Open House Melbourne set to inspire this weekend

Bunjil Place exterior - photo by John GollingsThe 11th annual Open House Melbourne takes place this weekend (28 & 29 July), offering the opportunity to explore some of the city’s most magnificent buildings that are not usually accessible to the public.

A total of 220 buildings will open their doors to the public with 70 new buildings in the program, as well as 24 residential properties and 81 buildings in the City of Melbourne. The weekend footprint is spread far and wide across Melbourne, with buildings opening in Beaumaris, Narre Warren, Essendon, La Trobe, Ringwood and Frankston, as well as 5 buildings in the City of Greater Dandenong.

With so much on offer, Australian Arts Review takes a look at ten buildings that have an arts-focus, that are worth checking out:

Alexander Theatre
The Alexander Theatre is a much-loved foundation building at Monash Clayton. Originally designed by Eggleston MacDonald and Secomb Architects in 1967, it has been comprehensively redeveloped by Peter Elliott Architecture and Urban Design. Opened in April 2018, the 589-seat theatre is part of the newly established Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts, which will also include two new venues in 2019: a 175-seat Jazz Club and a 130-seat Sound Gallery. The theatre has been expanded to cater for new audiences, with improved accessibility, larger back of- house facilities, a new foyer and support spaces.

Arts Centre Melbourne – Australian Performing Arts Collection Store
Take a journey through the nation’s performing arts history. The Collection is the largest and most significant collection of Australia’s performing arts history. Established in 1975, it is formally recognised as a State Collection, containing more than 600,000 items which document 200 years of performance across theatre, music, dance and opera. Through costumes, scripts, handwritten lyrics, designs, company ephemera and photographs, the collection tells the stories of our most illustrious performers and institutions.

Australian Tapestry Workshop
The Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW) is the only tapestry studio of its kind in the country. It is also one of only a few worldwide dedicated to the production of hand-woven contemporary tapestries. Ranging from miniature to monumental, the tapestries are woven using the finest Australian wool, which is specially dyed on-site to a unique palette of 370 colours. Most of the ATW’s tapestries have been specially commissioned and hang in significant public buildings and collections.

Bunjil Place
Designed by multi-award winning architectural studio Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt), Bunjil Place is the City of Casey’s new $125 million cultural and entertainment precinct for Melbourne’s South East. The overarching vision for the precinct is “to create an inviting central heart for the community that celebrates participation, belonging and pride”. fjmt describes the precinct – which includes a major library, gallery, multipurpose studio space, 800-seat theatre, civic offices, and outdoor plaza. The construction of the building involved intricate challenges, particularly around the building’s dominant feature, the timber gridshell which is framed by a 12-metre-high glass façade.

Duldig Studio Museum and Sculpture Garden
Duldig Studio is the remarkable house and studio of émigré sculptor Karl Duldig and his artist wife Slawa Horowitz-Duldig which is now an artists’ house museum. The Duldig family lived here in the typical Californian bungalow house for 30 years. Karl designed and built a studio in the grounds and set up a sculpture garden to display his works. In 1996, the house became a museum, with interiors and a studio preserved as they were during the artist’s lifetimes. Karl and Slawa’s Modernist art and furnishings can be seen in the family rooms and the gallery extension which features changing exhibitions.

Gertrude Contemporary
Gertrude Contemporary is a not-for-profit visual-arts organisation that has been building the careers of contemporary Australian artists through its exhibition and studio programs for over 30 years. Gertrude Contemporary launched its new building – designed by architects Edition Office – in Preston South in July 2017. The building was constructed in 1983 and historically operated as a retail furniture showroom. The large, open-span building provided a flexible shell within which custom-made spaces could be created for Gertrude’s artistic program, including its exhibition galleries and 16 artist studios for its two-year studio program.

Grainger Museum
The only purpose-built autobiographical museum in Australia, it is home to a fascinating collection of art, photographs, costumes, furniture and instruments acquired by Percy Grainger (1882 – 1961), an icon of 20th century Australian musical history. Housed in a simple Modernist building designed by the then University architect John Gawler, of the firm Gawler and Drummond, the Grainger Museum was constructed in two stages between 1935 and 1939.

Myer Mural Hall
Completed in 1933, the Myer Mural Hall is a large rectangular space with a decorative plaster ceiling, balconies, and wall panels. It is one of the only surviving examples of the Streamline Moderne style and one of the finest Art Deco interiors in Victoria. is decorated with ten murals paying homage to celebrated historical female figures renowned in various fields, created by Napier Waller (1893-1972). He was a leading Neoclassical mural painter of the Inter-War period who remastered sketching and painting with his left arm after being wounded in WWI.

The Dandenong Town Hall and Drum Theatre
Built in 1890, The Dandenong Town Hall is a superb example of a Victorian 19th century Town Hall. The building was designed by popular architects, Beswick and Hutchins, whose other credits include Brighton, Malvern, Essendon, and Hawthorn Town Halls. Originally built as a combined Shire Hall and Mechanics Institute, it also fulfilled the role of a public hall, court house, local library, and council chambers. In 2006, Dandenong Town Hall was reimagined and redeveloped into the 521-seat Drum Theatre – an anchor for the city’s vibrant arts community and attracts diverse audiences. The original façade is a distinctive reminder of its history.

Newport is one of the oldest substations in the metropolitan systems, and also one of the largest, comparable to the North Fitzroy substation and slightly smaller than the Newmarket substation. It displays an exceptionally high level of integrity not seen in any other extant examples of this substation design, and although much of the original equipment has been removed or vandalised, the building is highly demonstrative of early 20th century power generating practices. The building has strong visual and functional associations with the nearby Newport railway workshops, established in 1882.

The 2018 Open House Melbourne weekend takes place Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 July. Some buildings require a booking. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Bunjil Place – photo by John Gollings