open house melbourne: part 1

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Open House Melbourne seems to be growing at an exponential rate. At the first event in 2008, there were eight significant buildings opening their doors to the public. At last weekend's Open House, Melbourne was spoilt with a 111 buildings. 111! Incorporating everything from significant institutional buildings, workplaces, private homes and infrastructure, the event invited the public to celebrate Melbourne's urban environment. 

Of the 111 buildings, I Sounds pathetic but I barely stopped for a moments rest. Whilst I only saw a tiny part of what OHM had to offer, I walked away with over 300 photos weighing down my memory card. And due to my click-happy camera, I'll have to split this post into two parts. 

Today we'll visit some of Melbourne's historical sites and next time we'll explore some of the new kids on the block.


state library

The Library was one of my favourites for the day. With so many incredible, unused spaces, it was like exploring an architectural secret garden. 

The Queen's Hall was built in the 19th century. It was originally the reading room and is now hired out for events. With all the original reading room furniture now gone, the Hall feels a little abandoned at eye level. Look up, and the glory of the original space is well and truly intact.

Following the visit to the Queens Hall, we travelled to the stair where the Foucault pendulum once hung. Apparently it was taken down many years ago and they can't find it. They can only assume it's lying around in the building somewhere. 

We then entered the goods lift which was about the size of an average bathroom. The 19th century detailing of the enormous lift car was exquisite, but unfortunately impossibly dark for my poor little camera. 

From there, we descended to the basement, under the old location for the National Gallery, which originally sat behind the current library. The brick vaulted basement is home to rows upon rows of the old card catalogue system.

Our guide recommended we come back, promising there was so much more to see. I'd have to say that I believe that.


 manchester unity

Arriving on the roof top, we were greeted with the magic of the facade, up close and personal. It was such a treat to appreciate the materiality, detail and verticality of the building from this viewpoint.

We also explored the dental clinic, which still much of the original detailing, including the original boardroom table and chairs. The original furniture was in impeccable condition and the stone detailing around the fireplace a standout.


russell place substation

After several years of trying,  I was pleased to finally get into this place. This substation is like the Chin Chin of Open House, I swear. Except you can't have wine while you wait.

Reading the description, it doesn't sound particularly fascinating. Yet when you descend the grated steel staircase, you feel as if you've journeyed to another time and place. Built in 1929, it was the third substation in the world to introduce DC power - and it doesn't look like much has changed since. With equipment and machinery that look more like film props, it's hard to imagine that this substation is one of Melbourne's key energy providers.

Funnily enough, much of the industrial aesthetic that fuels so many of Melbourne's hospitality interiors was absolutely oozing from this place. No wonder everyone is busting to get in. I'm surprised nobody tried to start a pop up cafe on the day. 

While the industrial aesthetic has possibly had it's day, it was difficult to resist the charm of this substation's patina.


That's it for Part 1. I'll be back soon with the next and final instalment!

[All photos by me ]


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