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Victorian Free Classical

Neoclassical architecture    
Railway station, Albury, New South Wales, built 1881 Fremantle Town Hall. Fremantle, Western Australia Fitzroy Town Hall, Fitzroy, Victoria completed 1890.
     
For the first half of the nineteenth century, the arbiters of architectural taste in Britain, Europe and the United States placed considerable emphasis on simplicity of form and chasteness of detail. The century started with Georgian and Regency styles holding sway in many English-speaking countries, and by the I820s and 1830s the noble serenity of ancient Greek architecture had become a pervasive influence. Inevitably, reactions against this kind of restrained tastefulness took place in the second half of the century as industrialisation accelerated and cities grew bigger and wealthier. Nations, communities and individuals all began to feel the need to display—even flaunt—their prosperity. In the Australian colonies on the eastern side of the continent, banks, insurance offices, shops, theatres, hotels, town halls, post offices and other civic buildings proliferated in the booming economy of the later Victorian period. The architects of these buildings often found the Victorian Academic ClassicalL style too sober and restrictive, so they cut loose and used classical elements and details with little regard for academic rules but sometimes with a certain flair. Other designers lacked the skill or training to use the classical style correctly, but they nevertheless pressed on in cheerful ignorance. Just as Victorian Free Gothic became the all-purpose style for buildings having even the remotest links with medievalism, so Victorian Free Classical was employed whenever a veneer of respectability and ‘class’ was deemed necessary. A designer working in the Free Classical style could draw on a large repertoire of motifs from different countries and periods. He might, for ex ample choose a pilastered oriel from Jacobean England, a Palladian window from Italy, and a mansard roof from seventeenth-century France— and conceivably combine them in one building. The designers and builders of Free Classical buildings often wanted to achieve lavish effects without slowing construction time by resorting to expensive, dressed stone walling laboriously worked by skilled masons and carvers. Stucco— with or without a painted finish—proved to be a marvellously versatile and flexible material which could be applied to speedily erected brick walls and moulded to almost any conceivable shape.