Open House Melbourne's programming exists on what always was and always will be the land of the people of the Kulin nation. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging, as well as to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the wider Naarm community and beyond. Indigenous sovereignty has never been ceded in so-called Australia and we are mindful of this in everything we do, given our focus on the modern built environment.
On this interactive map, you'll be guided by architects and urban designers as you stroll the city at any time that you like — either physically or in your imagination. If you choose to follow the tours in-situ, a few things to keep in mind as you immerse yourself in the experience:
This tour will take you on a loop beginning at Evan Walker Bridge (Southbank), through Federation Square and up to the 'Paris end' of the city through back laneways. From Spring St, head West or take a brief tram ride alighting at Bourke Street Mall. Then, back to Birrarung (Yarra River) via some historic arcades: Royal Arcade, the Block Arcade and the walkway underneath Flinders Street Railway Station. There are plenty of opportunities for coffee, food and wine pit stops along this tour. Some parts of this tour are indoors (eg. Chocolate Buddha, Royal Arcade), with limited or restricted access but there's still plenty to listen to from outdoors.
Peter Maddison is an architect, former host of Grand Designs Australia and a champion of good design. He is the founder and director of Maddison Architects — a practice renowned for its award-winning hospitality projects. Peter Maddison is Open House Melbourne's ambassador, and generously dedicates so much time to raising the profile of our organisation for which we're very grateful.
Peter Maddison's tour begins on the South side of Evan Walker Bridge. Previously known as the Southbank Pedestrian Bridge, renamed in 2015 in honour of former planning minister Professor Evan Walker who was instrumental in developing the Southbank precinct.
One of the oldest river crossings in Melbourne. Peter ties this "really significant location" to the history of Victoria. He points out various 19th Century design elements, including the faultless Harcourt granite. Peter also directs our attention to the current site of Federation Square (the next stop on the tour); click through to this 1996 image to see the Gas and Fuel buildings that were demolished in 1997 to make way for Federation Square.
Peter provides some background about the design of Federation Square, which was completed in 2002 and designed by Lab Architects. Peter describes Paul Carter's artwork Nearamnew, comprised of sandstone tiles that form the ground of the square; and, the underground concrete "labyrinth" which provides air circulation and a natural heating and cooling system for the indoor Atrium space (which you'll visit at one of the upcoming tour stops).
Maddison Architects updated the fitout of Chocolate Buddha in 2019. Peter takes us inside the restaurant to point out key parts of the interior design.
Note: Our indoor tour of the restaurant was prearranged. You might choose to listen to this audio while having a meal at the restaurant (check their website for opening hours), or you can listen from outside while wandering Federation Square. You can see photos and videos from inside the restaurant on the Maddison Architects website.
This freestanding structure is one of the few new pieces of infrastructure that have been installed in Federation Square since its opening. The canopy was designed to let sun in during winter, and exclude sun during summer. It doesn't touch any surrounding walls or structures, and Maddison Architects designed the Cloud Canopy to be able to be removed easily.
Peter says The Atrium is one of his favourite spaces in the city.
Peter talks about Hosier Lane's vibrant street art, and the connections between Melbourne's laneways and the hospitality industry. You're encouraged to listen to this audio while walking from Flinders Street through to Flinders Lane. Take a detour down Rutledge Lane on your way through.
The "hospitality hotspot of Melbourne". Peter cites some examples of the restaurants in Flinders Lane, such as Cecconi's, Cumulus, Kisume and Chin Chin. Looking west from this location, you can see the Adelphi Hotel and its above-ground swimming pool.
This part of the tour was recorded in the foyer entrance to Gimlet, a restaurant and bar in Cavendish House. Check Gimlet's website for opening hours if you'd like to have a drink or meal while you listen to this audio, or you can stroll outside the building and look up at the large "Chicago-esque" windows designed in the 1920s as a department store display.
The interior fitout of Gimlet was designed by Acme & Co. You can see photos of the space on their website.
