Stainless Steel Lanterns for Chinatown

Chinatown Lantern
City of Melbourne
June 2020
Chinatown, Melbourne

Many people returning to Melbourne after lockdown would have noticed brand new lanterns in Chinatown. The City of Melbourne have replaced Chinatown’s catenary cloth lanterns with stainless steel versions.

The City of Melbourne’s design team set to work designing these lanterns, and Draffin Street Furniture was asked to assist in the development and manufacturing of these innovative and iconic lanterns. 

Chinatown Melbourne

Extensive consultation had been sought with the Chinatown Precinct Association and the City of Melbourne, City Design Studio who headed up the design of this traditional Chinatown feature. Careful consideration was needed to maintain the traditional elements of the lantern, while using stainless steel, which would guarantee a long life span. Weight was a constraint as the completed design had to stay below 7kg to be viable for use on the existing catenary system. Draffin Street Furniture set about putting together a prototype for the City of Melbourne.

Once the initial design prototypes were finished, two lanterns were installed on site for testing and feedback from council members and the Chinatown Precinct Association. All care was taken making sure the lanterns looked as expected and operated correctly. Once approved, Chinatown’s entire lantern fleet were replaced with 80 of these new lanterns.

Chinatown Melbourne

Lanterns have become a symbol of national pride in China. It is believed that the Chinese first began making the now traditional lanterns during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220AD). While the earliest Chinese lanterns were created for practical use in the house and as entrance way lighting, they eventually became highly ornamental, and a status symbol. Used in Chinatown precincts across the world they clearly identify these historic sites.

Melbourne’s Chinatown is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world, and an important part of Melbourne since the gold rush days of the 1850’s. It has had it’s up’s and downs over time, but now has more than 400 businesses, dominated by a thriving hospitality industry with restaurants and eateries along the strip, all while honouring the precinct and it’s people historically.

Symbolic colours

Like many cultures, colours have symbolic meanings. The Chinese are no exception to this, and while they incorporate these colours into Feng Shui, the colours also have simpler meanings behind them too:


A vivid red colour tinted with orange: 

In Chinese culture, the colour red is believed to symbolize warmth, happiness, and good fortune and prosperity. It is also considered the national colour of China, and used for many celebrations like the Chinese New Year, weddings and other gatherings.

Gold or Yellow

A shiny or metallic yellow or standard yellow: 

Gold or yellow symbolizing neutrality and good luck is considered the most beautiful colour. There is a Chinese saying, “Yellow generates Yin and Yang”, and implies that yellow is the centre of everything. It also represents freedom from worldly cares and is thus esteemed in Buddhism where Monks’ garments are yellow, as are elements of Buddhist temples.

Chinatown lantern

Stainless steel was used for the lantern panels, the outer of the panel powder coated in a special luminous red. The effect is to mimic traditional silk lanterns. Made to stand out and catch the eye whether the lamp is on or off, while maintaining a heavy duty finish that will last a long time with a little regular maintenance to keep them clean.  

Draffin Logo 200wide

Flexibility in Customisation

This is yet another example of the flexibility Draffin Street Furniture offers to every project. The City of Melbourne trusted Draffin Street Furniture could manage it’s bespoke furniture engineering needs having worked on many previous projects together.

With the capacity to work closely with your design team or or the ability to design and engineer the product from start to finish, turn to Draffin Street Furniture. Speak with our friendly sales team today and discover how we are industry leaders in street furniture manufacturing, with the flexibility to customise designs to your specifications and realise custom street furniture for your project.