Monday 26 August 2013

I dropped into the University of Melbourne's underground car park over the weekend. I'd been there once as a young student but felt it time for a revisit.

Built in the early 70s by architects Loader and Bayley and engineers SJ van der Molen, this was Australia's first enclosed, underground car park. This might explain why such a utilitarian facility would be built with such grandeur. Composed of a grid of mushroom columns, the splay of the column head is so low and wide that the entire ceiling softly undulates. The lighting is embedded in the high points in the ceiling, casting a wash of light down the column shafts.

As I walked down the ramp, it took some time for my eyes to adjust. Once I could see clearly, the dynamism of the ceiling was utterly captivating. At the same time, the eerie and intense energy of the space quickly took hold. Being in this dimly lit underworld warped my understanding of time and place. Maybe I was just uneasy about the guerilla photoshoot I was staging, but the sense of unease didn't wear off and lingered for some time after I left.

Known for its appearance in the dystopian film Mad Max, it has also staged a ballet sequence in the past. Being such a unique and evocative space, I wonder why this carpark doesn't host events and performances more often. It seems like the kind of space Melbourne folk would be itching to get their mits on.

[Photos by me]


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