That’s a wrap! – Open House Melbourne 2017

open house melbourne 2017

Last weekend saw the 10th instalment of Open House Melbourne. One of my favourite events on the busy Melbourne calendar for the year. The last two years I have worked as a volunteer for the event. 2016 year I was assigned Parliament House and 2015, – my first year on the job – I looked after Melbourne Town Hall. There are many perks to being a volunteer: you get a unique insight into a major public event, meet new people, learn facts about buildings that you look at everyday that you never knew and probably the best benefit of volunteering is that you get priority access to all buildings listed for that year. I love skipping long queues! 

This is the 10th year for Open House Melbourne and their biggest yet with 200 buildings opening their doors for a peek. With so much on the program I decided not to volunteer this time round and run the gauntlet to as many buildings as I could fit in over the two-day festival.

With careful planning (and packing your own lunch), you can generally fit in around 5-7 buildings per day. Taking into consideration queues, travel time and if there is a tour included. Some buildings also require a pre booked ticket for a small fee to combat queues and often limited space, which generally sell out within 10 minutes of being released. 

This year my itinerary was as follows:


10am The Johnson Collection in Fitzroy

A fascinating private museum in the heart of classic Fitzroy. We were taken on a guided tour of the stunning Georgian style double fronted town house. Each room boasting status-worthy antique furniture with intricate craftsmanship. The Johnson Collection also displays works of art by local and international artists on a rotating schedule. The current display of works was all about animals and how we as humans have used animals over time for entertainment, to clothe ourselves, furnish our homes and for financial gain. It was a great way to challenge how we view animals how how far we have come (but also how far we have to go). 

the johnson collection 2 the johnson collection 2 the johnson collection 2

11:30am Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood

We weren’t permitted to take photos inside of this venue so I’ve borrowed the one below courtesy of the Open House Melbourne website so you may be able to recognise the building on Wellington Street if you’re in the area. This tour was a unique insight into the behind the scenes of the courtroom and meeting rooms of the centre. There wasn’t much information about the architecture its self but interesting none the less to see the centre and its workings. 

neighbourhood justic centre

1pm Willsmere Mental Asylum in Kew

This place was INCREDIBLE. I had no idea Willsmere even existed until now, but you may have heard of it? Once a large scale mental asylum situated a top of a hill above the Yarra River in Kew, Melbourne. With sweeping views of the city of Melbourne and surrounds, I must say that it was a very picturesque location. Around 1995 it was developed into 250 apartments and townhouses and is now a peaceful, community focused place to live. We were taken on a hour tour of the premises by some of the local residents and it was truly an architectural and historical marvel. If you are ever in the area it is well worth a drive by just to see and believe that is place even exists. My Mum joined me for this tour and we were discussing what it would be like to actually live there and I wonder if it would be haunted or at least tarnished. 

willsmere willsmere willsmere

3pm Edgewater Towers in St Kilda

If you’ve ever driven along Beach Road St Kilda I’m sure you’ve noticed the iconic Miami-esq white apartment building situated across from the St Kilda Marina – Edgewater Towers. For the last 2 years Iv’e been eager to get this place and so glad I finally made it. The 60’s retro foyer and the rooftop were open for tours. As part of the tour we received a fantastic history overview of how the development came about, how it was marketed, who designed it and some of the colourful characters that have resided there over there years, what a treat! After the foyer intro we were ushered into the elevator and taken to the 12th floor for panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay, St Kilda and beyond. 

edgewater towers 2 edgewater towers 2


9:30am St Mary’s House of Welcome in Fitzroy

Up early and first stop was St Mary’s House of Welcome. I’d recently watched the SBS series ‘Filthy Rich and Homeless’ in which this building made an appearance so I was keen to see it for myself. Paul (my husband) and I were in the right place at the right time and we were taken on a VIP tour of the building before it opened for the busy day ahead. The Architect who designed the building was there as well as board members and employees of the centre to give us a comprehensive explanation and tour. I would encourage you to visit this link to find out more about the incredible work that is done at the centre. Feeding rough sleepers, offering shower and laundry facilities, internet and computer access and the all important human contact aspect to help with the social isolation of living in poverty. 

st marys house of welcome 1 st marys house of welcome 1


10:30am Edition Office in Fitzroy

A quick stop in at Edition Office Architectural firm. After a 4 story steep climb up a stunning bluestone Fitzroy building you enter the modern, stark and beautiful office space. Grey walls and floors with floor to ceiling grey curtains, touches of greenery and sleek iMacs make for a pretty inspiring workspace. 

edition architect office

11:30am Cairo Flats in Fitzroy

OPEN HOUSE MELBOURNE HIGHLIGHT!! I visited Cairo flats 2 years ago and I’ve been a little obsessed with it ever since. This year not one, but two of the apartments were open and I jumped at the chance to go back and take Paul with me this time so he could marvel for himself. In 2015 guests were given a tour of Melbourne Architect Michael Roper’s apartment and this year was no different. A real treat for me to be able to go back again and look at the teeny tiny flat completed in 1936 (designed by well known Best Overend) which has been furbished by the owner with clever and ambient space saving ideas. It was pretty hard to get a decent photo because of the size of the place and the amount of people lingering, but if you are interested there are a whole bunch of professional pics at this link

We were then taken into another residents apartment who also happens to be an architect; Nicolas Agius. A completely different take on the first apartment but just as impressive. A loft bed, dressing room, private kitchenette, bath and living room all happily contained into 25sq meters! The images of his flat are incredible, you should check them out here. 

Not to mention the beautiful gardens that surround the apartments and the daring cantilever concrete external stairs that sit as the centrepiece. 

One question that comes to mind is, why can’t all new 1 bedroom apartments adopt the same style and sophistication as these two apartments at Cairo? The mind will continue to boggle. I wonder what Howard Roark would have to say about that… 

cairo flats

1pm Meat Market in North Melbourne

Cairo is a hard act to follow so unfortunately the last two stops were bland in comparison, but interesting none the less. The Meat Market in North Melbourne – which Iv’e driven past countess times and never noticed it – was a guided tour and history talk of the building and the evolution of the meat industry in Melbourne. Intricate and decorative architecture made the building seem grand and important and fitting for its use at the time of its construction. 

meat market

3:00pm 3CR Community Radio in Fitzroy

Our last stop for the day was a guided tour of 3CR community radio. The tour was really interesting because it gave us a behind the scenes look at the going ons at 3CR. Mixing stations, live radio and DJ desks with retro equipment were all present and I was amazed at how well run and thought out the building and station was. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable of 3CR and you could tell he loved being part of it, which is lovely to see. 

community radio