Monday, July 26, 2010

Open House

Yesterday, well Saturday as well, was Melbourne's Open House Day. This is the first year I have been free to look at some buildings in the city and close by where you get to see parts of buildings that aren't normally accessible to the general public. I knew some buildings I would love to see were very popular and long queues form. I selected a few buildings to look at and left some options should some be too popular.

We caught the West Coburg tram to the top of the city and walked a new public housing building, Elizabeth Street Common Ground. CG is funded by Federal, State and Local Governments, developer GroCon and comprises studio flats and family flats. The studios are for the chronically homeless, etc etc etc. They were absolutely great. Rental for Centrelink benefit recipients will pay about $150 pw, working poor, $190. This includes all services. It meant to be long term accommodation, not short term emergency.

We saw three different studios. They were nicely decorated with all the basic features including hydronic heating and ceiling mounted cooling fans. The building has a central ventilation core and fresh air flows into each flat. All had balconies of varying standards, some with great city views.

My left side thinks it is a wonderful project that will benefit the less fortunate in our community for many years to come.

My right side thinks, I have worked hard all my life to get what I have and they get handed it on a platter.

City of Yarra has a strong involvement in the project and our two genial guides for our group of ten were Yarra employees. The building is far from finished and I wonder if the opening date in August will be met. Regardless, the project is ahead of schedule and under budget. Although the lifts were working, they did not have proper controls and so each required a driver with an intercom.

On the way there I snapped these two houses. The first just looks overwhelmed by the modern buildings surrounding it. The second looks very old, pre Victorian.

One of the views from Common Ground, followed by one of the children's play area on the roof. The building has an extensive roof top garden and other resident public areas.

Our next stop was to be the marvellous Gothic ANZ bank in Collins Street. I have been to the currency exchange in the building a couple of times of late. I just gaze at the interior in wonderment. For obvious reasons, we gave it a miss.

This one should be less popular surely. It was busy enough, but no queue. It is the Jamie Durie designed staff rooftop garden for Origin utility company employees in Flinders Lane near Elizabeth Street. It's a great staff facility.

Next was to be Council House 2, a purpose built environment friendly office building, but mile long queues there too. We took a break for lunch at the French Deli in Bourke Street. Delicious baguettes but very slow service.

Dare we try for another building? This one sounded interesting. Donkey Wheel House in Bourke Street at the corner of Spencer Street. It was the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board head office. It was recently bought by this organisation, but for fifteen years after it ceased to be the MMTB head office, it was a private dwelling and fitted out as such. Most of the living area was in the basement. We climbed three levels of stairs, bearing in mind very high ceilings and wished we caught the lift. The building's owners are the Donkey Wheel organisation, a charitable trust I believe.

This was the children's play area. The builders are moving in today to begin restoration. Behind me were a few smaller rooms and as fire proof concrete bunker for important tramway records. I have a feeling this was a ballroom.

A room leading off the last one. This room was where much of Melbourne's tramway system was designed.

The architects stayed warm, well maybe not give the area this was supposed to heat.

Nice view of Spencer Street Southern Cross Station.

The basement was a rabbit warren and spooky.

Going down. We decided to catch the lift down to the ground floor and pushed the call button but nothing was happening. No movement of the pulleys and cables above the lift. We waited. An old gentleman joined us and we all waited. Then a younger woman joined us and we all waited. The woman was clever. She said, the lift is not here is it? She slid the two doors open and there it was waiting for us. It took us down with an abrupt stop at ground level.

The building has a very nice scale to it.

So, three out of fifty nine open buildings. We didn't see a lot for the day, but what we did see was interesting. One place I would love to see is the underground substation in Russell Place. But on Saturday at least, people started queuing at 7am for a 10am opening. You can't complain too much when things are free and people have volunteered for the day, but I would really like to see a booking system for the more popular tours.


  1. Would have loved to have explored those buildings but was too busy exploring the innards of churches on the goldfields.
    Yes, a church and, no, I didn't burst into flame.

  2. All wonderful - thanks for sharing, Walking Melbourne indeed.

    The angled back to back double fireplace is interesting. That big MMTB room is a relic of the days when one's workplace had large dances for staff and spouses, and a gold watch after 50 years.

    On Walking Melbourne a film crew was asking for locations of those old wirecage lifts. I only knew The Athenaeum Library one, bet they would have loved that cream one.

    Your pic of SOCross station (is the plastic still flapping I wonder)
    shows the roof of that single-storey hotel on Spencer/Bourke corner, reminds me there is a story behind that - some kind of stand-off with the council.

    The apartments with balcony 'just handed to' people in the Life's Losers category, will be interesting to watch. On seeing the lovely rooftop my first thought was "is it jump-proof, or throw-proof?" there will be tears before bedtime there.
    $150 per week is half the standard pension. Can those who are lucky enough to score one of these, make their remaining $150 per week or $25 per day cover food, cigarettes, beer, the TAB, clothing, dry cleaning, medication, movies, cafe lattes and focaccias with friends.

    The govt giving money away, is their trick to just keep taxing it repeatedly till it disappears.
    Dole bludger buys beer, govt taxes pub owner on earning it, pub owner spends his profit out of it on petrol and the govt taxes the pump owner for earning it as well as for selling petrol, and so on ad infinitum. fascinating.

  3. The Donkey place was a private dwelling for a while?

    It looks huge for a private dwelling.

  4. I know this is quite possibly the worst thing to do, but I found out late on Saturday that this was on, decided that working out what I wanted to see on Sunday would be too difficult (and probably packed to the rafters) so I drove to Warragul instead. I suck at the Melbourne cultural thing!

    Glad I got a look in after all thanks to you.

  5. Look forward to the photos Jayne.

    Ann, I will post about it this week sometime, but we came across another old hand operated lift last week. i wondered about the flapping fabric at So Cross myself, but R had given me a good run and I wasn't going to push it. Savoy Tavern wasn't it? Yes, ongoing dispute. It must have closed about the time the City Mail Exchange closed. No co-incidence there. Public housing common areas were jump proof and throw proof. Private balconies less so. I think they get an internet connection for their $150 too. As always, I love your logical thought processes.

    Victor, monstrous for a private dwelling. No idea what was on the 2nd floor. Must have been someone who was seriously rich.

    Warragul Mutant. I love Warragul.
    I could have come with you and pleasured you as you drove.

  6. Now if it were the U.S. those good folk waiting to get into ANZ Gothic would be in a line, as it is they are in Australia and are, I'm sure, in a queue!

  7. I never thought of that Ian. But yes, one more difference. Although we would queue in a line I suppose.

  8. If they weren't in a line it wouldn't be a queue, it might be just be a crowd folk milling about? lol