Melbourne, Australia: Day Three

Melbourne, Australia: Day Three

By Aaron Britt
Aaron Britt, our intrepid editor abroad, shares the sights seen on the third day of his architectural sojourn to Melbourne, Australia.

My third day in Melbourne was actually the one in which I spent much of my time outside the city. I met up with Susan Healy of Melbourne Private Tours for a jaunt south to the lovely, rural wine country of the Mornington Peninsula. Our first order of business was to visit a house in a small town called Somers by architect Rowan Opat. I won't divulge too many of the details now, but suffice it to say, Rowan's work is wonderful and it was a lovely visit. Expect to see more on it soon.

From Somers we drove the 15 minutes or so to the Montalto Vinyards in Red Hill (above). The winery's tasting room and restaurant were all rustic timber and modern sophistication, making me wish desperately that the wine country of Napa and Sonoma near home weren't  so thoroughly indebted to Tuscan retreads and contextless chateaus. The meal was great, the pinot noir better and the weather finer still.

We also made a stop in to Ten Minutes by Tractor, another nearby winery where the Chardonnay Reserve carried the day.

Once back in Melbourne, it was late afternoon, and as Sunday traffic was a bit hairy, I decided to take a stroll around the Arts Precinct and Federation Square before heading off to dinner.

Federation Square is a recent addition to the Melbourne landscape, a LAB Architecture–designed public space that has done a fair job of becoming one of the city's central hubs. Museums, cafes and a giant screen and stage that host concerts and show sporting events define the Libeskind-light design (I'm told he sat on the jury and was one of LAB's teachers), and though I can't say that I'm totally in love with all the buildings, I do love that Melbourne utterly went for it. A project of this scope, and in such a prominent location, could easily have gone from daring to beige under the scrutiny of town councils and meddling bureaucrats, but Fed Square's vision is strong and the execution solid. Melbourne set out to get some gutsy design, and that's just what it got. And though Fed Square has taken some flack for being an expensive eyesore, the throngs enjoying the live jazz and auto racing on a sunny Sunday looked happy enough to me.

Here's an interior of the Australian Center for the Moving Image at Fed Square.

One more exterior shot. I call it "Urban Fractals with White Jeans."

I think my favorite building I came across on my ramble was the Melbourne Recital Centre by Ashton Raggatt McDougall Architects. Its organic, honey-combed facade is sheer future, and RAM's Melbourne Theater Company building next door is another exercise in bisected facades and playful formalism. I really liked the pair of them. Here's the Theater.

And the Recital Hall.

With a belly full of architecture I then met up with Jon Baxter of Tourism Victoria for what turned out to be an eight-course meal at the very design-savvy restaurant Pearl in the Richmond Precinct. Between the great local wine, beer and the fact that I'm presently eating duck several times per day, if I don't come home with acute gout I'll be shocked. Off to bed. More tomorrow.



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