Saturday, November 29, 2014

Melbourne Revisited

Total Carpark
The Total Carpark by Bernard Joyce for Bogle & Banfield (1965). Photo ©Darren Bradley
I've already posted several times about my previous time in Melbourne. To be honest, I never really found it to be a very target-rich environment from an architectural photography perspective. While there's certainly a lot going on there in architecture, there are not a lot of mid-century modernist landmarks around the central business district. And the more recent architecture tends towards a flashy post-modern... Also, the weather was terrible every other time I was there. But anyway, on my most recent trip, I had beautiful sunny skies and most importantly - wonderful hosts and great company, who showed me some of the things I'd missed before. I have to say now that I love Melbourne. 

Total Carpark
A view of the Total Carpark from the street. This shot wouldn't be possible in the summer. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Now, I'm not saying that Melbourne is is really embracing its modernist heritage. The above building, which is a marvelous and rare example of Metabolist architecture outside of Japan, is pretty universally reviled by the Melbourne city government - who simply see it as an underdeveloped site with an ugly building on it. And unfortunately, many other important buildings have already been lost, such as the Southern Cross Hotel (below). 
In its prime in the 1960s, the flamboyant and sexy Southern Cross Hotel was THE place to stay in Melbourne. Its opening in 1962 was broadcast on live TV, and everyone who was anyone who came to Melbourne stayed there - from The Beatles to Frank Sinatra to world leaders. It was sold off in 1999 and demolished soon after. 
So, knowing Melbourne's checkered past with preservation, I made a point to revisit several buildings that I'd spotted previously but hadn't been able to photograph for various reasons (or had taken crappy photos of, due to the weather or sun position, etc.). 

One of them was this brutalist gem, the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union building on Victoria Boulevard. Definitely one of the most interesting examples of brutalist architecture I saw in Melbourne. It was also a pain in the ass to shoot well, because of that true and all the signs and everything in front of it. There was also a long row of trash bins out front, which I had to move out of the way before shooting this (they are piled up around the corner - sorry guys!) 
union building
Another shot that wouldn't be possible in summer, thanks to those damned trees. Also, this building faces south, so is almost never in the sun in the winter in Melbourne. I had to get up before sunrise for the 5 daily minutes when the sun hits it. Photo ©Darren Bradley
It was also an opportunity to visit an old favorite - Sean Godsell's RMIT Design Hub. Some have criticized this building for its scale and lack of street presence (yes, Rory, I know..!), and I understand and don't disagree. But it's such a visually striking and photogenic building, I just can't help but love it. 

The Future Was Here.
I wasn't really intending to take a photo of this place. I'd already taken plenty last time. But I was frustrated about striking out on a few things I'd wanted to shoot at the University of Melbourne, up the road, and passed by this as I was walking back to my hotel. The light was too good to pass up. Photo ©Darren Bradley
There's a lot of new construction going on in that part of town, both with the RMIT campus and with housing and other commercial buildings around it. Here's one of the more interesting new condo buildings I saw:
Yes, there's a little person standing up on one of those balconies, watching me. Photo ©Darren Bradley.
I also stopped by the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, a complex of buildings clad in Cor-Ten steel, for another shot to take a decent photo. I'd been here before. It's terrible to try to photograph on cloudy days (ask me how I know). Also, the people who work there like to park against the building, so there are frequently cars blocking the best angles. 
This innocent bystander initially tried to avoid me by walking behind me, out of the frame. But I told her to get out there and stand in front of the camera and act natural (tip: if you ever want a model to act awkward, tell them to "act natural"). She was a good sport and obliged. This project was designed by Wood / Marsh in 2002, for those keeping score at home. Photo ©Darren Bradley
And nearby, the local phallic symbol - the Arts Centre by Sir Roy Grounds. Not a huge fan of this project, but it's one of the obligatory things you almost HAVE to photograph when you're in Melbourne... Sort of the like Shot Tower. 
The obvious shot. #melbourne #australia #architecture #midcentury #modernism #modernarchitecture
OK, this is actually just a quick snap that I took with my iPhone 5. Sorry. I was too lazy to use my camera, even though it was actually hanging around my neck at the time. Sorry. Anyway, about this thing. It was supposedly going to be clad in copper or something, if I remember the story correctly. But I guess Sir Roy changed his mind at some point. Since it was initially approved in 1960 and took 13 years to START construction and another 11 years to finish, perhaps he was just ready to declare it done.
Photo ©Darren Bradley
And while I'm showing iPhone shots, here are a few more of the streets, as I was walking around...
Finally a church I can get behind. #melbourne #visitmelbourne #australia
Finally, a church I can support. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Post #melbourne #australian #australia #architecture #patterniseverywhere #midcentury #modernism #modernarchitecture
One of my favorite (and most underrated) buildings in the CBD is the Royal Mail House. Love those shadows. Photo ©Darren Bradley
#melbourne #australia #australianarchitecture #architecture
Yeah, I know, it's not modern. But c'mon... it's still pretty cool. I like it, anyway. See? I can still appreciate other kinds of architecture - sometimes... Photo ©Darren Bradley
Would look so much better without that other building next to it... #ICIhouse #melbourne #midcentury #modernism #modernarchitecture #australia
As I've said before, just about every city in the world has their own version of the Seagram's Building and/or the Lever House. In Melbourne, it's the ICI House by Sir Osborne McCutcheon of Bates Smart McCutcheon (1958). At the time, there was a strict height limit in the city, which this building exceeded. In fact, it was the tallest building in Australia at the time, and helped to push Australian architecture into the modern age. Anyway, it's called Orica House now, but whatever. I'll still call it ICI House. I was going to take a better photo of this with a real camera when the light was better and all, but that never happened so this iPhone snap is all you get from me. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Anyway, I mentioned the Shot Tower above, so here's my shot of it (bad pun). I didn't take a photo last time, but thought 'what the hell' this time, since the light was nice when I was passing through. 
Melbourne's most Instagrammed building, no doubt. This old brick tower shoots up through the middle of a large shopping model in the middle of the city, above a large transportation hub. Not really modern, either, but it is striking. It's enclosed in a glass roof. What is it called the Shot Tower, you may ask? Well, to make lead shot and other round munitions, they would drop bits of molten lead at the top, through a large tub of water. By the time the molten lead made its way down through the water of the tower, it would cool into a perfect ball. Lead shot. Photo ©Darren Bradley
And finally, there's pub called the Prahran Hotel (in Australia, pubs are often called hotels, even though they don't actually rent out rooms for the night).  This pub was recently redone in a most ingenious and interesting way. I knew about it before my previous trip, but never got a chance to get out there. So I made a point of taking a trip to see it this time. 
Wish I could have had those cars moved. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Close up. Photo ©Darren Bradley
All of those things are great, and warrant a visit to Melbourne on their own merits (not to mention the AMAZING Boyd House on Walsh Street (see my previous blog entry). But the whole point of this blog post was to talk about the awesome architecture tour that my friends Martin McIntosh (founder and owner of OutrĂ© Gallery), and Matthew and Catherine Bowers gave me of some of Melbourne's more modernist suburbs along the Yarra River, east of the city, as well as a tour of Martin and Louise's own beautiful, stunning modernist home in North Balwyn. 

