Historic market built on the site of Melbourne’s first cemetery

The roofs from Sheds A-D and H-I were replaced with ones that were insulated and able to provide a more comfortable environment for traders and the public. Other elements that were addressed include corbels, purlins, steel members and bluestone plinths.

The market upgrade, which received top design honours at this year’s architectural awards – The John George Knight Award for Heritage Architecture – would surprise many, given they are well camouflaged.

“It’s not one of those seductive architectural projects that aesthetically captivates you,” Stephenson says. “The best compliment is when people say they can’t notice any changes.”

Stephenson followed Australia’s heritage guidelines, the Burra Charter, of “doing as much as is necessary, but as little as possible”.

One of the insertions made to the fabric of the market was providing better electricity service for traders, replacing the cables that were strung through the rafters. These simple timber posts, about a metre high, bring power and water within reach, but also out of sight.

Suggestions to raise the heights of the Queen Victoria Market’s original roofs were not entertained in the upgrade.

Suggestions to raise the heights of the Queen Victoria Market’s original roofs were not entertained in the upgrade.

In other areas, the original timber posts supporting the roof were carefully repaired after some were found to be rotten. Some needed to be “surgically treated” by splicing in new timber. As for dents and the battering that have created a rich patina over many decades, these were left to preserve a slice of history.

Suggestions to raise the heights of the original roofs were not entertained, given it was paramount not to create a new imprint on the skyline. “We worked with terrific builders to ensure that the heritage guidelines were fully adhered to,” says Stephenson.

The architecture awards jury said: “We were greatly impressed by the seamless integration of the outcome, preserving the chaos of the market while providing traders with improved access to power, water and mobile food storage units that were co-designed with the traders.”


Given the popularity of the market for locals and tourists, a prime component to the brief was to minimise disruption.

While the roofs of the sheds may appear original, the new fabric simply makes the experience of visiting the market that much more pleasurable.

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