If it's safe for you to do so, we recommend listening to this audio from the northeast corner of Flinders Lane and Exhibition Street, or from the traffic island (halfway across the pedestrian crossing between the west and east sides of the street — which is where the map location for this stop of the tour is set to). That way, you'll be able to look up to view the facade of "41X" or 41 Exhibition Street, designed by Lyons Architects and housing the Australian Institute of Architects.
100 Collins Street was designed to be finished in time for the 1956 Olympic Games. Peter says this building was considered the "bee's knees"; its non-loadbearing curtain wall glass facade is an example of midcentury architecture enabled by post-WWII advances in reinforced concrete and steel manufactory technologies.
Peter also looks southward across the road to 101 Collins Street. This 57-storey building designed by Denton Corker Marshall features a "frivolity" of four granite columns that don't touch the front of the building.
This location is the site of Nauru House, designed by Perrott Lyon Timlock & Kesa (previously known as Perrott Lyon Mathieson) and opened in 1977. Its 52-storey building that was the tallest building in Melbourne at the time.
Peter stands in the "extraordinarily close" 3-metre gap between the multiple buildings that are part of the 80 Collins Street Precinct. He says the small gap is enabled by the same private ownership of the multiple buildings, and it's an example of street activation.
Now at the "top end" of Collins Street, Peter discusses The Melbourne Club — a "gentleman's club" established in 1838. The club's purpose-built building was designed by Leonard Terry in 1859 in a Renaissance Revival style. The bay-windowed dining room was added in 1885. Perhaps more significant is the outdoor garden space behind the club — to be discussed at the next tour stop.
Looking southward across Collins Street, Peter also describes Collins Place. The mixed-use development was designed by I. M. Pei in the 1970s. The two high-rise towers — 35 and 55 Collins Street — are set at a 45-degree angle to the Hoddle Grid, making way for open spaces covered by a space frame that Peter says was "as groundbreaking as the buildings themselves".
Note: To access the next tour stop, use the walkway through 30 Collins Street (Monash University Conference Centre) which will take you through to Ridgway Place.
On a small site of 101 square metres, this building houses the Consulat de Monaco. It was designed by McBridge Charles Ryan and completed in 2007. It overlooks the Melbourne Club's garden, including the historic plane tree — planted in the 1890s and on the National Trust's Register of Significant Trees of Victoria. From Monaco House, look across Ridgway Place and you'll see the large plane trees hanging over the Melbourne Club's red brick wall.
Another significant site in Ridgway Place is the Lyceum Club, a "professional women's club" established in 1912. The building was designed by club member Ellison Harvie and opened in 1959. Kerstin Thompson Architects added a rooftop garden room in 2018.
And before you move on to the next stop, make sure to take a seat in the smallest park in Melbourne!
Also known as the 'Italian Waiters Club'. Peter explains some of the colourful history of this popular late-night restaurant. To its left, you'll see a roller door. Now closed, it used to house a bar called Meyers Place — designed by Six Degrees Architects with a minimalist fitout comprised of secondhand materials recycled from other jobs. It was one of the first bars in Melbourne that "float out onto the street", reflecting changes in liquor licensing in the 90s.
A chance for a pit stop at one of the many venues at this location: Spring Street Grocer, City Wine Shop, The European, Melbourne Supper Club and Siglo. Peter recommends these venues not only for their hospitality but also the interiors — and if you get a chance to head upstairs you'll be rewarded with a view over the parliamentary precinct.
From here, head down Bourke Street. Stroll, roll, or you can take an 86 or 96 tram to Bourke Street Mall (Stop 5, Elizabeth St/Bourke St) to get to Royal Arcade.
Note: Check the Royal Arcade website for opening hours.
This light-filled shopping strip was designed in the 19th Century by Charles Webb. At the southern (Little Collins Street) end of the arcade, you'll find timber statues of mythical figures Gog and Magog who guard the large Gaunt's Clock and become animated as the clock chimes every hour. Peter witnessed Gog and Magog at midday and we recommend you time this tour stop to coincide with the clock striking the hour — which will next happen in minutes!
The Royal Arcade is part of the "Golden Mile" heritage walk, which you can experience through this Museums Victoria's MV Tours A Walk Through History app.
