Let’s be honest. Open House Melbourne Weekend can be a bit of a popularity contest.
It’s only natural. Who doesn’t want to descend into the eerie Russell Place Substation – or Substation "J" (who knew we had so many substations?), or, in previous years, to indulge your eccentric-billionaire fantasies by gazing down over Melbourne from the balcony of the Manchester Unity building?
And we all know what we want most is what we can’t have. Exhibit A: the Flinders Street Station Ballroom, which after decades of being locked away from the public is now so steeped in mystery, urban mythology and controversy that it’s a miracle it hasn’t crashed right through to the train platforms under the weight of it all.
Of course, it doesn’t help that only 20 lucky Charlie Buckets will be allowed inside this year.
Thanks to Open House Melbourne’s creative director Emma Telfer, here’s a brief rundown on eight buildings that may not be on your list, but should be (because we know they’re among the best). Even better – none of them require bookings.
Designed 80 years ago, this Fitzroy building is still one of the best examples of small-footprint living in the city. The flats sought a distinctive type of accommodation: the custom-designed bachelor flat that provided maximum amenity in minimum space for minimum rent. We can learn a lot from this approach.
Total House is an important Brutalist building in Melbourne; not only for its form but also for the important part it played in making Melbourne a vibrant city outside of office hours. This is one our best examples of Japanese-inspired Brutalist architecture, and Melbourne would be a dull place without buildings such as this one.
Orica House, or ICI House as it was originally known, really is perfection. It represents the most refined example of Bates, Smart and McCutcheon’s (one of Australia’s oldest architectural firms) efforts in the 1950s to perfect high-rise office design. From the foyer through to the lift cars, you still get the sense of 1950s style. Orica House also has one of the best views back towards the city.
The Koorie Heritage Trust at Fed Square
The Koorie Heritage Trust has recently made the important move from King Street to Fed Square. The new location is an indigenous gallery and cultural centre celebrating the continuing journey of the Aboriginal people of south-eastern Australia.
It’s all in the name. This City of Melbourne arts venue once functioned as a commercial meat market. Evidence of this use can still be seen in the cobbled bluestone floor of the main hall and the spectacular barrel-vault ceiling.
Escala Partners is an exciting new workplace by Molecule. They have taken an unremarkable office space and transformed it into a beautiful members-club-like environment, a nice juxtaposition to the big workplaces we have open in Docklands.
Does your workplace have a conversation pit with a fireplace, games area, sports court, edible garden and outdoor terraces? Medibank Place is a living, breathing building that encourages physical movement as well as creativity, interaction and engagement. This is a glimpse of what it’s like to be offered the freedom to work wherever best suits your mood.
Umina – Country Women’s Association of Victoria
Umina, the home of the Country Women's Auxiliary, is an excellent example of Victorian-era architecture. Not only is this an opportunity to see the beautiful house, Edna Walling designed garden and learn about the work of the CWA, but you can enjoy afternoon tea as well. We all know how famous the CWA is for its scones!
Open House Melbourne Weekend runs from July 25 to 26. Click here for the full program and list of buildings.