Built in 1956 as corporate headquaters for ICI, the building illustrates the period's faith in the new technology of glass and steel, balanced by a humanist approach to form, landscape, natural materials and colour. Extending the lobby into an open undercroft required adaptive reuse and consevation to achieve an exhibition space and reception areas enhanced by landscape and major artworks.
ICI House was a major architectural achievement which established Melbournes position as a world leader in building in the 1950s. Its design reflected international aesthetic preference and continued developments in modernism from the work of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and such masters as Gropius, Mies Van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Considerable advancement in local construction techniques was made necessary by the pursuit of international design philosophy. Elegance of detailing and proportioning of the sheer glazed curtain walls and innovative use of concrete, including precast reinforced units in structural members and flooring are evident in ICI House. The division of the glazed office space from the solidly clad service tower predates similar developments overseas. From its completion in November 1958 until 1961, ICI House was the tallest building in Australia. Its height, combined with its position on the eastern hill of the central business district, terminating the axis of Lonsdale street, made the building a landmark. ICI House was also a landmark in the planning of the city of Melbourne. The building was more than double the previous height restriction enforced in Victoria and the design was permitted under the uniform building regulations because the site coverage was examined as a percentage of the total site area. This led to plot ratio determinations for city sites and the eventual redefinition of the central Melbourne skyline.