Designed by architects Twentyman and Askew, the Block Arcade was named after the late-19th Century trend of "doing the block". Here, Peter points out the ornate floor tiling and octagonal windowed roof.
Looking up to the second storey of this building, Peter points out the 1932 ceramic tile mural by Napier Waller that reads "I'll Put A Circle Round About The Earth".
To the right, you'll find Emirates House (257 Collins Street). Through there, you can access the "sneaky" back entrance to Brunettis Cafe which will take you through to Flinders Lane. Then, head south on Degraves Street and cross Flinders Street to get to the final stop on Peter's tour: the Flinders Street subway.
To the right of the ticketed station entry, head down the stairs to the subway that takes you underneath the railway tracks and through to the Yarra River — back to Evan Walker Bridge and completing the loop of this tour.
At this final stop, Peter says he loves these "lost spaces" of the city that are only used by pedestrians. He points out some of his favourite details, like the wall tiles and signage — some of which "don't add up!"
Many thanks to Peter Maddison for hosting this tour, which was presented in partnership with Maddison Architects.
Beginning at MPavilion Docklands, passing the Mission to Seafarers and Webb Bridge before crossing Birrarung (Yarra River) via Seafarers Bridge towards Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. From there, a stroll along the pedestrian and cycleways along Southbank to Hamer Hall and the Arts Precinct. Back across the river via Princes Bridge to Federation Square, Birrarung Marr and over Tanderrum Bridge to end the tour at the Melbourne and Olympic Park precinct.
Jill Garner has 40 years experience as an architect. In 2015, she became the Victorian Government Architect and has maintained a hands-on role in many significant projects including the Melbourne Arts Precinct Regeneration, Melbourne Olympic Park masterplan rollout and the State Government review of Federation Square.
Hamish Lyon is a founder and Director at NH Architecture. Hamish led NH's delivery of Stage 1 and 2 of the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre expansion, and led the design direction for the redevelopment of the Melbourne and Olympic Parks sporting facilities including a major upgrade of Margaret Court Arena.
Jill and Hamish introduce us to their intentions for this tour: exploring stories and concepts behind public architecture projects — some of which the two have worked on together. Jill says big public projects often come down to a "moment of funding" where someone says "let's put money into this type of project", and she wants to shine a light on the people, policies and attitudes that have been instrumental in shaping the city.
Hamish draws our attention to the 2015 MPavilion, designed by London architect Amanda Levette of AL_A. This is "MP2", the second iteration after its inaugural season in 2014. MPavilion is an annual architecture commission and meeting place in Queen Victoria Gardens; each structure is then permanently relocated. You can learn more about it on the MPavilion website.
Jill talks about the Spanish Mission style of this building, its history, and how the Mission to Seafarers is currently transforming itself by re-orienting; instead of the front entrance facing Wurundjeri Way, the Mission plans to face towards the river instead.
If you'd like to see inside, check the Mission to Seafarers website for opening hours.
You might choose to stroll/roll across Webb Bridge. Or, stand back from the river's edge and appreciate its artistic eel trap-inspired structure designed by artist Robert Owen in collaboration with Denton Corker Marshall.
Originally named 'the New Convention Centre Bridge' and designed as a pedestrian and cycle link from Docklands to Southbank as part of the Melbourne Convention Centre delivery. Designed by Grimshaw.
Looking south from Seafarers Bridge, you have a vantage on the first stage of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, designed by NH Architecture and Woods Bagot. Hamish explains how MCEC fits into the government's longterm lease-to-buy strategy of Public Private Partnerships.
Jill provides some background about the site, known colloquially as "Jeff's Shed" thanks to then-premier Jeff Kennett's decision to relocate the planned Melbourne Museum site to its current home in Carlton Gardens, and instead place the convention centre in the heart of the city.
Hamish discusses Stage Two of the MCEC development, including the gold roof which evokes both the Golden Wattle, an important local plant species, and Victoria's gold rush history.
You're encouraged to listen to this audio while walking alongside the convention centre, travelling eastward towards Clarendon Street.
An overhead helicopter allows Hamish an opportunity to provide some more insight into the MCEC design — this time, the acoustics of the roof!
