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Newman College, 887 Swanston St, Parkville, VIC, Australia

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List National Heritage List
Class Historic
Legal Status Listed place (21/09/2005)
Place ID 105739
Place File No 2/11/033/0017
Summary Statement of Significance
Newman College (1916-1918) is associated with Walter Burley Griffin, being one of the best examples of Griffin’s architecture in Australia. Griffin is an architect of world renown with outstanding examples of planning (eg Canberra) and architecture in three continents.
 
Newman College demonstrates distinctive aesthetic features which are very highly regarded by architectural communities at national and international level and by the Victorian community.
 
Newman College demonstrates an innovative use of stone finish to a concrete construction.  The structural form of the reinforced concrete dome was one of the earliest and largest domes at the time and the only dome of its type ever built.
Newman College expresses Griffin’s architectural style, having the distinctive use of stone and concrete, of ornament and the controlled use of space as its hallmarks.
 
Newman College demonstrates Griffin’s ability to design every aspect of a building down to the finest detail, including all fixtures, fittings and furniture. 
 
Newman College has significance for the College community, its staff and students who have lived and worked there since 1918 and for the State of Victoria.
 
Newman College is associated with the works of Walter Burley Griffin, an architect of international standing whose reputation in Australia has increased markedly since the 1960s.
Official Values
Criterion A Events, Processes
Newman College (1916-1918) is significant for its association with Walter Burley Griffin, being one of the best examples of Griffin’s architecture in Australia. Griffin is an architect of world renown with outstanding examples of planning (eg Canberra) and architecture in three continents. Marion Mahony worked on the landscape plans, and it may be her first work as a landscape architect. The Newman College garden was one of the first examples of an Australian flora garden designed by a landscape architect.
 
The National Heritage List values are expressed through the buildings, the furniture designed by Walter Burley Griffin remaining at the place and the associated landscaping.
 
Criterion E Aesthetic characteristics
Newman College demonstrates distinctive aesthetic features which are very highly regarded by architectural communities at national and international level and by the Victorian community. The expression of mass unifies Griffin’s design to create a strong geometric sculptural form. The creative use of a rough stone base and smooth masses above in long pavilions blend organically and harmoniously with the park landscape. The top lit dining hall which contrasts with the long low cloisters and dark corridors is a significant dominant feature.
 
The National Heritage List values are expressed through all the buildings (including fittings and fixtures) known as Dining Hall, Mannix and Carr Wings, the Chapel, Kenny Wing, and Gates onto Swanston Street, all the pieces of furniture designed by Walter Burley Griffin remaining at the place and all the associated landscaping features listed (as marked on Diagram 21, Heritage Victoria Register No H21) as follows: T1 Cupressus torulosa; T2 Corymbia citriodora; T3 Cupressus torulosa; T4 Cupressus torulosa; T5 Corymbia citriodora; T6 Melaleuca styphelioides; T7 Melaleuca styphelioides; T8 Melaleuca styphelioides; T9 Angophora costata; T10 Corymbia maculata; T11 Corymbia maculata; T12 Corymbia maculata; T13 Corymbia maculata; T14 Corymbia maculata; T15 Corymbia maculata; T16 Cupressus torulosa; T17 Angophora costata; T18 Corymbia maculata; T19 Corymbia maculata; T20 Cupressus torulosa; T21 Eucalyptus sideroxylon (red flowers); T22 Eucalyptus sideroxylon; T23 Corymbia maculata; T24 Eucalyptus sideroxylon; T25 Eucalyptus sideroxylon (red flowers); T26 Eucalyptus sideroxylon (red flowers); T27 Eucalyptus sideroxylon (red flowers); T28 Corymbia citriodora; T29 Corymbia citriodora; T30 Corymbia citriodora.
 
Criterion F Creative or technical achievement
Newman College is significant as an outstanding expression of Griffin’s architectural style, having the distinctive use of stone and concrete, of ornament and the controlled use of space as its hallmarks. Newman College is significant for its links with the architecture of Wright and the Chicago School of architecture, including contemporary planning structural and aesthetic ideas with an eclectic amalgam of traditional design elements and materials.
 