No idea who designed this, but I love it. North Balwyn, I think. That's solid terrazzo used on the balcony, and probably inside, as well. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Another anonymous modern in North Balwyn. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Melbourne Modern
Another one in North Balwyn, I think. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Architect Keith Lodge's own residence in East Kew, restored to its original colors (1959). Photo ©Darren Bradley
Stargazer, by Peter McIntyre. It looks more or less in good condition here, but that's because you haven't seen the front door (or the interior, from what I hear). Photo ©Darren Bradley
This one, by Polish-born architect Kurt Elsner in the late 1950s, is in Kew. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Robin Boyd in Studley Park, here doing a nod to traditional Australian red brick homes with a modernist version that includes steel I-beams. Photo ©Darren Bradley
And another Robin Boyd-design - more international modern this time.
This is the Albert Date Residence in Studley Park. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Another modern home in Studley Park. This one is by Chancellor & Patrick. Photo ©Darren Bradley
This was probably my favorite from the tour. Check out that crazy cantilever. The perfect, minimalist glass box floating amongst the trees. This is the Guss Residence, by McGlashan & Everist (1961). Photo ©Darren Bradley
And since Martin, Matthew, and Catherine saw me gushing so profusely after seeing the house above, they all decided to cap off the tour with a visit to another McGlashan-designed home - the Heide Museum of Modern Art. 

The house is made of sandstone, and designed to fade into the surrounding landscape. The walls become less complete and less coherent as they literally fade away into the land surrounding the house. These walls become hidden alcoves where are ideal for displaying surprises, like sculptures. Photo ©Darren Bradley
I didn't know what to expect from the Heide Museum of Modern Art, but the main gallery we visited used to be the private home of the founders of the museum. It was designed from the start to be a sort of gallery that would one day become a museum, but it's extraordinary in how it still feels in many respects like a private home. And a stunning one, at that. 

Unfortunately, most of the photos that I took of this place were on a card that corrupted and I haven't recovered the images yet. I need to come back here, regardless, to take more photos and just watch how the light and shadows play through the rooms. 

Special thanks to Martin, Matthew, and Catherine for being such gracious hosts and especially so much fun to hang out with. I appreciate you guys taking the time to show me around. 
Martin & Matthew in front of the Heide Museum restaurant. Photo ©Darren Bradley


heritagpoliceman said...

Total House, your first image, has been saved ! It got on the Victorian Heritage Register, and then more lately the 60m height limit (like all others) was made mandatory rather than just a guide, and so the owners have withdrawn their application for a 70 storey tower. They even gave up their appeal against the heritage listing (they wouldnt have won). So Victory for the heritage lovers and professionals really, against the popular media and the Lord Mayor and the (then) Minister for Planning !

The Plumbers *& Gasfitters was already on the register.

Tom Adair said...

Hey, great post for mid-century archi lovers of Melbourne! Thank you.
Can you tell me what street that Kurt Elsner house is on?

Thanks, Tom

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Darren Demers said...

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