Eclecticism is the practice of borrowing a variety of styles from other geographical regions and eras in one architectural composition. The lack of guidelines on past styles created a general sense of architectural freedom, which enabled architects to toy with fanciful ideas outside of strict historical interpretation to create completely unique buildings. Often this involved re-interpreting a historical style and adding a completely new spin. As a result, many Eclectic buildings have become important landmarks.
Eclecticism was an important process of establishing identity in Australian architecture. The main reason for this is that Australia, being a fairly young country, did not have the history or tradition in architecture of places such as Europe, and thus Eclecticism was about establishing a national style and physical identity. As well as this, Eclecticism helped to express the multiculturalism, traditions from mother Europe and the plurality of Australias cultural identity.
Very few exponents of eclectic styles to become famous, as their unwillingness to adhere to mainstream styles such as Gothic Revival or Classicism often found them without steady work. As a result, many architects of these landmark buildings remain unkown or lesser known, slipping into historical obscurity like many of the buildings they designed.
By the 1950s, many Eclectic buildings were seen as being gaudy and their historical incorrectness led many to be seen as not worthy of preservation. For many of these buildings, their uniqueness had become liabilities as the wave of modernism swept architecture. The fact that by their sheer gaudiness, many eclectic buildings easily became structurally unstable, and very early in their lifetime, fit for demolition.
Melbournes best example of eclecticism was the Fish Markets (demolished in the 1950s).