Manchester Unity Building

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Manchester Unity Building
Manchester Unity Building.jpg
The building viewed from ground level looking north west.
General information
Location Melbourne, Australia
Coordinates 37°48′55″S 144°57′59″E / 37.8154°S 144.9664°E / -37.8154; 144.9664Coordinates: 37°48′55″S 144°57′59″E / 37.8154°S 144.9664°E / -37.8154; 144.9664
Completed 1932
Opening 1932-12-13
Antenna spire 64 metres (210 ft)
Roof 40.2 metres (132 ft)
Top floor 12
Technical details
Floor count 12
Lifts/elevators 3
Design and construction
Architect Marcus Barlow
Main contractor W E Cooper Pty Ltd

The Manchester Unity Building is a neo gothic skyscraper in Melbourne, Australia, constructed in 1932.


The site, on the north-west corner of the intersection of Collins Street and Swanston Street, was purchased by the Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows of Victoria in 1928,[1] reportedly for the sum of £250,000.[2] Architect Marcus Barlow designed the building, which was built by W E Cooper Pty Ltd, contracted for the price of £215,000.[1][3] Construction commenced at midnight on 1 January 1932 with the demolition of the prior buildings on the site, and proceeded around the clock in eight-hour shifts.[1][4]

For the first time in Australia a construction progress schedule was used to track and manage the construction of the building:[1]

"Upon [the schedule graph] is shown the progress of every section of the building as it must go forward... the exact time in which the excavation must be completed, when the escalators will be completed, and when the external painting will be finished... Progress payments to the builders are made upon the architects' certificate that the work is going forward to schedule."[5]

Such was the speed of construction that in May the basement and ground floor arcade were structurally complete and ready to be fitted out, and by the end of July the roof had been laid, floors having been added at the rate of one a week on average.[1] The shopping areas in the ground floor arcade, the basement and on the first floor were opened on 1 September.[3]

A dinner for several hundred guests was held on 12 December 1932 in the building's basement to celebrate its opening, with Sir Stanley Argyle, the Premier of Victoria, giving a speech.[2] On declaring the building open, Argyle pressed a button which turned on, for the first time, the lights illuminating the tower and spire.[2]


The building is of concrete-encased steel construction, with the exterior cladding consisting of two hundred and fifty tons of terracotta faience tiles.[1][3] Australian marbles are used extensively on interior walls throughout the building.[6] Two escalators, the first in Melbourne, were installed by Austral Otis to provide access to the basement arcade and first floor from the ground floor arcade (though only one now survives).[6] Three high-speed elevators were installed, capable of speeds of 600 feet per minute (3.0 m/s).[5]

The building's roof reaches 132 feet (40 m), which was the height limit for buildings in Melbourne at the time of its construction, but the ornamental tower and spire extends a further 78 feet (24 m), as was permitted for non-habitable portions of buildings.[1][4] The building was influenced by the Tribune Tower in Chicago, Illinois, US, USA, ), UA.

Current tenants[edit]

Smile Solutions [7] is situated in the Manchester Unity Building. General dentists and dental specialists operate in its 25 surgical suites spanning across three floors and the multi-level tower of the building. Level 1 caters for all general and cosmetic dentistry. Level 11 including the restored Manchester Unity Building Boardroom and the original Grand Secretary's office houses the Smile Solutions Institute, and executive offices of Smile Solutions management and patient co-ordinators. Level 12, originally a Wood Marsh Architecture residential penthouse development from the late 1990s has been converted to a dental specialist centre facility.

The multilevel Manchester Unity Building tower is utilised as the Smile Solutions orthodontic centre. Rob Mills Architects,[8] Andronas Conservation Architects[9] and Paul Bangay landscapers have supervised the restoration of these spaces. Dr Kia Pajouhesh, managing director and principal dentist of Smile Solutions, has been the Chairman of the MUB Owners Corporation [10] since 2003.

The Manchester unity building is also home to a number of long established dental practices, including Collins dental image on level 2, and the Manchester Unity dental centre on level 4. The building is also home to a large number of Melbourne's jewellery traders.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Manchester Unity Building". National Trust of Australia. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  2. ^ a b c "END CROWNS THE WORK: Manchester Unity Building". The Argus. 1932-12-13. p. 9. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  3. ^ a b c "MANCHESTER UNITY BUILDING: FIRST SHOPS OPEN TO-DAY". The Argus. 1932-09-01. p. 13. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  4. ^ a b "Architecture - Manchester Unity Building". Marvellous Melbourne. Museum Victoria. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  5. ^ a b "BUILDING AGAINST TIME: MANCHESTER UNITY CORNER". The Argus. 1932-06-02. p. 6. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  6. ^ a b "MANCHESTER UNITY BUILDING". Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Victoria. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Making the old new again". Neos Kosmos. 2009-07-21. Retrieved 2012-01-24. 
  10. ^ "Melbourne City Council Minutes Meeting Number 17, Meeting Number 17" (PDF). Melbourne City Council. Retrieved 2012-01-24.