Newman College demonstrates an innovative use of stone finish to a concrete construction. The structural form of the reinforced ribbed concrete dome was one of the earliest and largest domes at the time and the only dome of its type ever built. Newman College demonstrates Griffin’s ability to design every aspect of a building down to the finest detail, including all fixtures, fittings and furniture. 
 
The National Heritage List values are expressed through the buildings (including fittings and fixtures), all the furniture designed by Walter Burley Griffin remaining at the place and the associated landscaping.
 
Criterion H Significant people
Newman College is significant for its association with the works of Walter Burley Griffin, an architect of international standing whose reputation in Australia has increased markedly since the 1960s.
 
The National Heritage List values are expressed through the buildings, the furniture designed by Walter Burley Griffin still remaining at the place and the associated landscaping.
 
Description
The Newman College site is at the edge of a large flat area of land also used for other university colleges and recreation. The building has been constructed in stages – the wing on the north side of the chapel, designed by Walter Burley Griffin and constructed from 1916-1918, enclosed the garden square on the east and north sides, and partially enclosed the garden square’s south and west sides. The northern rotunda and flanking offices, kitchen, staff quarters and dormitory wings ending in a swimming pool (natatorium) and classrooms were completed by 1917. The chapel, constructed from 1938-42 and the 1960s west wing were designed by other architects.
 
Newman College consists of two 2-storeyed residential wings which extend at right angles from a central domed refectory. The access galleries of the residential wings terminate in a classroom and library block at the southern end, and recreational facilities at the western end.  Two spur wings project from the central domed building, a senior common room to the east and kitchens to the north.
 
The College buildings are constructed of reinforced concrete with a dressed stone masonry finish externally, and hard plaster internally. The exterior stone bearing walls are rough-faced with finely dressed stone around the windows. The focal point, the  ribbed rotunda dome, is constructed of reinforced concrete and hollow terracotta blocks between two 'skins' for the dome's segments between the exposed ribs.  The refectory dome is surmounted by a tall thin concrete spire surrounded by 12 smaller finials representing the 12 apostles. Internally the triangular ribs of the dome make a curved structural web, with openings forming pointed arches at the gallery level and a square lantern at the apex. The dome exterior and floor surfaces were originally finished in terracotta tiles. Splayed columns or mullions set against the battered lower portion of the walls, the square proportions and the heavy voussoirs over the window arches give the building a distinctively squat effect, adding to the medieval character (Johnson, p 76).
History
Newman College was founded by the Roman Catholic Church in Victoria and named after the English scholar and churchman, John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890). In the mid 19th century the Victorian colonial government had set aside a large area of land north of the city of Melbourne for the creation of the University of Melbourne. In 1856 the area to the north was divided into four equal segments for the establishment of residential colleges. Each of the leading religious denominations: Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic received a land grant.
 
The Catholic reserve had been used for recreation and sport over the years, including during the 1870s when the Australian Rules Carlton Football Club had used it as their home ground (Turnbull and Navaretti, p 123). In 1913 Dr Daniel Mannix, the newly appointed Coadjutor Archbishop in Melbourne, was asked to work towards establishing Catholic tertiary colleges. In April 1914 Archbishop Carr chaired the first General Meeting for a new Catholic college and the following month an Executive Committee of the Provisional College Council was formed. The same month that the Catholic Church began planning for a university residential college for men, Walter Burley Griffin the American architect from Chicago who had won the design competition for the new national capital in Canberra, arrived in Australia with his wife Marion Mahony to oversee the landscaping, planning and building operations at Canberra.
 
In July 1915 Walter Burley Griffin was commissioned by the Executive Committee to design a new college, in conjunction with a Catholic architect. August Andrew Fritsch, chosen from a list of nine Catholic architects by the Provisional College Council to be associated with Griffins' office, took on very few responsibilities. The brief for the college was liberal, equitable and general in the accommodation required. The original plan, dated August 1915, was for a central chapel with two wings symmetrically placed to form a partial enclosure of a cloistered garden square on both sides of the chapel. The plan, referred to as Palladian, has two large rotunda with dining and library at the two ends. Student rooms at 90º were to extend outwards from the rotundas and the chapel in the centre.
 
