The History and Design of Parliament House, Melbourne

The History and Design of Parliament House, Melbourne

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 09/28/2016

Reading time: 3 mins

Listed as one of Melbourne’s most picturesque buildings, Parliament is well worth the visit!

Melbourne’s city centre is filled with incredible architecture dating back to all kinds of styles and eras. But one of the very best-loved buildings is Parliament House, which sits slap bang in the centre of the city.

Here, the impressive building makes its mark on the city and its passers-by, promising both a stunning visual experience and a chance to explore the political history of Melbourne and Australia as a whole. Showcasing sweeping steps, intricate and ornate lamps, and a grand colonnade, it’s one of the city’s most popular landmarks. Inside, the architecture is still just as grand, with incredible sights to behold in the Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council, the Queen’s Hall, and the library.

The Location of Parliament House

Finding the location for the region’s parliament was a complex matter, taking nearly eight years after the Federal Parliament first met to decide on a location. Arguments over the best site in Melbourne were intense until finally, in 1854, the current Spring Street site was agreed upon by all members.

The Design of Parliament House

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Parliament House is its incredible design. Notable from both the outside and the inside, it exudes opulence and grandeur. The design itself came about from a competition, with John Knight winning the first prize of £500. However, his plan was ultimately deemed unsuitable, so no plans were made to go ahead with it. Instead, Colonial Engineer, Charles Pasley, produced his own design outside of the competition. It is thought he was heavily influenced by the design of Leeds Town Hall, which was built in the 1850s and is still known as one of the most impressive civic buildings on the planet.

Later on, after the Pasley’s plan was given the go-ahead, it was modified by Peter Kerr, an architect in Pasley’s office to make it more appropriate. The building is now a fine example of Neoclassical architecture standing proud on the streets of Melbourne. It offers both an insight into the wonderful world of grand architecture at the time of its conception and erection, as well as a chance for visitors to get under the skin of the political prowess of Melbourne over the years.

How to See Parliament House

Free public tours of Parliament House draw in hundreds of visitors every day – though they only run when Parliament isn’t sitting, and audio guides are available for those who would like to dig deeper into the history, culture, and stories of the Parliament building. Head to Parliament House for a free tour conducted by Australia’s knowledgeable guides, or simply explore the multitude of rooms by yourself that is open to everyone, Visitors can admire the gilt furnishings and the high-ceilings that are so typical of this type of Civic building. Afterward, why don’t you enjoy the nearby attractions near Parliament, such as a number of rooftop bars, award-winning restaurants, or incredible city gardens!

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.