Merchant Builders

2015 Towards an Archive – Merchant Builders

The 2015 Critical and Curatorial Practices had four aims. First, it celebrated the fifty-year legacy of the work of the Melbourne-based project house building company Merchant Builders. Second, the exhibition used a timeline as its organising structure, allowing students to research specific projects, people and events as a way of exploring the evolution of the company while anchoring each year with a chronological yardstick. Third, the exhibition made the case for a new archive and repository recognising the cultural significance of the work of Merchant Builders while at the same time encouraging further research. 


The class started with a single box of archival material assembled by Anne Gartner as part of her PhD Thesis at Monash University in 1991. The material was passed on to Adam Mornement and then onto Graeme Gunn before it arrived at the MSD in August 2015. The students had already begun collecting material on Merchant Builders beforehand. The breadth of the work uncovered in such a short period of time (12 weeks) indicated that there is still more out there – lots more. By bringing this work together, including drawings, specification documents, contracts, interviews, marketing material, photographs and a variety of other evidence, we gained a better understanding of the significance and breadth of the work and what it says about the built environment context of Melbourne, which Merchant Builders worked so hard to change.

The class managed to expose material, which had been lying dormant and un-scrutinised for a number of years. This gave us the chance to review this material and see it as a collection and a larger prolonged experiment rather than a set of stand-alone residential prototypes.

Finally, the exhibition made us consider what lay ahead for how we live and how we relate to our landscape, our suburbs and our cities. We were able to move beyond the timeline to provoke visitors to consider the relevance of Merchant Builders in the past, present and in the future.


This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!