Griffin's scheme responded imaginatively to the brief, providing a study plus bedroom suite for each student, standard furniture issue to each student and a circular non-hierarchal refectory, without a high table. A billiards room and a swimming pool for recreation were provided as well as a library, laboratories and classrooms. The major aims for the college design were for a modern expression and for well built sunlit and airy spaces. The suites of rooms for each of the college men and the undifferentiated dining room space would provide for the freedoms of democratic life. (J. Turnbull, Beyond Architecture, p 113). Griffin had the difficult task of satisfying the governors who wanted a building in traditional collegiate gothic. The four arches at the base of the dome bore some resemblance to gothic detail. Griffin wrote that ‘general resemblances to the ecclesiastical structures of the romantic countries exists in the proposed chapel and the spires and pinnacles adorning the reinforced concrete dome of the rotunda....the pinnacled lanterns and spires probably have their prototypes in Italy and Spain, rather than in the north....’.  Johnson considered that the total effect was medieval (Johnson, The Architecture of Walter Burley Griffin, p 76). 
 
Griffin designed two L-shaped elements to be symmetrically positioned about a central free-standing chapel building. The L-shaped element of residential wings and domed refectory forms one part of this larger scheme, with the other domed structure designed to be a college library. A free standing chapel was planned as the centre for the whole composition, but funds were insufficient to construct the Chapel until the 1930's. In the initial construction the block at the western end of the L housed an indoor swimming pool and a billiard room, but study/ bedrooms were built over the swimming pool in the 1960s. The block at the southern end of the L housed a temporary chapel and a laboratory on the upper level. 
 
The principal architects involved in the project were Griffin, his wife Marion Mahony Griffin and Griffins's brother-in-law, Roy Alstan Lippincott. The Griffins worked in the Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright, Marion from 1895 - 1909 and Walter from 1901 - 1906, and together they helped create the Prairie School legend. The engineering appears to have been carried out by Walter Burley Griffin, who had obtained his qualification in architecture in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Illinios, Champaign, USA, 1895 - 99. Bart Moriarty, a Roman Catholic architect in Ballarat, constructed the college from1916-18, using sub-contractors. The first students were accepted in March 1918.
 
Of Griffin’s master plan only the dining hall and radiating wings (Mannix and Carr) incorporating kitchens, study and bedrooms were constructed to his designs. The reinforced concrete dome was one of the earliest and largest domes at the time and the only one of its type ever built. The feature of the building is the extraordinary dining hall which is top lit and contrasts with the long low cloisters and dark corridors. The uplifting space is spanned by a superbly conceived concrete dome pierced at the apex with a fantastic lantern. The dark timber fittings contrast with the light roof space. Everywhere the details and finishes are exceptional.
 
Griffin opened up the courtyard formed by the two residential wings toward the University's open sporting fields and building towers beyond.  The building on the garden side relates to its University surrounds and opens up the inner courts to the sports field beyond but on the street side of the building, it retains a strong presence as if acting as a barrier to Swanston Street and the outside world, a robust refuge from the profane world.
 
In America. Griffin had included a ‘plot plan’, a landscape plan, to complement a building design. Griffin continued this practice and designed a landscape plan for the larger campus around Newman College. An original plan of 16 February 1916 was succeeded by detailed planting plans in 1917. Unlike in America, Griffin used mass plantings of local flora almost exclusively to provide seasonal colour and combinations of colour, ‘ a botanical colour symphony in keeping with Griffin’s method of planting together according to colour…. The plan was also evidence that his parallel landscape design concern was integral to his architectural vision’ (Turnbull and Navaretti, p 135).
 
Marion Mahony recorded that she worked on the landscape plans, and it may be her first work as a landscape architect. The Newman College garden design was one of the first examples of an Australian flora garden designed by a landscape architect (Turnbull and Navaretti, p 135).
 
