Joseph Reed

For those readers who are familiar with Serendipity’s pages on stunning Melbourne landmarks such as the Melbourne Town Hall, the State Library, Rippon Lea Estate, and the Royal Exhibition Building (just to name a few) then the name Joseph Reed may ring a bell. Much of the striking architecture of Melbourne’s CBD is indebted to Reed, thus we thought this renowned designer warranted his own page.

Serendipity Wedding Image Royal Exhibition Building

Born in 1823 in Cornwall, England, Reed arrived in Melbourne in July 1853. Not even one year later, in 1854, he won the prestigious competition to design the new public library (the State Library). It is clear that very early on both in his career and life in Melbourne, Reed began to earn a reputation as a talented and highly regarded architect. As his work continued to grow, he established the practice: Reed and Barnes, with his partner Frederick Barnes (1824–1884); together they drew plans for the National Museum at the university, the firms first of many projects. Today the firm is known as Bates Smart, and is one of the oldest continually operating in the world. In 1856 Reed was the first elected member of the Victorian Institute of Architects.

Reed’s buildings represent an impressive body of work much of which still exists today. From 1858 Reed became known as the university architect, succeeding F.M.White. At about the same time he designed the Wesley Church in Lonsdale Street, and the premises in Victoria Street that later became the Royal Society of Victoria building. In 1862 designed the Geelong Town Hall, and in another project added the classical portico to the Collins Street Baptist Church. The classic lines, elegant symmetry and carved stone facades of many of these buildings offer enormous potential for wedding day photography where the emphasis is on elegant, sophisticated style, or as a perfect backdrop for classic weddings.

A fundamentally important trip was Reed’s travel through Europe in 1863. It was during this period that Reed’s intuitive grasp of the Victorian period style, was heightened by the stunning classic architecture found in Europe. Of particular inspiration were the Italianate castles and villas through Italy and southern Europe. He returned in October to introduce to Melbourne with enthusiasm the brick architecture of Lombardy that is evident in three 1866 designs, the Collins Street Independent Church, St Jude’s in Carlton, and the National school in Carlton, and in the 1868 design for F.T.Sargood’s Rippon Lea in Elsternwick.

In the next ten years the styles of the many buildings designed by Reed and Barnes ranged from astylar Italianate for The Gums at Caramut (1875–76) and the plastered classic of both the Trades Hall (1873) and the Exhibition Building (1879–80) to the widely admired Gothic style of Wilson Hall (1878–82) and the Scottish baronial of Ormond College (1879).
Reed is recognised as one of the most influential Victorian era architects to have practised in Melbourne.

Serendipity Wedding Image Royal Exhibition Building

At Serendipity we have a list of favourites, perfect for a variety of wedding styles and scales. For more detailed information on some of Reed’s most iconic architecral works follow the links below!

Melbourne Town Hall (1869)

State Library of Victoria (1854)

Rippon Lea Estate (1868)

St Michael’s Uniting Church (1866)

Royal Exhibition Building  (1879)




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