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Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) Number
Heritage Overlay Number
Level of Significance
|Extent of Registration||
Amendment of Register of Government Buildings
Transferred to the Victorian Heritage Register 23 May 1998 (2 years after the proclamation of the Heritage Act 1995 pursuant to the transitional provisions of the Act)
What is significant?
The MacRobertson Girls' High School at Albert Park, South Melbourne, was built in 1934 with funds donated by Sir MacPherson Robertson as a gift to the state of Victoria, celebrating the Centenary of its foundation. The building provided a permanent home for the former Melbourne Girls' High School, which was renamed in honour of its benefactor. The bold modern design, which had taken first prize in a strongly contested architectural competition for the new school, was prepared by the young architect Norman H Seabrook, at that time recently returned from working in Britain. Seabrook has been recognised in subsequent decades as a significant and talented architect and a major figure in the evolution of twentieth century architecture in Victoria.
How is it significant?
The MacRobertson Girls' High School is of architectural, historic and social significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The modern design of the school, clearly informed by Seabrook's first hand knowledge and experience of the work of leading contemporary Dutch architect Willem Dudok and his followers on the Continent and in Britain, was revolutionary for Victoria at this time and was influential in the introduction of the modern modes and the growth in their acceptance in the 1930s in this state. The planning of the school was refined in terms of its conceptual clarity, its traffic efficiency, and the skilful zoning of the various activities within the school, and established a new standard to be emulated in the many schools produced in the following decades by the Public Works Department under chief architect Percy Everett.
The exterior retains much of its significant character and fabric despite the impact of some changes and additions. A number of the interiors of the school were also notable, and despite some superficial changes these retain the bulk of their original fabric substantially intact.
The MacRobertson Girls' High School has important historical associations with noted industrialist and philanthropist Sir Michael MacPherson Robertson, who donated over £100,000 to the state of Victoria as a gesture of goodwill and thanks in the year of its centenary. £40,000 of this money was set aside for the new school. The school is also of significance for its associations with its direct antecedents: the Model School in Spring Street; the Melbourne Continuation School, Victoria's first state secondary school, later renamed Melbourne High School; and Melbourne Girls' High School, the first single sex girls' state secondary school in Victoria. Each of these schools has played a notable part in the evolution of the state's education system, as has the MacRobertson Girls' High School.
The MacRobertson Girls' high School has social significance as one of Victoria's premier education institutions, as a major school for girls, and alongside the Melbourne High School and the University High School, as one of three high schools recognised as outstanding and special within the state secondary education system. It has additional significance for its links with past students and staff, many of whom have enjoyed distinguished careers and public note.