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Melbourne, Australia: Day Four

After zipping around the countryside on my third day in Melbourne, Australia, Day Four was to be a decidedly urban affair--a self-guided tour of some of the city's architectural marvels with stops ranging from the ultra-modern to some of Victoria's foundational buildings.

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I started the day still rather stuffed from the previous night's meal at Pearl, which meant that a light breakfast at Cumulus Inc. was in order. I marched up Flinders Lane in the cold, rainy morning to the hip little cafe for a bowl of housemade museli. Though I loved the design of the space, it was the signage and packaging by Round that really caught my eye. As their office is just down the block they get to enjoy it all the time. The rest of us can check it out here.

After a very light fuel-up and a proper flat white (Melbournian coffee lingo is amazing with its short blacks, flat whites and lattes of all stripe) I walked across the street to the offices of NH Architecture, where I met Hamish Lyon. Lyon and Nik Karalis of Woods Bagot collaborated on the design of the new Melbourne Convention Center. We chatted over the world tour of convention centers he and his team made: "They tend not to be architectural first-class citizens," he said. "They're more like your poor second cousin: a utilitarian beer-barn sports complex on the edge of town." We also talked about how the black-zinc-clad building managed to get a six-out-of-six Greenstar rating. Look for a forthcoming post paying a bit more attention to the Convention Center in the near future.

Our chat lasted only a half hour or so, and then I was off to see the building itself. I can easily say that it's the nicest Convention Center I've ever seen, with ample glazing, intuitive circulation patterns and a nice piece of real estate on the banks of the Yarra River. The shot above was taken from 88 stories above. I'll get to how I shot it later.

After getting the tour of the Convention Center I braved a quasi-construction zone, leapt down a six-foot drop to get to a pedestrian zone, and braved crossing a zooming freeway to meet Mark Haycox of UrbanVic to get a tour of the Docklands. We met at the Web Bridge by Melbourne firm Denton Corker Marshall (these guys seem to have designed every third building in town). It's a serpentine pedestrian bridge meant to mimic an aboriginal eel trap.

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As Mark and I wandered the Docklands, a new neighborhood ten years into a thirty-year development plan, he described how it used to be cut off from the city's Central Business District by a large rail station. Connected now along Collins Street, the Docklands aims to marry massive corporate tenants with the dense residential and commercial space that defines the rest of the city. At present it's all corporate towers, like this one for the bank ANZ by Hassell.

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Another highlight was the cafe inside the Guage—another corporate tower—called Coffee Guage. Replete with Polder sofas by Hella Jongerius, tasty short blacks (espresso to the rest of us), and a green wall that leads into another wall of recycled shipping boxes. The whole space was done by interior designers Hecker Phalen Guthrie.

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From there it was on to the central pier, a cruise around a tower by hotshot Melbournian architect John Wardle (he also seems to do every third building, with ARM rounding out the field), an amble around the waterfront and then Mark put me on the tram to my lunch date.

As it happens, that date was with myself, and that bit of down time at Tutto Bene in the Southgate shopping center was quite nice. The very fishy crostini and fizzing prosecco didn't hurt either. Revived, I walked to the Eureka Tower which I mentioned in my first Melbourne post by architect Nonda Kadsalidis of Fender Katsalidis. I took the express elevator up to the Eureka Skydeck on the 88th floor, which is the highest vantage point in the southern hemisphere. The elevator ride took 38 seconds!

I think in discussions of architectural style, urban planning and what buildings ought to say and mean, I sometimes lose sight of what can make buildings so wonderful on a visceral level. And in the case of massive skyscrapers, it's being up really really high that occasionally renders aesthetic discussions moot. Suffice it to say, I was up really really high on the Skydeck and the view was incredible.

Here's Federation Square.

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And here's the view out to Port Philip Bay.

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The dizzying heights of the Eureka Skydeck were quickly tempered by a walk down the far more earthbound Little Collins Street on the way back in the CBD. I could not manage to get a decent photo of McBride, Charles, Ryan's origami-like Monaco House on Ridgeway Lane, but I did stop in to a cafe downstairs called Liaison for a macaroon and another short black. Danny, the owner, is a truly hospitable guy who you should chat up if you get the chance.

After brief respite, I was back on the trail again, this time to see the astounding Victoria State Library. One of the first public libraries in the world, the lovely, neo-classical facade anchors Swanston Street in Melbourne's architectural past. The shopping center by ARM and Kisho Kurokawa across the street race headlong into the future.

The most stunning feature of the library is the domed reading room, which has recently undergone restoration but remains largely as it was in the 1860s.

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I did manage to get over to RMIT to check out the fungus-like Storey Hall by ARM and catch a Terunobu Fujimori show at the gallery (that will surely get it's own post!) before the rain started and I retreated back to the hotel. By way of a teaser, here's me in the Fujimori tea house he and RMIT students built and installed in the gallery space.

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Photo by Jason Gec, a third-year student at RMIT and a hell of a nice guy.

 

I had tasty tapas at Bar Lourinha for dinner with Suze Healy of Melbourne Private Tours and then it was on to Madame Brussels for drinks (they're quite parsimonious with the hard stuff in Melbourne, check out my piddling Talisker) and a nightcap with Emilio Fuscaldo of Nest Architects on Meyers Lane, one of the first revitalized laneways, at The Loop. Off to bed. More tomorrow.

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