Jill then goes on to explain how the design of Crown included a "sleeve" around the casino that provided a "finer grain" of retail and hospitality along the riverside promenade. Hamish and Jill agree that this is a unique casino design that improves the walkability and amenity of the public realm.
This historic bridge originally carried a railway across the river. It now houses Nadim Karam's artwork The Travellers.
Jill says architects refer to this bridge as "the coathanger bridge". The parabolic arch was designed by Cox and Carmichael. Previously known as the Southbank Pedestrian Bridge, renamed in 2015 in honour of former planning minister Professor Evan Walker who was instrumental in developing the Southbank precinct.
Jill also talks about David Yencken and Evan Walker's partnership, and the ways they worked to "elevate the pedestrian". Jill and Hamish agree that David Yencken was a "pioneer" in focussing on Melbourne's potential as a ground-based city. You can read more about David Yencken, who passed away in 2019, in this obituary.
Jill and Hamish tell us some of the history of this site, including Roy Grounds' original vision for a largely underground building — which couldn't be realised because of the "swampy ground" at this location.
Hamish says Arts Centre Melbourne is referred to as a "bathtub" because it's effectively floating in swampy water — with metal girders sunk down to bedrock to hold it up. These girders are electrified to prevent rust. Just one of many engineering feats required to keep this building afloat and functional.
Jill says Princes Bridge is one of Heritage Victoria's "most important bridges". She explains its iterations, and how they connect to Melbourne's history.
Jill describes Federation Square as part of the 1990s "visions for the river". Its construction in the early 2000s required the 1997 demolition of the Gas and Fuel Buildings that were previously on this site.
Jill says this 1909 boat shed is the oldest rowing club in Australia, and as a rare example of an early 20th Century boat shed it's "an important piece of heritage for Melbourne".
She directs our attention to the left of the boat shed where, in 2012, a discrete "companion" building was added by Lovell Chen which Jill says is a strong example of contemporary intervention on a heritage building.
This installation of 39 upturned bells was created for the Centenary of the Federation of Australia in 2001. The Federation Bells were designed by sculptor Anton Hasell and Neil McLachlan in collaboration with Swaney Draper Architects.
Landscape architecture by Taylor Cullity Lethlean.
This bridge was constructed as part of the Melbourne and Olympic Parks works. Hamish and Jill describe this bridge as part of the civic journey connecting Southbank and Federation Square to the sports precinct.
Looking southwest from the bridge from this location, you might be able to spot Speaker's Corner.
Hamish discusses NH Architecture's 2014 redevelopment of Margaret Court Arena.
This is the final stop on Hamish and Jill's tour. Together, they discuss the impressive engineering of the undercroft of this multipurpose venue.
Open House Melbourne 2023 July Weekend Collective City: On Saturday 29 July 2023, you can go "behind the veil" of Melbourne Park.
Beginning at the Shrine of Remembrance. After a detour to the purpose-built Melbourne Recital Centre and Melbourne Theatre Company buildings, Ian and Jesse guide us from south to north along St Kilda Road/Swanston Street. From Hamer Hall, you an either stroll or take a tram to what Jesse calls "ARM corner" (Melbourne Central, Storey Hall and RMIT's "Green Brain") before ending at the Barak Building. Along the way, Dr Conrad Hamann puts ARM's work in the context of compelling anecdotes from the history of the city's architecture.
Some parts of this tour are indoors (eg. Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne Recital Centre, Hamer Hall), with limited or restricted access but there's still plenty to listen to from outdoors.
Ian McDougall is a founding director and Jesse Judd is a director of Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM Architecture), an award-winning architecture, urban design and interior design practice known for innovative, vibrant, and courageous design.
Dr Conrad Hamann is Associate Professor of Architectural History and History of Urban Design at RMIT University.
From outside the Shrine of Remembrance, Ian and Jesse discuss ARM's transformation of the site "from a monument to a visitor experience" — including accessible entry for returned servicepeople.
Conrad sheds some light on the history of the Shrine, which was designed by architects Philip Hudson and James Wardrop who were both returned soldiers. Their vision was inspired by the Mausoleum of Helicarnassus and other Hellenistic monuments.
