Melbourne Open House – Speaker Series #1

What is it?

A free lecture organised by Melbourne Open House on Tuesday night that explored the works of seven established Melbourne architects. Run in collaboration with the Department of Planning and Community Development, the architects presented residential projects that have been selected by the DPCD as Good Design Case Studies. In addition, each nominated their favourite Melbourne house – a fascinating snapshot into the diverse tastes of our profession.

Speakers included Kerstin Thompson, Clare McAllister and Karen Alcock, George Metaxas, Karl Fender, Eli Giannini, Luke Middleton and Robert Stent. Favourite houses included Newman College (Giannini), Robyn Boyd’s Walsh Street House (McAllister and Alcock) and Heidi II by McGlashan Everist (Middleton).

Taking place in Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony’s still extraordinary Capitol Theatre, every seat was taken with a few audience members forced to hover in the aisles. It was encouraging to see so many people, be they architects or simply the architecturally-inclined, attending a mid-week lecture on a cold winter’s night.

What did we think?

The content of the presentations were of variable interest. While it is always intriguing listening to the unique paradigms of architects, most of the projects were quite old and therefore already well known – McAllister and Alcock, for instance, discussed their Wynnstay Road development from 2004, while Thompson presented her Napier Street Housing project from 2001 (both of which we nevertheless think are skilled and beautifully composed works). Perhaps the bureaucratic processes of the DPCD are to blame: presumably there are many time-consuming hurdles that must be jumped before a project can be declared a Good Design Case Study.

It is worth noting that Fender presented a truly hideous multi-residential proposal for the Geelong waterfront that was thankfully scrapped after being rejected at VCAT. The building that was eventually built is significantly better, proud but gracious in familiar Fender Katsilidis fashion.

What we found most inspiring by the evening was the manifesto of Melbourne Open House itself. Aiming to transform Melburnians into tourists within their own city, MOH annually stages a weekend of open buildings around Melbourne. This year’s is taking place on the 30th and 31st of July, with 75 public buildings opening their doors. Theatres, architecture studios, houses, hospitals and office buildings, historical and contemporary, will all be free to enter and explore.

We are looking forward to MOH 2011 with great anticipation – we will wander our great city, cameras unashamedly in hand, gazing at it with fresh and unhurried eyes.

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