It’s now been 10 years since Open House Melbourne first threw open its doors to a delighted, design curious city. In 2017’s anniversary edition, Annie Reid discovers how regeneration can keep changing a city for the better.
Words by Annie Reid
From humble beginnings to a packed anniversary program containing more than 200 buildings across Victoria, Open House Melbourne today also includes a year of design events all under the expert guidance of executive director, Emma Telfer and president, Tim Leslie.
While some buildings have remained a permanent fixture on the schedule, such as the well-loved and ever-popular Russell Street Substation, others have made way for a new generation to emerge. And browsing through the bumper program for 2017, regeneration emerges as a strong theme with buildings across every scheme becoming new again through excellence in design.
Tucked away amidst the railyards of Flinders Street Station, SIGNAL is one of the station’s last surviving signal boxes. It’s not what you’d expect to find as a creative studio hub for young people, considering it had been twice damaged by fire since it was decommissioned, and sat unused. But the City of Melbourne recognised its potential and in 2009, SIGNAL emerged from the shell of the former building to be converted into a studio for young people and artists.
It’s sustainable too with low VOC finishes, fresh air, rainwater collection for flushing toilets, reclaimed timber from city parks, and photovoltaic panels used for the computers, lighting and projectors. SIGNAL demonstrates how an older building can be made fit for a new purpose helping young people contribute to their city.
Eq. Tower, Melbourne
Dubbed the ‘rock star of the block’, it’s not hard to see why this new Elenberg Fraser residential skyscraper has captured imaginations – and sales. Bursting with more amenity than most, it features two plush karaoke suites, yoga studio, outdoor lap pool and outdoor spa, plus his’n’hers ‘secret’ communal spaces as part of 65 levels housing 700 residents.
Elenberg Fraser’s tour guide, Jeremy, explains that Eq. is: “Living in a community which is vertically stacked”. Its 203m height is made possible by a parametric design, where key parameters such as wind velocity, views and amenity are computer programmable, resulting in its impossibly high, unique hourglass form. As one of the first in a new generation of super tall buildings, Eq. rises to the challenge.
New Academic Street, RMIT University, Melbourne
Finding the right space for 83,000 students isn’t easy. Various additions to expand the current RMIT University city campus on Swanston Street had created a hotch potch of facilities since it was built in the 1960s, until construction started three years ago on the NAS Project by a team of Australian leading architect practices. The project will finish next month, and features laneways mimicking the city’s streetscapes along with a new library, media precinct, rooftop terraces and food and beverage restaurants, maximised by natural light, fresh air and design efficiencies.
Gone are the grey brick walls and in their place a kaleidoscope of colour, texture and tone, creating new forms of regeneration to inspire and provoke. A great touch is the pop-up retail space available for students and alumni to sell their own work, adding to the fabric of community engagement. As a result, the heart of the campus has been transformed and better services are now a given for every student and stakeholder.
Westbury Street Green Roof, St Kilda East
One of the only apartment buildings on the street with a flat, concrete roof, this 1950s building was a prime candidate for a retrofitted green roof. The residents of the building’s 23 apartments successfully received a government grant for the project, which they used to work with architects and Fytogreen to transform what was an urban wasteland into a verdant garden and leisure space.
The space also includes plant life, a hammock, vegetable garden and lawns, and won the Built Environment category in the 2016 Premier’s Sustainability Awards. Resident, Troy, says his favourite area is the timber deck: “It’s where all the conversations happen”. Residents have also enjoyed yoga classes and New Year’s Eve parties on the roof, creating an inspired – and simple – solution to regenerate a local community and Melbourne at large.
About the Author: Annie Reid
Annie Reid is a qualified journalist, professional copywriter and published author with a passion for everything bricks and mortar. For many years, she’s written thousand of stories for newspapers, magazines and clients around the world. Somewhere between the heady buzz of headlines and deadlines, she discovered a niche for creating tailor made content for the property, real estate, architecture and design industries. Annie holds a Bachelor of Arts and is currently studying a Masters in Publishing and Communications, both from the University of Melbourne.