Event paper Deposited for Communication & Planning, in Abstract submission

(February 2012) Morphological Transformation in Melbourne’s City Centre

Morphological Transformation in Melbourne’s City Centre image


Melbourne's colonial core, known as the Hoddle Grid, has been influenced by diverse social relations and conversion of design concepts: gold rush, periodic busts of speculation, World Wars, and waves of immigration. These relations reflect the city's process of urban formation and are typified by cycles of boom and bust. This research examines the characteristics of the major morphological periods associated with specific planning ideologies and contemporary influences of politics, economy and culture. In addition to assessing the morphological history of the city's core by reproducing a series of maps, the city's morphological history is explored, particularly in terms of its spatial and symbolic nature, from a colonial to a modern context.

Aim and Methodology

This study therefore outlines the morphological evolution of an urban organism, in this case the physical transformation of Melbourne's city centre from 1835 until 2011. It gives special attention to the characteristics of the physical changes that have occurred; the socio-economic factors responsible; and the precise treatment of data sources which record those transformations. The compilation of data from state and institutional libraries, planning authorities and regulating agencies related to fire protection and water supply for the urban kernel is described, and the various types of physical changes undergone by the city centre, including functional alterations, plot subdivision (or consolidation), rebuilding and additions to existing, are analysed. The variations over time in the locations of these changes are examined in relation to the characteristics of contemporary social factors. Morphological mapping has been widely used in this research. For the first time, the transformation of Melbourne's city centre is precisely documented and measured in its history through nine sets of figure-ground maps from 1837-2005, transcribed from historical block plans and maps.

Research Findings

A thorough anatomical analysis in this paper depicts a vivid panorama at every stage of growth in current Melbourne's inner city. What is revealed is the city transformed from a singular civic vision to the layered and collaged image. The illustrated morphological transformation signifies the morphological evolution of Melbourne. It is a comprehensive morphological study and the first of its kind in relation to the historical transformation of an Australian capital city.