It is not known when or to what extent the landscape plans were executed. However elements in the spirit of the plans survive today (Victorian Heritage Register). The garden paths and service roads were originally part of Griffin’s botanical garden for the college (http://www.newman.unimelb.edu.au/index.asp?d=5A4C5A717251477C7008000A0F04)
 
The following trees within the College grounds have been individually listed in the Victorian Heritage Register: Cupressus torulosa, Corymbia citriodora, Melaleuca styphelioides, Angophora costata, Corymbia maculata and Eucalyptus sideroxylon (red flowers).
 
The Executive Committee of the Provisional College Council requested the architects to design all of the furniture for the college (minimum building requirements of 14 June 1914). All the furniture design drawings have the names of Griffin and Fritsch. Turnbull and Navaretti considered that Fritsch made no significant contribution to the design of the college furniture (p 135).
 
The college requested that the architects include Australian woods in their specifications for the furnishings and furniture. However the furniture plans specified ‘Japanese oak’. The wooden paneling, doors and built-in cupboards for the college had been constructed in Japanese oak for which the supply was plentiful. Tenders were received from seventeen firms quoting for both Japanese oak and Australian woods. On the recommendation of Griffin, the committee chose the lowest price for eight items in Japanese oak. The qualities of oak were known to Griffin who used the wood frequently in his American commissions (Turnbull and Navaretti, p 147).
 
Apart from the inbuilt furniture, much of the original furniture has been replaced but the College retains representative examples of all items. Samples of the Griffin college furniture are held by the Australian National Gallery, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Gallery of South Australia and the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
 
A competition for the chapel, conducted in May 1936 awarded to the resubmission of the original 1915 Griffin design, but the College Council chose a design by WP Conolly, Payne & Dale. The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, in the Decorated Gothic style, was constructed from 1938 - 1942. Two further residential wings, designed by T G Payne, were added to Newman College. Kenny, opened in 1958 and Donovan, opened in 1961, were called after two benefactors of the college during its early years. During the 1970s, a women’s College, the new St Mary’s Hall, was constructed on the site to the south.
 
Newman College continues to be used as a University College, and has been an integral part of the University of Melbourne since it opened in 1918.
 
Since 1918 there have been several changes including copper sheet cladding over the terracotta tiles of the dome exterior, c 1935; sandstone replacement in sections with synthetic stone, new copper flashing details to walls and parapets, and the fleche and finials to the dome reconstructed in precast concrete c 1990.
 
Condition and Integrity
There have been several minor internal alterations.
 
The RAIA nomination report (2000) states that the building is well maintained.
Location
887 Swanston Street, Parkville, being the area entered in the Victorian Heritage Register as H21.
Bibliography
Birrell, James, Walter Burley Griffin, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia (Brisbane), 1964.
 
Harrison, Peter, edited by Freestone, Robert, Walter Burley Griffin Landscape Architect, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 1995.
 
http://www.architecture.com.au/i-cms?page=1.17.3577.29.6245.6269
 
Architecture.com.au
http://www.architecture.com.au/i-cms?page=4676
 
Significant Buildings of the 20th Century
http://www.architecture.com.au/i-cms?page=219
 
http://www.newman.unimelb.edu.au/index.asp?d=5A4C5A717251477C7008000A0F04
 
Johnson, Donald Leslie, Australian Architecture 1901 - 1951 Sources of Modernism, Sydney University Press, 1980.
 
Johnson, Donald Leslie, The Architecture of Walter Burley Griffin, MacMillan, Melbourne, 1977.
 
Johnson, D L, ‘Walter Burley Griffin, in Architects in Australia, Edited by Howard Tanner, Macmillan, South Melbourne, 1981.
 
‘Mahony, Marion and Walter Burley Griffin’, Edited by Anne Watson, Beyond Architecture, Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 1998.
 
Marion Mahony Griffin 1871-1962, http://web.mit.edu/museum/chicago/griffin.html
 
Marion Mahony Griffin, http://www.nationalcapital.gov.au/understanding/history/04_marion_mahony_griffin.htm
 
Turnbull, Jeff and Navaretti, Peter, (Editors), The Griffins in Australia and India,  Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 1998.
 
Walter Burley Griffin: In his own right, http://www.pbs.org/wbgriffin/houses.htm, 10 May 2005.

Report Produced  Sat Aug 30 03:47:47 2014