Open House Melbourne 2015

08/11/2015 at 2:50 AM (Architecture, Buildings, Events, Melbourne, Photography) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Well, it’s been a long time since my last post. I’ve been busy travelling on the weekends & reading less on my commute but this does mean I’ve built up an arsenal of photos.  Anyway on a cold blustery winter weekend, I had my boyfriend accompany me to the 2015 Open House Melbourne. I don’t repeat buildings I’ve previously visited so I managed to make it to 10 new venues this time.

Melbourne Cricket Ground 

© Sarasi Peiris

First on the agenda was the Melbourne Cricket Ground Tour at 10 AM. While it also included a walk to external spaces of the Tennis Centre precinct and AAMI park, the tour didn’t quite meet my expectations as it was meant to also include visits to the player change rooms, pitch and the long room. We did get to stand in the members reserve section to take photos though. Apart from that, the tour attendees were provided insight into the logistics of running events at the MCG and treated to some interesting trivia including the etymology of the phrase “hat trick”. After I returned home, there was an email apologising about the tour having changed from the one originally advertised but I guess we did attend for free.



© Sarasi Peiris

We only left the MCG at a quarter to eleven so I decided to fit in a couple of CBD buildings. The second building I visited was an open plan work space utilised by an architecture and design firm, DesignInc. It is located within the former GPO building but access was interesting as it required entry through a lane I previously didn’t even know about, Postal Lane. There is also an external courtyard and greenery through the use of plants was a defining feature. The studio explained how they had to work with H & M to preserve the heritage features of the old GPO while also allowing it the functionalities of a retail space.

Council House 2 (CH2) 

© Sarasi Peiris

After walking down one more block, we lined up in the queue for the 10-storey Council House 2 (CH2) as it only took 20 people every 20 minutes. A man walking past commented, “What are you lining up for? breakfast? “. He was a bit off the mark given it was almost 12.30 pm at that point. After viewing a presentation featuring how green technologies were incorporated into the office design which you can see more of here, we were able to make a trip to the rooftop garden using a combination of the lift and several flights of stairs.

Government House

© Sarasi Peiris

Next on my itinerary was Government House, the largest residential building in Australia, which served as the official residence of the Governor of Victoria after it was completed in 1876. The House which was designed by architect William Wardell now is also used as a venue for constitutional, ceremonial and community events. The 11 hectares of gardens which has survived its original design by Joseph Sayce in 1873 was later subject to several  improvements by William Guilfoyle through the use of exotic varieties of plants. Ceremonial trees planted by various members of the royal family line the main drive because foreign dignitaries can often be guests of Government House.  

Luna Park


© Sarasi Peiris

Lucky last was our 3.30 PM behind-the-scenes tour of Luna Park. I would have squeezed in another building but the boyfriend was really hungry so we stopped to refuel him. This tour led us to through a secret door which held the old Scenic Railway which is 102 years old, to the inside of the restored 100-year-old Carousel and through the tracks of the Ghost Train, which was previously called The Pretzel. We were also taken to a newly built open-floor function space which provided a good view of the park and even beyond to St Kilda beach. My highlight was learning that the taxidermy dog in the Ghost Train section was donated by an old lady who wanted her beloved pet immortalised as a ghost.


© Sarasi Peiris

Given this was the last year the horses were to be stationed at the operational headquarters of the Mounted Police in Victoria, this large stable building drew in a large crowd and hence created a long wait; I lined up at 10.05 AM and got in to the tour at 11.15 AM. The police in Victoria have used horses since the Military Mounted Police rode into the colony in 1836 and the establishment of Victoria Police in 1853 brought several mounted units together and created a cohesive whole. Horse and rider numbers increased until they reached a peak period in early 1900 with 211 stations but the introduction of the motorcar brought about their gradual decline and downfall. The best part of the tour was watching the horses demo playing soccer.

Argus Building


© Sarasi Peiris

This building was originally designed as a home for the Argus newspaper between 1924 and 1926.  During its burgeoning period, 700 staff members occupied this building. After the newspaper closed in 1957, the place was used for several purposes which unfortunately resulted in permanent changes to the original facade, interiors and central light well. It is now home to the CBD campus of the Melbourne Institute of Technology. The only original interior that survived is the restored former Advertising Hall.

Hotel Windsor


© Sarasi Peiris

This hotel designed by architect Charles Webb used to be called The Grand but was renamed The Windsor after His Royal Highness Edward, Prince of Wales visited in 1920. It is the only surviving example of an opulent 19th century luxury hotel in Melbourne. When first constructed and it opened its doors in 1883, it was one of Victoria’s largest hotels. It is also a precursor to all the following grand hotels: The Savoy, London; The Ritz, Paris; Plaza, New York. Unfortunately self-guided tours only granted access to the Grand Ballroom and the majority of the lobby.

Eildon Mansion


© Sarasi Peiris

Given most of the Route 3a and 16 trams weren’t operating or were subject to delays, the only way I was able to get to this Renaissance Revival style mansion which was built in the 19th century, was by taking the Route 96 tram. This mansion was owned by Mr Ferit Ymer from 1951 where he and his wife raised their six kids while also running a boarding house between the 1950s and 1980s. Accommodation was specifically created for singles, couples or new immigrants to Melbourne. However in later years this business declined and the clientage started to become backpackers after extensive restorations by two of the owners sons in 2004. Now it is home to the Alliance Francaise who had organised lots of fun activities for the day including a French breakfast, scavenger hunt for parents and kids and free 30-minute French lessons at set times throughout the day.

Esplanade Vaults


© Sarasi Peiris

When the new cable tramway replaced the old horse-drawn omnibus on St Kilda’s Upper Esplanade, the roadway had to widened to allow for the tram tracks. This enabled 10 shops with arched ceilings and verandahs to face the Sea Baths on the Lower Esplanade. The shops sold merchandise suited to a seaside locale such as ice-cream, confectionery, fish & chips and swimwear and a projector displayed old photographs depicting such scenes inside the vaults. Tea rooms were also part of the shops. However while the tramway became a success, the shop verandahs were removed in the 1950s and the vaults bricked up when Jacka Boulevard needed widening in the 1970s.

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