Open House Melbourne

Open House Melbourne kicks off this weekend, offering you the keys to the city’s most intriguing places and spaces

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

Annual architecture weekender Open House Melbourne is on this Saturday 30 to Sunday 31 July, unlocking the doors of more than 140 unusual historic and contemporary buildings to the public. Many of these iconic Melbourne spots are normally off limits, so grab your chance to take a sneak peek inside.

The roll call of 2016 buildings open for inspection includes covetable private houses, creative studios and offices, sports facilities and synagogues, upscale shopping malls and electricity sub stations. State buildings, banks and court houses make the cut, and you can even check out a circus, a seafarers' mission and a meat market. A tram depot and Port of Melbourne boat tours will appeal to transport fiends.

Founded in 2008, this popular free festival attracts queues around town to check out the city’s best design and architecture, but you can track the least crowded times to swing by busy sites on Open House's FacebookInstagram and Twitter feeds. On average visitors take in four to five buildings a day, but plan your route first as not all spaces are open both days or for the same hours, and some require advance registration or even a $5 booking fee so may fill out fast. Most visits are self-guided, but there are some pre-reserved tours due to space limitations. If you're too late to book, you may be able to leave your name on select building door lists.

TOP: It looks like a monster took a bite out of the radical 41X high-rise. Picture: John Gollings
ABOVE: Eco features rule on the verdant roof of Council House 2 – CH2; Signal hosts a youth arts initiative in an old signal switching building; train carriages atop Easey Street's End to End Building in Collingwood

Our wish list this year includes Lyons' eco-conscious high-rise hub 41X at 41 Exhibition Street, developed by the Australian Institute of Architects and boasting a radical, colourful facade. Also on a green tip, we recommend Council House 2 – CH2's verdant rooftop, an office building for council staff packed with eco goodness. For edgier urban sites, head to youth arts centre Signal, which occupies Flinders Street Station's last surviving signal switching box, and ITN ArchitectsEnd to End Building in Collingwood, which houses old train carriages on the roof (one now home to Easey's lofty burger joint).

We also fancy checking out Bates, Smart & McCutcheon’s sleek Orica House, one of the country’s first fully glazed skyscrapers and once its highest; COX Architecture’s futuristic 2010 stadium AAMI Park; and Croxen Ramsay’s new event space Glasshouse in Olympic Park, with interiors by Hecker Guthrie.

ABOVE: The Mad Men guys would feel at home in 1958's modernist 20-storey Orica House (ex ICI House) in East Melbourne; AAMI Park stadium sports a geodesic dome and hosts sports and music events. Its roof design uses 50% less steel than a typical stadium of the same size

We’d also like to take a twirl through the studios of influential local architecture practices Woods Bagot, Six Degrees and John Wardle Architects (which shares its building with printed design and art studio Spacecraft).

On the residential front, there's a choice selection of cutting-edge contemporary homes, including the super-skinny Acute House by OOF! Architecture, although almost all are by pre-booked tour only, so get in quick sticks. For something more unusual, fitness fans should take a gander at the two-level Cycle Collective in Richmond, which sports a coffee cart and Pilates studio downstairs and inspiring spin cycle set-up above.

ABOVE: Events space Glasshouse occupies the 1956 Olympic swimming stadium site; Bates Smart's industrial-chic CBD studio; Six Degrees' Fitzroy studio features cliche-busting colour and stained-glass; Bricktastic Cycle Collective is a sociable retreat for spin classes, Pilates or coffee

Also on offer are events, exhibitions, workshops, screenings, talks and tours, with many extending throughout the year. This weekend you can 'Meet the Young Guns of Melbourne' to refuel over coffee, breakfast or a drink at cafes and bars designed by emerging talent, or join a quirky Rooftop and Landscape Tour. Don't miss new exhibition 'Occupied' at RMIT Design Hub (until 24 September 2016), which looks at housing pressures in our mushrooming metropolises. Access all areas!
openhousemelbourne.org

Open House Melbourne runs from 10am to 4pm Saturday 30 to Sunday 31 July 2016