Wilson Hall

Reed & Barnes (attributed to A.C. Smart), Exterior presentation view of Wilson Hall, c.1877, watercolour on paper, 53.5 x 82.0 cm. Bates, Smart & McCutcheon Collection, reference number 1968.0027, University of Melbourne Archives.

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Wilson Hall has been an integral part of the University of Melbourne landscape since the first building was completed in 1882. Built as a venue for exams and conferring of degrees, Wilson Hall has been at the very centre of the university experience for generations of students.

Made possible through a generous donation by wealthy pastoralist Sir Samuel Wilson, the original Wilson Hall was designed in the perpendicular gothic revival style by architectural firm Reed & Barnes. For 70 years it dominated the centre of the University, soaring in height above the surrounding buildings. From all approaches its turrets became an instantly recognisable landmark.

On 25 January 1952 fire destroyed the roof and badly damaged the west wall of the Hall. This calamity was keenly felt by the University community which, over the following year, was polarised by a debate over whether to restore the gothic ruins or rebuild in modern style. Eventually succumbing to financial realities, the gothic splendour of the original Hall gave way to the modern 1950s building that we know today. Designed by the architectural firm Bates, Smart & McCutcheon (formerly Reed & Barnes) the building was completed in 1956. Today the new Wilson Hall, with its highly crafted interior and integral artworks, carries on the tradition of the original Hall as the ceremonial centre of the University.

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