The "very strict heritage controls" on the Shrine guided ARM's choices on how to develop the site. Rather than building a visitor centre next to the Shrine, they returned to the original design scheme which included four bastions at the corners that were never built. ARM took this idea, but instead of four raised areas they installed four sunken gardens which lead to the undercroft area.
The next few stops on this tour take us inside the Shrine, see their website for visitor details. If you're here outside of visitor hours or you choose not to go inside, we encourage you to listen to this audio while exploring the outdoor areas and surrounding gardens.
Open House Melbourne 2023 July Weekend Collective City: On Saturday 29 July 2023, you can uncover even more of the Shrine's lesser-known design elements at Hidden in Plain Sight: Rediscovering the Shrine of Remembrance.
These Shrine interiors were not originally intended to be visited or seen by the public. With their revamp, ARM took some of the spaces from "dirt" to what they are today. Ian and Jesse point out some of the previously-hidden details, such as the drawings and notes left by the labourers who worked on the site's original construction.
From inside the Shrine, Ian and Jesse look towards the administrative offices and the Terrace Garden which is planted with species native to South-East Asian conflict locations (with landscape architecture by Rush Wright).
Jesse discusses the need to have a transitional space for student groups to gather and acclimatise to the Shrine site before moving in to the auditorium.
Ian, Conrad and Jesse take us into the auditorium and explain the way Sadako Sasaki's origami cranes inspired the design of the acoustic panelling. Note that the auditorium may not be open to the public, but you can see a photo of the space on ARM's website.
They also discuss the various narratives of service and conflict that have informed their designs. Without glorifying experiences of war, but still wanting to evoke the "sublime" in reflective visitor experiences.
The Shrine of Remembrance was built on an artificial hill. This elevation provides a strong vantage to view the Hoddle Grid. Jesse encourages us to "zoom out for a minute", looking towards "politics and sport" (Parliament and the Melbourne Sports Precinct) to the east, and "beer" (the former Carlton United Brewery) to the north. At the former CUB site we see a picture of William Barak on the facade of the 31-storey apartment building that will be the final stop on this tour.
Conrad mentions early plans for both the Carlton United Brewery and Shrine of Remembrance sites, which were illustrated by Harold Desbrowe in For Every Man His Home.
Ian tells us that the sightline along the Swanston Street axis towards the Shrine of Remembrance is protected.
From here, you can either stroll/roll 1km, or take a tram along St Kilda Road for part the journey to our next location — Melbourne Recital Centre.
Ian takes us inside Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, the 1,000-seat purpose-built chamber music space inside Melbourne Recital Centre, and provides some insight into the acoustic design of the space.
Melbourne Recital Centre performance spaces are closed to the public outside of ticketed events. We encourage you to listen to this while touring the perimeter of the building and taking in the facade — also designed by ARM. You can see photos and learn more about the design (including a video tour with Ian) on ARM's website.
Open House Melbourne 2023 July Weekend Collective City: On Sunday 30 July 2023, you can make the most of the open access and guided tours of Melbourne Recital Centre.
From outside, we get further insights into the Melbourne Recital Centre Design. Ian, Jess and Conrad also discuss the design of Melbourne Theatre Company's Southbank Theatre — originally conceived as a single, hybrid building. ARM chose instead to create two distinct identities for the neighbouring buildings, though the back-of-house is integrated and connected via doorways and tunnels.
They also discuss the streetside shopfronts; the cafes and restaurants were deliberately installed to be outward-facing, allowing them to trade independently and contribute to the public vibrancy of the precinct.
From the Recital Centre/MTC, you can look across Southbank Boulevard to the NGV — one of the sources of the Arts Precinct bluestone that ARM chose to reference in their Recital Centre facade design.
Conrad gives us some historical insights into the NGV design, including the idiosyncratic tower at the corner of Southbank Boulevard and Sturt Street.
You're encouraged to listen to this audio while walking along St Kilda Road past NGV International towards Hamer Hall (the next stop on this tour).
Ian discusses ARM's redevelopment of Hamer Hall (which you can read more about on their website) including some history of the building.
