim to Australia's tallest building.

The city once had the world's 3rd tallest skyscraper in the Australian Building 1889 (sadly demolished in the 1980s). The building was Australia's and the southern hemisphere's very first true skyscraper (12 storeys or taller).

Today, Melbourne is home to 5 out of the 10 tallest buildings in Australia, and Australia's tallest since 1980 in the Rialto (as well as the title of tallest in the southern hemisphere). The skyline is one of the world's most admired. The Eureka Tower (under construction) will retain that title for many years to come, and gain a new title as the world's tallest residential tower. A recently failed proposal for the Grollo tower, shows that Melbourne is a city that well and truly aspires to great heights, and a current building boom has seen a seemingly endless supply of giant buildings being constructed.

A chronology

A list of the tallest city buildings at different stages in Melbourne's history

1880

Yorkshire Brewery
8 storeys
status : heritage registered but in extremely derelict condition
Yorkshire Brewery

1888

Fink's Building
43 metres & 10 storeys
status : demolished (c1960)
Fink's Building - demolished c1960

1889

The Australian Building
53 metres & 12 storeys
status : demolished (c1980)
The Australian Building - demolished c1980

1929

APA Tower
76 metres & 14 storeys
status : demolished (c1969)
APA Tower - demolished c1969

1958

ICI House
81 metres & 20 storeys
status : heritage registered
ICI House

1963

CRA Building
96 metres & 26 storeys
status : demolished (c1992)
CRA Building - demolished c1969

1969

AMP Square
113 metres & 28 storeys
status : under threat
AMP Building - under threat of demolition

1972

BHP House
152 metres & 31 storeys
status : heritage registered
BHP House - Heritage Registered

1975

Optus House
153 metres & 34 storeys
Optus House

1977

Nauru House
182 metres & 52 storeys
Nauru House

1981

Collins Place
185 metres & 50 storeys
Collins Place

1985

Rialto Towers
251 metres & 63 storeys
Rialto Towers

2004

Eureka Tower
297 metres & 92 storeys
status : Under Construction
Eureka Tower - Under Construction

No city should demolish a previously tallest building, however old and ugly as they may seem at the moment. They are bound to be a landmark of their era and are more often than not a representation of the finest in architectural and engineering achievements of their time. These factors should be taken into strong consideration when registering buildings for heritage value. This is especially the case given that 4 out of 12 of these Melbourne skyscrapers no longer exist.

Most of the buildings that are no longer with us were pre reinforced concrete and steel construction, mostly load bearing stone foundations, which could not always stand the test of time. Regardless of whether this was an issue in the 1960s or not, tall buildings seem to always admired when first built and admired less as they grow older, until they dissapear into obscurity as they are dwarfed by their neighbours.

One such example is the AMP building, which, depsite it's formidibale size, was recently touted for demolition to be replaced by a newer development - the taller Church Place tower. The AMP building is a fine example of 1960s high-rise construction, and shows heavy influence from the CBS building in New York. The lower St James buildings that frame the tower could be demolished to make way for several towers, however the main tower and plaza should be preserved, as along with it's neighbour BHP house as one of the best examples of 60s corporate self-referential architecture in Melbourne - if not Australia. It would be a tragedy if this once tallest landmark were demolished, and it would further blemish the city's poor performance in preserving it's talls for future generations.

A precedent should be set by registering ALL of these fantastic towers now while we can, before they too fall under the wrecking ball of speculative development.