Commonwealth Bank Building Corner Murray St Forrest Place Perth: A six storey stone clad building (with basement) built in 1930-1933, The Commonwealth Bank Building was designed as a state head office, banking chamber and associated offices. It was built for the Commonwealth Government of Australia. In 1911, Perth town lots V10 to 16, between Murray and Wellington Streets, were acquired by the Commonwealth Government for the accommodation of government instrumentalities in one centre – General Post Office, the head office of the Commonwealth Bank and Customs Department.
In 1916, plans were made to create a street running between Murray and Wellington streets and to create a civic precinct at a point directly facing the gateway to the city: the Railway Station. The new buildings would face this new street and all were preferably to be of a similar design. Despite initial problems in ceding land for the new street and creating an area of suitable width, Forrest Place was finally created in 1924. By this time, the General Post Office, begun in 1914, had been insitu a year. It took another six years before the Commonwealth Bank Building was begun. The Customs Department building was never built.
Plans for the bank building were drawn up in 1929, shortly after the construction of the Commonwealth Bank Building in Martin Place, Sydney (1928). The Perth building was designed by the Commonwealth Department of Works under the direction of John Smith Murdoch, Commonwealth Government Architect. The plans carry the signature of Thomas Hill, the Director General of Works. Murdoch designed the bank in the Beaux-Arts style, which not only responded to the design principle in the similarly styled General Post Office, next door, but was also in the same style as the head office of the Commonwealth Bank in Martin Place in Sydney which had been completed the year before. Murdoch was responsible for the design of all three buildings and also had a ‘leading connection with the design of practically all Commonwealth built works during the above period [1904-1928].’ The style was ebullient and self confident and expressed prosperity – a quality sadly lacking in Australia at the time of its construction. Australia was suffering from a four year depression in the economy. This depression was very severe, with many out of work and hardship in the community. The confidence of the business community had failed, particularly the financial sectors and the building of Commonwealth Bank, by the government, was seen to have a dual purpose – to create jobs during the construction and to symbolise the strength and reliability of the Commonwealth government and the Commonwealth Bank.