Check the Arts Centre website for opening hours and visitor information.
To get to the next location from here, you can take a free tram along Swanston Street from Federation Square/Flinders Street Station to Melbourne Central/State Library Victoria (La Trobe Street).
Ian and Jesse tell us about ARM's Melbourne Central redevelopment. When department store Daimaru left the site, ARM turned the empty shopping centre "back into a piece of Melbourne" with additional entrances, public furtniture and laneways.
They also turn their attention to Storey Hall, which ARM redeveloped in the mid-90s. Originally built in 1887 as Hibernian Hall, ARM used design elements like a non-repeating Penrose Tile pattern and hosiery-inspired bronzework to link the site's history to RMIT's "future thinking" contemporary vision. You can see an image of the reworked auditorium interior on ARM's website.
And above RMIT's Building 22, on the corner of La Trobe and Swanston streets, is what's known as the "Green Brain". Jesse and Ian talk about how projects like these connect to ARM's mission to use innovative technologies in building design. This use of computer modelling went on to inform their later works such as the Melbourne Recital Centre and Barak Building.
The final stop on this tour.
From the Victoria Street side, you can see William Barak's portrait on the facade of the building — as seen from the Shrine of Remembrance, which, looking south along the Swanston Street axis you'll be able to look back to the location from the beginning of this tour.
Jesse and Ian discuss the design and cultural consultancy process with Barak descendent and Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Doreen Garvey-Wandin, and look at the discs at the base of the building, which both reference the neighbouring RMIT Building 100 (designed by Sean Godsell), as well as spelling "Wurundjeri, I am who I am" in braille.
The street address of the building is 555 Swanston Street, from which you can see the facade of the heritage-listed Carlton United Brewery Malt Store.
Many thanks to Ian McDougall, Jesse Judd and Dr Conrad Hamann for hosting this tour, which was presented in partnership with ARM Architecture.
On this tour, you'll visit the three Birrarung Trial Floating Wetlands that are part of the Greenline Project. The Greenline will eventually stretch along the north bank of Birrarung (Yarra River) between Birrarung Marr and Victoria Harbour, adjacent to Naarm's CBD.
The Greenline team are actively working to develop the wetlands habitat and log data to inform the project. As the young plants grow and wildlife inhabit the environment, these sites are in flux; they'll likely change from one visit to the next and depending on seasons, tides and another local conditions. While listening to the discussions at each location you're encouraged to spend time observing local wildlife. Visit the Birrarung Trial Floating Wetlands project on iNaturalist to see what other visitors have noticed, and you can contribute your own observations too. You can also find more info about species selection and wildlife monitoring for the Birrarung Trial Floating Wetlands on this self-guided tour booklet.
Yijun Lu is a Senior Landscape Architect at the City of Melbourne, working on the Greenline Project team.
Jacinta Humphrey is an urban ecologist and PhD candidate at La Trobe University. She is monitoring wildlife at the Greenline floating wetlands, gathering data about the river ecosystem.
Dr Tom Headley is a "wetland doctor" specialising in constructed wetlands. With Wetland + Ecological Treatment Systems (WETSystems), Tom is a contractor for the Greenline Project. WETSystems designed, installed and planted the floating wetlands.
Tom discusses the design of the constructed floating wetland, which you can see by looking northwest from the water's edge.
The floating wetlands are made from a series of interlocking platforms that are placed on the water and securely anchored to the riverbed. These platforms feature water-loving plants specially selected for the relative salinity and conditions at each location, and design features like ramps and perching structures designed to provide access and attract birds and other wildlife.
Jacinta looks out for birds — and encourages us to look out for rakali water rats after dark! — and Tom fills us in about the planting choices that are designed to entice local wildlife.
This floating wetland is further out in the water than at the other two locations visited on this tour. Yijun talks about some of the history of this wider section of Birrarung (Yarra River), and the goals for the Greenline experience at this location.
Jacinta spots some seagulls perched on the floating wetlands. She encourages us to visit the iNaturalist project, where you can help the team with their research by logging your own wildlife spotting.
This is the final stop on the Greenline tour. Nearby, you can continue strolling the city with: