Our Open House Melbourne tour of the North

A hidden architectural delight, an enterprise for refugees and the heart of community radio – Open House Melbourne 2018. Let's dig in.

Published by Netta on 08/08/2018

Now in its 11th year, Open House Melbourne offers its citizens access inside iconic buildings that would otherwise have closed doors. Giving the opportunity to take a peek at interesting architecture, and learn the stories from within the interior of these spaces in our city. 

With over 220 buildings opening their doors, it was tough to choose what to visit on this year’s Open House Melbourne weekend. I decided to focus on one precinct, and visited 3 buildings in the north each offering a very different story. 

Image courtesy of Peter Bennetts

Starting off on a suburban street in East Brunswick, I was booked on a tour of Dark Horse designed by Architecture Architecture. Unassuming from the exterior, blending in with the other workers cottages next door, it isn’t until you enter, that the magnificent secrets of this design are uncovered. Generally speaking, the traditional Melbourne workers cottage would be a one level home, on a narrow block, consisting of a long dark corridor and little rooms off from one side. So as I step into Dark Horse, the first thing that hits me is, it is anything but dark. In the heart of the house, the living areas open onto a courtyard, the high-ceilinged corridors pinwheel out from this heart, establishing a sunlit centre around which most daily activity would occur. Architect Michael Roper tells us “the big challenge with a site like this is its only 4x7 meters wide; we really wanted to make sure this house felt spacious and light filled”. 

"It isn’t until you enter, that the magnificent secrets of this design are uncovered."

Images courtesy of Peter Bennetts

The colour palate and materials used flow from each zone and sliding doors & curtains hiding everyday things, ensure the clean modern aesthetic is kept. My favourite feature is the huge skylight in the timber stairwell, along with the one in the upstairs bathroom – framing the clouds and tricking the mind into feeling though you are outside. I have always wondered what it looks like inside one of these modern homes and coming on this Open House tour was a fantastic way of getting in, and to hear direct from the architect about the design was a real treat.

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Images courtesy of Peter Bennetts

Moving on to my next visit - Free to Feed in Thornbury, is a not-for-profit social enterprise that runs cooking classes. Empowering asylum seekers, to share their incredible culinary skills with the new community they are now part of, through group cooking sessions. In this purpose designed space, there is a warm feeling as soon as I walk in, a beautiful painted geometric patterned wall, open shelving and abundant natural light. The tables are purpose built to fold away and move into various combinations and terracotta pots hang from the ceiling concealing power points which connect cooktops and appliances when required. Free to Feed trains and employs 12 cooking instructors per year and after 12 months they’ll be supported to find sustainable employment in the industry. It’s a fantastic initiative and what better way to welcome these wonderful people to our city, by learning the stories from their countries, through the medium of food.  

"Empowering asylum seekers, to share their incredible culinary skills with the new community they are now part of, through group cooking sessions."
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Images courtesy of Jade Cantwell

The last stop on my Open House tour is at the Triple R radio station in East Brunswick. For more than 40 years Triple R has shaped and inspired the culture of Melbourne, airing music across every genre and talk shows with a real independent, community ethos. Getting inside this iconic building is a buzz and I am treated to a tour of every section of what once was a lingerie factory. Now split into a working office, broadcast studios and an impressive performance space. Arguably one of Melbourne’s best hidden music venues, specially engineered for the ultimate pristine sound experience, a lot of love and science has gone into making the space what it is, designed to catch and dissolve sound. The station’s CD library had to have the floor re-enforced and the vinyl room is any collector’s fantasy. The real magic happens in the studios and getting a glimpse at the equipment used, really puts into perspective all that goes into putting music to the airwaves. Triple R is a fully independent non-profit community radio station which relies on sponsorship and listener subscriptions to keep running so get online and support local radio.

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Left image, courtesy of Bre Teofilo
Right image, courtesy of Netta Justice

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"The real magic happens in the studios."

Open House Melbourne was an incredible way to learn more about the buildings surrounding me, to uncover the secrets within and I am already looking forward to seeing more next year.


Words by  Netta Justice
Images by Peter Bennetts, Jade Cantwell, Bre Teofilo & Netta Justice

Want to hear more stories of Melbourne and other dynamic cities in our network? Don't miss out on Issue 3, a perfect addition to your reading collection! 

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