Now in it’s ninth year, Melbourne Open House once again pushes the discovery and appreciation of architecture and the built environment into the mainstream.
With well over 100 different buildings to experience across the weekend, those wishing to indulge their curiosity were spoilt for choice. From the historic to the contemporary, from very public buildings to very special private residences, the program delivered in spades. As always it is impossible to see everything, but with Open House a solid fixture in Melbourne’s busy events schedule, it is possible to build up a collection of experiences year on year.
How can a large corporate organisation provide a healthy 21st century work environment for its staff? This was the challenge that faced the architects Hassell when conceiving the new offices in Docklands for Medibank. This fluid form tower represents some of the latest thinking on office environments.
Boasting an outdoor sports court, edible garden, flexible work spaces and even an indoor fireplace, the building is a generous investment in the people who occupy the building.
From a visitor’s perspective the wow factor is all in the atrium. Crisp white ribbons provide a rich layering effect which is emphasized further through brightly coloured floor and ceiling surfaces. The result is a vibrant, energetic building, which must surely be a delight to work within.
The Argus newspaper was a highly innovative and respected newspaper that was published between 1846 and 1957. The building on the corner of Elizabeth and Latrobe Streets in Melbourne was built as the headquarters for all aspects of the publication between 1924 and 1926. The newspaper was abruptly discontinued in 1957 and at some point after that fell into disrepair.
In 2014 the building was reopened as an education facility for the Melbourne Institute of Technology. Since that time it has been a particularly popular attraction on Melbourne Open House weekend for curious visitors.
The interior fit out and alterations were undertaken by Design inc. Whilst there is some of the remaining original fabric exposed, it is unfortunate to report that within the vast majority of the interior, the old has been completely covered with the new. This raises interesting questions about the preservation of our built heritage.
On the one hand the ability for an otherwise derelict building to be given a new use will ensure its survival into the future. On the other hand, to cover up the internal building fabric with white plasterboard and commercial flooring seems like an opportunity lost. No doubt the design team and client had their reasons. The building was in a perilously poor state and there are always limitations on what a client can spend to realize a project.
Perhaps one of the most surprising and interesting experiences available, was the visit to the Supreme Court of Victoria. The Supreme Court is actually a collection of buildings originally designed by A.L. Smith and built between 1857-1884. The classical stone facade that graces the street conceals a large courtyard within.
This external space is the setting for the glorious Supreme Court Library, the dome of which can be seen from the streets beyond. From within, the library feels like a relative of the much loved State Library of Victoria although it is actually older than the Joseph Reed building. Despite the grandeur of the detailing and decoration, the space itself is surprisingly intimate. As well as the architecture the library holds a fascinating collection of books and historical documents.
In a glass case, an Argus newspaper from exactly 100 years earlier is on display, reporting losses from the ‘Great War’ and complaints about the Hoyts theater prices.
The other notable spaces within this complex are, of course, the courts themselves. These spaces are some of the most serious that you will experience in Victoria. Court 4, otherwise known as the Banco Court, is the oldest and most elaborate of the court rooms. The finely detailed ceiling is both extraordinary and unexpected. The fixed timber seating, which was carefully thought out well over 100 years prior, still operates in the way originally intended.
There are only a few minor additions to the space, such as a couple of large monitors for the jury to observe video evidence.
Unfortunately photographs are not permitted to be taken within the court, so really you have to go an experience it for yourself.
With tens of thousands of visitors to buildings across the city, Melbourne Open House continues to prove that architecture is for everyone.
Michael Smith is a principal at Ateiler Red+Black. This article originally appeared on the Red and Black architect blog.