It seems 2013 will be the biggest year yet for Open House Melbourne, with more than 110 sites open – many of them welcoming visitors for the very first time. Recent additions to the programme include a brand spanking new office building, a tree house and a television studio.
171 Collins Street – a sparkling office tower behind the restored art deco Mayfair Building – is one of the major highlights. “It’s the first new office building in the ‘Paris end of Collins St’reet in over 20 years,” says Open House’s Robert Larocca. The site will be finished just in time for Open House, which means visitors will get a rare chance to tour the tower before the new tenants move in.
When Open House first began in Melbourne the team had to hustle to get buildings to open their doors, Larocca says. "Now it’s well understood that it’s a very successful programme and a good way to show off the wonders of your new building.”
Another favourite for Larocca is smaller in size, but not in style. “Little Black Number is a warehouse refit in North Melbourne built on a very small footprint of 5m by 16m. Which is pretty tiny for a place that’s got three bedrooms and two bathrooms.” It’s a unique site with an even more unique history, says Larocca. “It used to be the unofficial Libyan embassy.”
Heritage favourites like Manchester Unity and the Melbourne Town Hall are still on the programme, of course, but what’s so great about Open House is it showcases cutting-edge designs for new buildings as well as embracing the legacy of existing ones. The idea, says Larocca, is to arm the public with a more nuanced understanding of building design – new and old – so that we can take part in serious conversations about our city’s built environment.
“We have buildings from the 1800s, 1900s and from this century… It’s not just about old buildings, it’s about all buildings and how they contribute to the wonderful, functioning city that is Melbourne.”