When travelling throughout Australia there are certain places that simply cannot be skipped over, Melbourne is one of them. There are countless reasons why Melbourne should be at the top of your to do list but perhaps one of the lesser known is purely the architecture. Melbourne features a mix of traditional colonial design which is the perfect contrast to the modern design which has arisen in the last few decades. When visiting Melbourne, an architectural tour is the perfect way to see all sides of the city and understand what makes it so special. Below is the perfect tour specially curated for the readers of The Tropicalist which showcases the best of modern Melbourne architecture. This tour can be completed in an afternoon or in a beautiful leisurely day, stopping at some of Melbourne’s famous cafes and parks for a spot to eat and a place to sit.
The first stop on our tour showcases one of Melbourne’s most interesting buildings. Located in the Carlton gardens, the museum is in a direct contrast to its surroundings, which gives the building a beautiful sense of place. It is the largest museum in the southern hemisphere and it looks that way. The building was designed by Denton Corker Marshall architects and was completed in 2001 and the grid layout of the interiors reflect Melbourne’s iconic Hoddle grid. The large overhead veranda encapsulates the entrance of the building and draws you to engage in the huge outdoor paved areas. By making this design choice, the place becomes a fantastic meeting point and contrasts beautifully with the very traditional Royal Exhibition Building (have a sticky beak at that too while you’re there). Find a spot to sit on the perfectly manicured grass of the Carlton gardens and take a step back to appreciate the grandness of the building and its firm structure around so much nature. If you’re taking your time during the tour, walk down to our next stop Melbourne Central, the walk will take you through many coffee shops that are perfect for a bite to eat. Alternatively, the number 30 tram will take you to our next stop.
Arriving at Melbourne Central can be a daunting experience. People rush around this area 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They walk in every direction in between shops, cafes, restaurants and public transport. But what we are here to see is located right in the middle of all the action, the clock tower and the cone. Originally, the clock tower was built in 1881 and was last used as a functioning clock in 1961. In 2005, the center underwent a refurbishment to bring the essence of the clock tower and its surrounds into the 21st century. At this time, the construction of the glass cone began. It is the largest glass structure of its type in the world and is 20 stories high. When the center opened, the glass cone was referred to as the “’magic cone” and upon visiting here, you can see why. It creates the perfect back drop to the clock tower; the classic features of the clock tower sit in perfect contrast with the beautiful glass display behind it. From here, its time to journey to another iconic Melbourne shopping complex. If you have the time, walk through Melbourne central parallel to Swanston street (it’s a fantastic way to see more of the building) until you arrive at Melbourne Emporium. If your wanting to fit this tour into a short afternoon, simply jump on the tram on Swanston street, any of the trams heading towards Flinders Street will get you to our next destination; Melbourne Emporium.
Modern design really comes alive as you step through the incredibly modern Melbourne Emporium. The design concept by The Buchan Group was to create something that was “uniquely Melbourne” and it’s safe to say they achieved that. The crowning jewel of this center is surprisingly a food court. Normally experienced as a shopping centers dark corner, Emporium’s food court is a hub of intricate design and lighting that create an atmosphere of community. The food court is located on the top level, which gives it a sense of grandeur, with a fantastic view out of the window. It also plays with the conventional layout of a good court (vendors lining the outside, tables in the middle) by cutting through those “table spots” and placing well considered groupings of food and restaurants in the middle of the space. However, as you stroll through the center, you begin to notice it’s not the big picture stuff that makes this place special, it’s the details. The lighting and the choice of materials means that anywhere you are in the center, to get a great view all you have to do is look up. The placement of the walkways provides a fantastic shape as seen in the image below, which repeats consistently throughout the design. From here, we arrive at our final stop on the tour, which can be accessed once again either with a short walk in the same direction as last time (until you hit Flinders street) or a quick tram ride down Swanston.
Welcome to Federation Square. Truly the central meeting space of Melbourne. The space is lined by the Ian Potter museum, The Australian center of the moving image and the SBS headquarters (all fantastic if you have the time to check them out). But the best part of Federation Square is the people, unlike Melbourne Central, Fed square is a place where people meet to sit and have a conversation, have a coffee and get some fresh air, some open space in the confines of city life. The angular lines that are reflected in the pavement and both the SBS building and the ACMI provide a stark contrast to the back drop of Flinders street station and always gives your eye direction as it dances along the building facades. I encourage you to sit here for as long as you can and watch as the buildings reveal more and more of themselves the longer you take to look at them.
Thus concludes the modern architecture tour of Melbourne! There are so many fantastic buildings in Melbourne but there just isn’t enough time to see them all. I hope you enjoyed your experience in this fantastic Australian city, a city made of modern design which strives to preserve its heritage.