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Former Auditorium Building

Peter Maltezos's picture

Text from Melbourne Architecture

Former Auditorium Building

167-173 Collins Street

(now known as 171 Collins Street)


1913 Nahum Barnet


Announcing its stylistic origins as hailing from Adler and Sullivan’s Auditorium Building in Chicago, Barnet’s building of the same name follows Louis Sullivan’s recipe for the high rise, stretching the tripartite division of the early Renaissance palazzo vertically using the Romanesque arch for the shaft of the tower.

Designed as offices and a live theatre, this is Barnet’s central city masterwork, though altered over the years from a cinema in the 1930s to a failed boutique department store, competitor to Georges, in the mid-1980s. Despite these internal changes, the wrought-iron filigree work, Romanesque arched entry and oriel bay windows bear comparison with the Centreway Building as heralding a new standard for city commercial buildings after 1910.


A photograph of my own below, second from right.


How it looked in 1935.


Description of the new building using the Former Auditorium façade by the architects (Bates Smart).


171 Collins Street integrates a new generation of workplace environment linking Collins Street’s luxury and sophistication with the intimacy and vibrant atmosphere of Flinders Lane.

The development consists of 29,800sqm of premium office space, spread over 17 large campus-style floor-plates, and 1,700sqm of boutique office space in the restored heritage building on Collins Street. The lower levels incorporate a business centre and over 1,500sqm of high-end retail space.

The design concept addresses the façade’s relationship to St Paul’s Cathedral spires, which sit directly in front of the building when seen from Southbank. Currently, the spires are visually lost among the mixed assembly of taller structures beyond. This new insertion provides a consistent backdrop, so that the Cathedral’s fine architecture can be clearly discerned against the elegant white glass curtain of the building.


Rendering of the entrance atrium.


The actual atrium, looking down from the top.


The new building from the north with the Former Auditorium Building façade.


View from the south.



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