Melbourne's GPO is a shopping arcade situated inside the former Victorian-era Melbourne General Post Office (GPO) building located on the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Street in the centre of Melbourne's Central Business District. It is currently listed on Australia's Victorian Heritage Register. The former purpose-built post office building was redeveloped for retail by adaptive reuse in 2004.
The architectural style of the building is Classical with French Second Empire influences and was designed in the Victorian period by architect A.E. Johnson. Its historical significance is also due to incorporating distinct sections built over a period of 48 years between 1859 and 1907, and multilayered architecture, as a result of the four floors being constructed at different times. A distinctive architectural element is the clock tower which dominates the intersection of the two streets. Its location is still used as a point of reference for the measure of distances from the centre of Melbourne.
The building occupies the north-eastern corner of the Elizabeth and Bourke Street intersection. The design expresses the classical architecture because of its use of Doric columns in the first level which was constructed between 1859-67. The second level consists of Ionic columns and the third level incorporates Corinthian columns. The building’s physical appearance is strongly recognisable for its selection of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian layering of levels. The interior of the post office is expressive of the past as the postal hall was used functionally business intended for sorting mail. The façade is made from stone. The objective of its late 20th century remodelling was to revitalise the heritage listed building by linking its shops to public spaces and pathways, and providing access to parts of the building previously not open to the public.
In 1859 a design competition was held for a new building, but instead of the winning entry, the second placed design by the architect A.E Johnson was selected by the government. Works on the building continued until 1867 and by the end a two storey building was erected. In 1887 a third level and a clock tower were added on top of the existing building. In 1919 architect Walter Burley Griffin designed the remodelling of the sorting hall into a public hall, but his design was later altered by architect John Smith Murdoch of the Commonwealth Department of Works. In the years that followed the neo-renaissance style building became a great success and a city landmark. There were several propositions for various changes and additions to the building; however these proposals were mostly discarded.
In September 2001 a fire severely damaged the interior of the building. However, since then the building has been restored, in part to the original look and feel. The ceiling was restored and a lighter shade of paint was chosen, the more modern design has a feeling of light and space that was not present in the former design. Cafes populate the outer colonnade while boutique shops fill the three floors of the building. The building now forms a major arcade running from Bourke Street through to Little Bourke Street.
- General Post Office
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Media related to General Post Office, Melbourne at Wikimedia Commons