Equity Chambers was constructed in 1930-31 to the designs of the architects Oakley & Parkes, and was built by Weavell & Keast for £90,000. The site was that of the first synagogue in Victoria. Equity Chambers was built for the Equity Trustees Company, which had been established in 1888 by an Act of the Victorian Parliament to provide trustee and executor services, and later evolved into a financial services provider. The building was designed to accommodate the Equity Trustees offices and an impressive main chamber on the ground floor, the company's offices on the first floor and tenants on the upper floors. The building was close to Melbourne's legal quarter and mainly served members of the legal profession. The legal chambers were set up by Sir Eugene Gorman in 1931 and the third floor in particular has had a close association since then with a number of judges and barristers which have been prominent in Victoria's legal history.
Equity Chambers is a steel-framed and reinforced concrete office building in an Inter-war Romanesque style, with a basement, ground floor, mezzanine and four upper floors. The front elevation is faced with tapestry brickwork on a double storey plinth of Sydney sandstone and polished granite. The upper windows are recessed with decorated spandrels. The facade is crowned by a terracotta band, the projecting central bay being elaborately decorated with multi-coloured terracotta tiles, corbels supporting pointed arches, and decorated square panels. Stylistically the details are derived from Italian Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The central entrance is through an arcaded porch, with the name 'Equity Trustees Company' inscribed above in Art Deco style lettering. The porch, supported by two polished granite columns, opens into a hallway with a vaulted coffered ceiling leading to the large rear main chamber, which retains decorative plasterwork, Corinthian columns, carved timber surrounds on the door into the entry hall and the staircase to the mezzanine offices. Two lifts are located in a passage which is perpendicular to the central main hall. Notable original features include the incised foliated bands and other facade decoration, the arcaded entry porch, the entrance foyers with their coffered ceilings, the elaborately decorated post box and fire alarm in the lift foyer, the patterned timber veneer lined lift cars and the stairways.
This site is part of the traditional land of the Wurundjeri people.
How is it significant?
Equity Chambers is of architectural and historical significance to the state of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
Equity Chambers is architecturally significant as an outstanding example of the exotic revival architectural styles which were adopted in Victoria during the inter-war period, especially during the Great Depression. It is significant as a demonstration of the then characteristic application of historically inspired architectural detail to contemporary building forms. The Italian Romanesque and Gothic detailing is particularly fine, and the ground floor loggia, entry foyer and lift interiors are among the finest in Victoria. It was one of the few large buildings constructed in Melbourne during the Great Depression, when economy, as well as appearance, was a prime concern.
Equity Chambers is historically significant as the oldest continuously occupied barristers' chambers in Victoria, which have been occupied since 1931 by some of Victoria's most famous judges and barristers.