Cape Schanck

10/07/2017 at 4:34 AM (Activities, Environment, Travel, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Cape Schanck is located on the southernmost tip of the Mornington Peninsula where the wild sea water of the Bass Strait unites with the calmer water of Westernport Bay. It was named after Admiral John Schanck who designed the Lady Nelson centreboard and who was also was commissioned in 1799 to survey the coast of Australia.

These days the most imposing and defining landmark of Cape Schanck is the 21m tall Cape Schanck Lighthouse which was built and completed back in 1859; it is actually the second lighthouse built in Victoria and the first lighthouse tower in possession of stone stairs. Entry fees do apply for tours of the lighthouse and small museum.

A prominent geological formation is Pulpit Rock which stands out at the very tip of the cape. This can be accessed through the wooden staircase and scenic boardwalk which descends to the beach but look out for large, fierce waves in winter which may wash across Pebble Beach.

Another walk available through the main car park is the 2.6km Bushrangers Bay Track which abounds with lovely coastal scenery and this first lookout is an insight into several that follow. For anyone who would like more information or more detailed notes, a guide to this walk is available for purchase.

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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.

DesignInc

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© 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

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© 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.

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© 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

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© 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

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© 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

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© 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

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© 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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The King and I (Play)

07/26/2014 at 3:02 PM (Performing Arts, Theatre) (, , , , , )

On Friday night, I attended the lavish and opulent production of Rodger’s and Hammersteins The King and I at the iconic Princess Theatre, home of the friendly ghost Federici. My dress circle seat in the middle of the third row gave me a magnificent view of the set. The King and I has been revived in Australia by Opera Australia and the Melbourne season stars Lisa McCune as Anna Leonowens, tutor to the children of the King, and internationally acclaimed actor Lou Diamond Phillips as the King of Siam (which is now Thailand).

The King and I is based on the Anna and the King, a novel by Margaret Langdon and is loosely based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, an English governess hired to tutor the favoured children of King Mongkut of Siam, including Prince Chulalangkorn. As he was a king that embraced Western culture and style of thought, The King and I showcases how the people of Siam, with some help from Anna, try to emulate Western customs when foreign dignitaries from the West visit so the King is able to suppress circulating rumours suggesting Siam is barbaric. Despite their cultural clashes, Anna and the King ultimately become very close. Meanwhile there is a side story about two young lovers, Tuptim and Lun Tha, but I found their interaction dull.

Before the curtains rose, the scene was set to depict Siam using four actors wearing the robes of monks meditating  on stage as incense permeated the atmosphere. When the curtains open, we  see Anna and her son arriving by boat as she has been promised a house if she were to teach the King’s children but he only decides to honour his promise much later. The costumes are sumptuous and extravagant, to create an authentic Thai experience as envisioned by British director Christopher Renshaw, with so many sequins and diamantes that they are almost blinding! Despite the misunderstanding of Western concepts at first and their initial shock at her lack of obeisance, the people at court grow to like and love and understand Anna, including the King. In the end, we see Anna’s teaching had a positive influence on the young prince as he changes the way his people show deference.

The highlight of the show is the ballet The Small House of Uncle Thomas which had a strong Eastern influence. It is loosely based on the anti-slavery  novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  The emotion displayed by Tup Tim in her narration of this play stood out way more than her chemistry with her lover. My favourite part was however when Anna and the King dances the polka during Shall We Dance. Others scores I enjoyed included I Whistle A Happy Tune when Anna’s son is scared and she shows him how to “make believe to be brave”, Getting to Know You when Anna is in the classroom introducing herself to the King’s children and the powerful delivery of Something Wonderful by the King’s head wife Lu Thiang, played by Shu-Cheen Yu.

Despite being a luxurious extravaganza and the spectacle of paying homage to a time-honoured classic, the production is paced well and accurately rendered. The set for The King and I looks authentic and uses authentic language including Thai phrases, imagery including Buddha, religious references  to Thailand and faithful depiction of Thai dance movements. It definitely can take you back a few eras to the Siam of the past!

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Homage to World Photography Day through Open House Weekend

08/19/2011 at 9:38 AM (Architecture, Art, Design, Photography) (, , , , , , , , , )

On the 30th and 31st of July in Melbourne, we had a special event called Open House Weekend. It unlocks buildings of our city so you can access them on those days only. We are allowed into these spaces with guides providing insights into the importance of these buildings whether it’s significance is being of historical importance, engineering based feat or architectural design. For myself, I only had the Saturday free to  explore so I made it to the six buildings featured below.  As today is August 19th here, World Photography Day, I thought I’ll share some special photos of Melbourne, as it’s my part of the world.

The Origin Roof Garden

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

This was my first port of call. After wandering like a lost tourist up and down the road several times, I found the queue for this in Flinders Lane. This was designed by Jamie Durie (who’s of Sri Lankan descent like me) after his team were inspired by the trend which included forming of green spaces within urban centres. The lucky employees at Origin use this private garden in the sky to enjoy yoga, tai chi and other activities.

Myer Mural Hall

The Mural Hall inside Myer Department Store

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

This was my fourth stop all the way in Bourke St. It is located on the 6th floor of the retail giant Myer. It is a huge hall designed to hold 550 people with walls decorated with large murals, depicting women through the ages, painted by artist Napier Waller. The murals which were painted at Waller’s studio at Fairy Hills in Ivanhoe and then brought to Melbourne took one whole year to complete. The dining room is significant because this is a rare and intact example of Streamline Moderne style department store dining room in Australia.

RMIT Storey Hall

The Storey Hall RMIT Exterior

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

This is a very striking example of Melbourne architecture because of how dominant the colour green is here. It is because it used to be called the Hiberian Hall. Irish Catholics felt ignored by the Protestant population in Melbourne because they were  denied access to the largest public halls for meetings. So they built this hall in 1887 . It was used for pacificist and anti-conscription rallies during WWI and used as a commune during the General Strike of 1917.

Pixel

The Pixel Office Building

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The Pixel Building, which is named after its attention-grabbing pixellated exterior facade, is now where the former Carlton United Brewery used to be. This building of four storeys which was designed by Studio 505 cost a cool 6 million dollars. It uses wind turbines on the roof and employs a grey water recycling system with reed beds on each level.  It aims to become Australia’s first carbon neutral office building.

Melbourne City Baths

The Melbourne City Baths Exterior

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

In early Melbourne, municipal baths were necessary as private houses had little in the way of private bathing facilities. Built in the early part of the 20th century, this is a distinctive Edwardian Baroque building which was designed by architect JJ Clark. If you look at the signage at the City Baths, you will see on the exterior of the building that there were separate entrances for men and women. On the second floor, there’s a balcony which features historical photographs of times past and you can see the men’s pool from the balcony.

National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria Water Fountain

Copyright: Sarasi Peiris

The NGV was designed by Roy Grounds, an Australian architect. It was the first major public building to be constructed in Victoria in the fifty years following WWI and the first new art gallery to be constructed in Australia after WWII. It features an abstract ceiling of multicoloured glass by artist Leonard French, which really took a beating during the hailstorms. The entire building is surrounded by a moat. The water feature at the entry, where water flows down a glass screen, called the Water Wall is your first glimpse of interior art.

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