Sunday, September 15, 2013

Melbourne

Southern Cross Station
Southern Cross Station. Photo ©Darren Bradley
First off, apologies for the long absence. I was in Australia again, as I mentioned earlier. I had this crazy idea that I would be diligently taking photos and editing them and posting them to new blog entries every couple of days while I was over there. But of course, I didn't do any of that. 



Southern Cross Railway Station
It's all about the roof. Interior view of Southern Cross Railway Station. Apparently, photography inside the station is not allowed, as I was informed by a nice security guard about 3 seconds after taking this photo. Even the security guards are nice in Australia. Photo ©Darren Bradley. 

In fact, I really didn't have much time to take photos at all. My day job got in the way and I spent most of my time sitting in an office and various conference rooms in several Australian cities.  In case you're curious, conference rooms in Australia look just like conference rooms in America. I didn't bother to photograph any of those. 
Melbourne Recital Centre
Photo ©Darren Bradley



Melbourne Museum
Seems like everything in Melbourne is described as being "...the __________ (biggest, tallest, largest, best, most awesomest, etc.) thing in Australia / the Southern Hemisphere. This is apparently the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere (although I think the National Gallery of Victoria was also claiming that title). In any case, I'm guessing this little guy would agree. Photo ©Darren Bradley

But I did have a couple of days in both Melbourne and Sydney to see the sights and spend time with friends. I'll post a few entries about that over the next couple of weeks. First up is Melbourne, where I spent the first couple of days after my arrival. 


Melbourne Museum
Another view of the Melbourne Museum - Looking towards the main entrance this time. I liked those crazy wings overhanging the plaza, and covering the Forest Gallery (previous photo). Photo ©Darren Bradley

I am familiar with Australia but had never been to Melbourne. Everyone told me I should go. "Lots of great architecture to see there!", said just about every person who's ever been there. "The most European city in Australia!" and "Best food and coffee scene in Australia" are the other two facts that everyone seems to know and recite whenever the age old topic of Sydney vs. Melbourne comes up. I made a point of testing all of those claims thoroughly. This will be about the first one, though: architecture. 


Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance is "Australia's Largest War Memorial" (again with the hyperbole). It was moving and beautiful to visit. A few years ago, a museum space was added below, accessed by two courtyards (one of which is seen here). They work very nicely to increase the drama of the original building. Photo ©Darren Bradley

There's no doubt about it- there's lots of modern architecture in Melbourne. You'd be hard pressed to find very much of it built before about ten or twenty years ago, however. There's very, very little mid-20th century modern architecture there. Before somebody writes me a note to tell me about this or that building, let me say that yes, I know there is some - including some great towers. But still, it's relatively little compared to other cities of its size. 


Looking Up #melbourne #cbd #architect #architecture #archdaily #midcentury #midmod #modernism #modern
The Royal Mail House (1963) stood out as one of the rare modernist high rise towers in the central business district of Melbourne. It's a beauty. Photo ©Darren Bradley

I've been told it's because Melbourne was much more conservative than Sydney in that regard. Yes, there are beautiful modernist homes in and around Melbourne, and there were fantastic architects working there in the post-war period (Roy Grounds, Peter McIntyre, and Robin Boyd are three that come to mind). And they did fantastic work. But they were limited to private homes, for the most part, and did very few large projects (I guess Roy Grounds is the exception to that rule... more on him later). 


National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria (above) was designed by Roy Grounds - one of Australia's pre-eminent modernist architects from the post-war period. Although most of what you see above was actually part of a 2002 renovation by Mario Bellini. I didn't take many photos of the NGV. Grounds' original design was a bit too classical for my taste. Photo ©Darren Bradley.

Anyway, I didn't have a car and really only explored the central business district (the Aussies call their downtown core of all their cities the CBD). And there, I was hard pressed to find much modern architecture built before about 1970. But there were a few things. Here are some of the examples: 


unimelb4
I figured if I was going to find mid-century modern architecture anywhere in Melbourne, the local university would be a good place to start. I was right. This building is apparently by the former staff architect on campus during the 1960s - Rae Featherstone. Thanks to Rohan Storey for the info. I couldn't find anything on him. By the way, the University of Melbourne is "Australia's Most Prestigious University". Photo ©Darren Bradley

unimelb3
The building that this sculpture is attached to was one of the nicer on campus. Wilson Hall, It's called, I think. Huge glass wall on the facade around the corner. Would have looked amazing at night, lit up. But I never got a chance to take a photo of that. So this is all there is. Photo ©Darren Bradley.

Mid-century modern church
Converted church near the apartment I rented in East Melbourne. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Melbourne Apartments
Modernist apartment building from the 50s or 60s, most likely. Seems well cared for. I just found it while walking one morning. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Victorian Arts Centre
The Victorian Arts Centre is another major public landmark and cultural institution by Roy Grounds. It's the one with the tall spire on top (which I also neglected to photograph). Anyway, this is a subterranean passage underneath it. That's the restaurant for the Arts Center on the right. Those glass walls provide diners with a panoramic view of... a dark concrete wall in a tunnel. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Flagstaff House
This must have been the official headquarters of the Mies van der Rohe Fan Club - Melbourne Chapter. They even copied the bronze color and the I-beams welded on the facade! I love it though. It's empty and threatened now, but it used to be the offices of the architectural firm of Yuncken Freeman. Photo ©Darren Bradley

OK, last one for now (but plenty more soon!). I walked over to the Olympic Park, site of the 1956 Summer Olympiad (which actually took place during our winter because of the hemisphere thing - little trivia for you...). I figured "1956... Olympics... must be a fair amount of modernist architecture over there." Nope. The Australian government refused to pay for the games so re-using existing facilities was the name of the game. Apparently, there was only one purpose-built structure for those games- this swimming pool: 


Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre
Famed Australian modernist architect Peter McIntyre won this job, along with Kevin Borland and Phyllis Murphy, as part of a contest. It's now used as an athletic facility and administrative offices for several local sports teams. It's supposed to be the subject of an addition here shortly, which should completely screw it up. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Enough for now. Part 2 of Melbourne tomorrow or whenever I get a chance to write it. 

4 comments:

heritagpoliceman said...

I wont list the many 50s-60s office towers in the CBD, but I will say that most of them are boring, so you probably just didnt notice them. Yes Melbourne was conservative in the sense that the architectural community was focussed on pure modernism, so what was called 'featurism' here (now known as 'googie') was frowned upon. So the good architects did the few good minimalist towers, and the others did plain ones, with just one or two doing more playful inventive things.

You missed the best by a few years - the Southern Cross Hotel was a zig-zag blue-tiled 'Jet Set' Hotel built 1963, where the Beatles stayed on their mass hysteria tour of Oz. It was designed by Welton Beckett, and was seen as very 'American', flashy, a bit too much. When the National Trust lobby group listed it in 1995, it was still popularly considered 'bad taste'. It was closed soon after and finally demolished in 2003, replaced by a a bland glassy office block.

Darren Bradley said...

Thanks. I actually did notice at least a half-dozen or so. Most of them were fairly unremarkable, to be honest, so I didn't photograph them. I just looked up that Southern Cross Hotel. It looked beautiful so it's sad to see how unappreciated it was in Melbourne. Can't believe that was considered 'bad taste' considering what else has been built there in the past ten years or so.

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