Melbourne, Australia: Day One

Melbourne, Australia: Day One

By Aaron Britt
After untold hours in the air, and an unexpected 4AM stop in New Caladonia, I finally arrived in Melbourne, Australia, to commence my architectural tour.

The flight was epic, and though a good book and a couple films were surely necessary, from the standpoint of design the best thing going on the Qantas flight was the Marc Newsom–designed dishes. The silverware is a bit space age, but fits the bill, but the coffee mug (above) was my favorite. It's short, squat form suggested low-to-the-ground motion (odd for an airline) and the meaty handle was just what you want to grab on to in turbulent skies. More on Marc in another post, though.

Upon arrival I dashed to the InterContinental Rialto on Collins Street to drop off my bag. The hotel itself is in Melbourne's bustling downtown and though it's not modern architecture, it's certainly an unusual building. Preserving an 1891 building's facade, the western wall of the interior is all brick and wrought iron. A massive canopy overhead makes the central space feel like a glassed-in piazza and the eastern wall mimics the old stuff, giving the hotel a huge central void that extends stories upon stories up.

From there I met Fiona Sweetman of Hidden Secret Tours for a two-hour romp around the city. From shops to laneways to skyscrapers it was the proper tour. In the past decades Melbournians have reclaimed once-underused laneways and revitalized them into commercial centers and hubs of local cool. I had a mean macchiato (the coffee culture here is quite literally insane) at Jungle Juice in Central Place laneway ( above left).

Highlights included the Eureka Tower by local architect Nonda Katsalidis (below), the totally cardboard shop on Flinders Street of local skin care mavens Aesop and a very stiff and much-needed Old Fashioned at Toff in Town.

Another rather interesting building was Council House 2, a new construction that houses the offices of government workers (below). It was designed by the city's in-house design team with the collaboration of Design Inc.The panels on the facade help block the sun and give the building a variegated quality that so many public structures forgo. Its station next to the very traditional city hall makes the contrast of old and new all the more stark.

After a brief repose back at the hotel I was off for a late dinner and drinks with Andrew Maynard and Kevin Hui of 4site Architecture at a wonderful little Spanish joint in the near suburb of Carlton called Markov Place. I confess to having stayed out too late, and had too much local pinot noir than is good for a jet-lagged journo, but by way of an introduction to the city, the day could not be beat. Off to bed. More tomorrow.



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