Open House Melbourne is an annual event providing the public a free – and sometimes rare – opportunity to discover historic buildings nestled around the city. Its mission is to celebrate Melbourne’s culture through its architecture.
Last weekend, more than 100 buildings participated in Open House Melbourne 2013. Some of them, such as the stunning Manchester Unity Building, can only be visited during Open House Melbourne (OHM). Other buildings, such at the State Library of Victoria, are always open to the public, but open special areas that are not normally accessible.
Planning for OHM presents some challenges. The event runs just one weekend, the hours are generally 10am to 4pm, and there were 111 buildings throughout Melbourne. The OHM website has a list and map of the buildings and a description of each, but it’s not smooth to navigate. You can create an account and build an itinerary, which I did, as well as download the smartphone app. Then I discovered the website and app don’t communicate with each other and I had to rebuild my itinerary on the app. I hope they fix this for next year. Once armed with the app and Google Maps, I was able to more easily create a route in the CBD (i.e. What’s the next closest building on my list?). There was a program available for purchase (which was $10 this year), but I passed on it because it doesn’t necessarily help you map a route.
There are a couple of other things to keep in mind. First, for most buildings, you can just walk in and take a look around, but some can only be accessed by taking a tour, which may be offered every 20, 30, or 45 minutes and be limited to, say, 20 persons. This is going to slow you down. One site Theo and I wanted to visit was the Russell Place Substation, which offered a 20-people tour every 30 minutes. There was a long queue going around the corner and it would have been a few hours before we got in. So, we decided to skip it.
Second, some building tours are pre-allocated via a ballot system. The ballot opened on July 1 and closed July 18, about a week before I even heard of it. Naturally, these are the coolest places such as the previously mentioned Manchester Unity Building, behind the scenes tours of Federation Square and the National Gallery of Victoria, and the Fairhall House Museum. Next year, I’ll be ready! (I heard a caller on talk radio say that there’s a five year wait for the Manchester Unity Building. Could this be true?)
Theo and I both had engagements on Saturday and went to OHM on Sunday. In nearly six hours, we only visited four places. It just takes a while to get around, in and out, take a million photos, and we also paused for lunch. But it was well worth it. We both enjoyed it and will do it again next year.
You can see more of my photos on my Flickr. Most of them were taken with my point-and-shoot Canon. I snapped a few with my iPhone.
Did you go to Open House Melbourne? Which buildings did you visit?