Melbourne Open House – Speaker Series #2

What is it?

The second of two free lectures organised by Melbourne Open House held on Tuesday night that explored recent Melbourne architecture across seven different typologies – residential, multi-residential, commercial, retail, education, landscape and heritage restoration. Presenters included Andrew Simpson, Robert Blackhouse of HASSELL, Roger Nelson of NH ArchitectureJohn WardlePerry Lethlean and Jeff Turnbull.

As with the first Speaker Series, discussed in a previous post here, presenters were asked to conclude their discussion by nominating their favourite Melbourne building. Included on the list this time around were ICI House (Simpson), Melbourne Concert Hall interiors (Blackhouse), Webb Bridge (Lethlean), Storey Hall (Turnbull) and, making its second appearance, Newman College (Nelson).

What did we think?

The presentations were generally eloquent, insightful and entertaining, with all projects worthy examples of the sophisticated architecture for which Melbourne has become recognised.

HASSELL’s ANZ Headquarters in Docklands is an extraordinary technical achievement, successfully overlaying both urban and human scales onto a vast workspace for 7,000 employees. Taylor Cullity Lethlean’s Cranbourne Botanical Gardens is considered and evocative, reinvigorating the traditional approach to the botanical garden with a uniquely Australian identity. John Wardle’s sublime Nigel Peck Centre for Learning and Leadership combines a slick urban presence with immaculate detailing and subtle contextual references. This project, together with Peter Elliott‘s equally good works on campus, make Melbourne Grammar School hands down winner as patrons of quality architecture.

Lastly, Andrew Simpson’s House Number 7 for himself is a smart experiment in open family living, balancing the shifting demands of growing children with strong ties to site and climate. Simpson gets an added nod for demonstrating the value of residential architecture against the markedly bigger and publicly relevant buildings of his fellow presenters.

What did we learn?

Victoria Thornton, the London-based inventor of the Open House format, explained the broader picture of this annual event that began in 1992 with 25 buildings and has grown to 750 buildings across 11 cities attended by over 1.5 million people last year. Through design presentations, school workshops and the Open House weekends themselves, she hopes to give citizens of a city “permission” to exchange views on their built environment, leaving lasting bridges between city, citizens and building professionals.

The collection of architects and projects in this Speaker Series were masterful evidence of a city interested in good architecture. It is no wonder that Melbourne is part of the Open House family – we hope to see you, together with tens of thousands of other citizens of this great city on the streets this weekend for Melbourne Open House 2011.

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