Dive deep into design-led thinking and iconic heritage sites of the CBD

The-Capitol-salon-photo-by-John-Gollings-RMITSince undergoing a complete digital transformation for 2020, the countdown is officially on for Open House Melbourne’s Weekend of live virtual events set for Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 July.

With 50 virtual reality tours now available through the website until the end of August, there is plenty of time to explore Australia’s most liveable city from the comfort of home.

“This year’s Open House Melbourne will be a little different because you will be able to experience the biggest collection of virtual tours and programs of unique buildings that exist in Australia from the comfort of your couch,” said Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp.

“You can discover intriguing aspects of those buildings through the sharing of interesting and quirky stories that really bring these places to life. We are proud to showcase some of our fabulous buildings from the magnificent Town Hall through to the six-star green rated Council House 2 and one of our newest favourites, the Library at the Dock.”

“This is a wonderful platform to be talking about the importance of good design, making sure that we are sustainable for our future and planning for the best outcomes for our community,” said the Lord Mayor.

The Capitol – RMIT University:
Formerly known as the Capitol Theatre, it was originally designed in 1924 by celebrated architects Marion Mahony Griffin and Walter Burley Griffin. The Chicago Gothic-style theatre is considered their greatest interior design work and with its spectacular lighting design, elaborate foyers and intricate crystalline ceiling, The Capitol is also one of Melbourne’s most beloved architectural icons.

Renowned Australian architect and RMIT alumnus Robin Boyd described it as “the best cinema that was ever built or is ever likely to be built” and the National Trust and Victorian Heritage have registered the property based on its architectural, historical, aesthetic and technical significance. Between 2014–2019, RMIT worked with Six Degrees Architects to restore The Capitol to its former glory and make considerable upgrades to the building.

On Saturday 25 July at 11.00am, join the live in-conversation and Q+A with architect and founding director of Six Degrees, Peter Malatt, on the restoration project undertaken at The Capitol – RMIT University.

The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall – State Library Victoria:
The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall is the main reading room for Australia’s first ever public library – the Melbourne Public Library which is now known as the State Library Victoria. Remaining as one of the city’s grandest and most beautiful 19th-century interiors, since first opening with a stock of almost 4,000 books in 1856, the State Library Victoria has maintained many of its historic design elements down to the original wallpaper, even as it was refurbished in 2016 by Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen (SHL).

The State Library Victoria’s Vision 2020 redevelopment, which includes the Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, was recently recognised in this year’s Victorian Architecture Awards. Taking out the esteemed Melbourne Prize, as well as awards in the Heritage – Conservation and Public Architecture categories.

For Open House Melbourne, join Ruth Wilson, Principal and Studio Leader, Architectus and Simon Farr, Associate, Architectus on Saturday 25 July at 11.00am for a guided video tour inside the roof of The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, normally closed to the public.

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity:
A joint venture between Melbourne Health and the University of Melbourne, the Institute based on Elizabeth Street is an infection and immunity powerhouse combining research, public health and education. It is home to one of the largest high containment laboratories in Australia and in January 2020, the Doherty Institute received global recognition as the first lab outside of China to grow SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the first to share it with the World Health Organization.

Since then, the Doherty Institute has been at the forefront of the global COVID-19 response. On Sunday 26 July at 11.00am, hear from the Institute’s inaugural Director – and Melburnian of the Year 2014 – Professor Sharon Lewin AO, and the building’s architect, Grimshaw Partner Neil Stonell, on how the Institute was purpose-designed to respond to a pandemic.

First Nations Voices:
The Koorie Heritage Trust will be hosting an expanded offering of virtual events that unlock the door to a multifaceted experience of Koorie culture. Highlights include a guided art tour with Koorie Heritage Trust CEO Tom Mosby, diving deep into an essay or podcast about Birrarung (the Yarra River) and taking yourself on an interactive walking trail of Melbourne’s CBD that emphasises local Aboriginal histories and beliefs – seen here. For Open House Melbourne, all details on First Nations Voices can be viewed here.

Queen Bess:
The Heritage listed building ‘Queen Bess Row’ was built in 1886 in the wealth of the gold rush, designed by renowned local architects Tappin Gilbert and Dennehy. Now three separate dwellings, this adaptable building has accommodated a Temperance Hotel, doss house and was one of Melbourne’s first converted apartment buildings.

The project explores memory and marking; contrast and adaptability of existing and new elements; and uncovers evidence of past stories to translate to the present.  The result is a dynamic and individual house which, like a family history, lives in the present while reflecting the many influences its seen throughout its lifetime. On Saturday 25 July at 10.00am, join architect Zoe Geyer of ZGA STUDIO in a virtual guided tour about the renovations to this Heritage house, that will include a live Q&A session.

15 Thompson St393 Macaulay Rd, Kensington:
15 Thompson Street is located only 3km from Melbourne’s CBD in Kensington and is designed to meet the needs of the local community through the provision of affordable, comfortable, low running cost and low environmental impact housing – bringing together commercial and community uses with residential life. A live interview with Hayball architect Thomas Gilbert will stream live on Saturday 25 July at 11.00am to discuss the design intent of the project. Gilbert has extensive experience in designing and delivering community-focused projects around Melbourne.

33 Macaulay Road was originally built in 1928 as a wool store and has since had many lives over the years, including being used as a bakery and the Kensington Community High School. Most recently, the building has been home to Dex Audio, one of the last CD, DVD and cassette manufacturers in Australia, which is now expanding to bigger premises. Tune into a live interview on Sunday 26 July at 11.00am with Fieldwork architect Quino Holland who will be discussing how the design was influenced by the heritage of the site and the local area. Both interviews will be streamed via Assemble Communities’ Instagram stories.


The 2020 Open House Melbourne Weekend takes place online 25 & 26 July. 50 virtual reality tours now available through the website until the end of August. View the full building list here. For more information, visit: www.openhousemelbourne.org for details.

Image: The Capitol’s salon – photo by John Gollings (courtesy of RMIT)

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