Melbourne is a city that thrives on ideas and innovation. Fuelled by the imaginations of the city’s many designers, architects and artists, Melbourne is regarded as the creative hub of Australia and a ‘design city’. Evidence of fresh and often fearless design can be seen in the city’s art, architecture, street art, design events and fashion.
In architecture, Melbourne has become known as a city that isn’t afraid to take risks, home to an inspiring mix of grand, elegant, heritage architecture and bold, striking, contemporary buildings.
Perhaps the most famous example of modern architecture in the city is Melbourne’s Federation Square - arguably the most complex and ambitious construction project ever undertaken in Australia. Comprising an entire city block, the bold and audacious design is the work of Lab Architecture in conjunction with one of the most established architectural practices in Australia, Bates Smart. A square for civic and cultural activities and events, Federation Square is recognised internationally as one of the world's great public spaces.
More recently, Cox Architecture’s AAMI Park, has been recognised for its innovative cloud-like, colour-changing exterior. A multi-sports stadium in Melbourne’s sports precinct, the stadium is a real talking point and won the top national award for public architecture at the National Architecture Awards in early November 2011.
In fact Victorian architects walked away with eight awards at the National Architecture Awards including NH Architecture’s Myer Bourke Street redevelopment, which took the national award for commercial architecture, Denton Corker Marshall for residential architecture for its zinc-clad Gallery House, and Hayball in the multiple housing category for its John Street Box Hill development.
Along with modern and classical architecture, Melbourne is also regarded as one of the top fifteen cities in the world for Art Deco architecture. The interest in this genre is such that visitors can now undertake a walking tour to learn all about Melbourne’s Art Deco heritage. Part of MELtours walking tour program, Melbourne Art Deco Architecture Tour provides a fascinating insight into the history of Art Deco in the city, its influence on design, construction methods and the history of the occupants of some of Melbourne’s inter-war buildings. Melbourne landmarks visited on the tour include the iconic Manchester Unity building on Collins Street and the T&G building on the corner of Collins and Russell Streets.
Another way for visitors to view Melbourne’s important architectural masterpieces is to take advantage of the annual Melbourne Open House which celebrates Melbourne’s architecture and design by unlocking up to 75 important city buildings with more openings promised for 2012. Held in July, free access is available to many famous landmarks. Some of the buildings that have been involved include: Block Arcade, Federation Square, Geyer Studio, Manchester Unity Building, Melbourne Town Hall, Capitol Theatre, Russell Place Substation, St Michael’s Church, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Melbourne Athenaeum in central Melbourne.
And though dates for 2012 are yet to be announced, Melbourne’s design credentials are also celebrated annually at the State of Design Festival. The Festival, which was launched in 2004, aims to increase the awareness of the value of design by demonstrating how design in Melbourne generates innovation, promotes sustainability and adds value to business and society. This year’s festival ran for 11 days in July and presented a highly focused program of workshops, forums, exhibitions and events.
No city could call itself a city of design without having a significant number of people creating things. In Melbourne, these are the people who set up and participate in arts and crafts markets and design events, who create zines and independent publications, who start labels and set up shops, who build, draw and make, who write blogs, who exhibit their work and bring their art onto the streets.
So dense and multi-faceted is Melbourne’s network of artist and designer workshops and studios that in recent years there has been an explosion of tours that coincide with the expansion of innovative galleries, artist-run spaces and artists’ studios in Melbourne’s inner precincts.
Art Aficionado is a Melbourne-based team of dedicated art curators that run art tours in Melbourne visiting the city’s best commercial galleries and artist-run initiatives. Areas covered include the seductive inner-city laneways, known as a hub of creativity, South Yarra and Prahran – Melbourne’s chic inner south precinct, and ‘Bohemian Brunswick’ just north of the city centre.
The Audio Design Museum has moved away from the concept of a conventional design museum. The whole city is the exhibition space as innovative audio tours guide visitors to hotspots of design. Visitors can download audio tours and accompanying maps straight to their mp3 player or iPhone and hear designers tell their story as they explore the different precincts. Some of the tours on offer include: explore Flinders Lane precinct, Gertrude Street precinct, and a Focus on Jewellery tour.
Artwalk Melbourne offers a number of fascinating weekly walking tours in the Melbourne inner precincts of Richmond, Collingwood, Fitzroy, South Yarra and Prahran to private galleries, project spaces and artist studios not generally open to the public. MELtours also runs a Fitzroy textile tour showcasing the diverse range of vintage wares and recycled clothing, hand-made crafts and design in Fitzroy’s Gertrude, Brunswick and Smith Streets.
But for visitors wanting to take home that ‘oh so original’ Melbourne souvenir, hand-made items and crafts from Melbourne’s best known crafts persons - including furniture, soft interiors, fashion and textiles, millinery, lamp-shades, ceramics and glass art - are best sourced at Melbourne’s artist markets. North Melbourne Market by vintage Australian clothing, sewing and crafts shop, Thread Den operates once a month; Rose Street Artists Market on the weekends in Fitzroy; and over the summer months, The Suzuki Night Market opens on Wednesday evenings at the Queen Victoria Market site on the northern edge of the city.
Street art is such a prominent art form in Melbourne that art collectors are taking it to the world with exhibitions of some of Melbourne’s leading street artists. Prominent Melbourne art collectors Sandra Powell and Andrew King recently curated and funded an exhibition of Australian street art in San Francisco, September 2011. Nine of the 13 artists in the exhibition were from Melbourne – names included local artists Rone, Meggs, Kid Zoom, Ha Ha Vexta, Prism, Phibs and Sync. These names are famous in the subculture for their works around Melbourne, Fitzroy, Richmond and Collingwood.
Once again, visitors interested in Melbourne’s increasing reputation as a street art leader can explore this subculture further with one of several different walking tours. MELTours and Melbourne Street Art Tours both offer tours accompanied by street artists introducing visitors to outdoor installations, murals, stencils and paste-ups around the main centres of activity including the inner-city laneways and eclectic Fitzroy.
It would be remiss to discuss Melbourne design without a focus on fashion. Melburnians have become known for a very distinct sense of style where the base colour is black, the fit is either structured or layered, and it’s all punctuated by statement jewellery and shoes. With an increasing list of internationally renowned fashion designers - names such as Sass + Bide, Martin Grant (who lives and works in Paris), Toni Maticevski, Bettina Liano, Carla Zampatti, Nicola Finetti, Arabella Ramsay, Scanlan and Theodore – Melburnians are keen fashionistas who will continue to step out in the latest fashion trends.
Jewellery has also become something of a speciality of the city. The course at RMIT University has produced many of the country’s most respected jewellers, many of whom have become known on the international art and design scene. Melbourne’s leading jewellers include Camilla Gough, Katherine Bowman, Emma Goodsir, Yuko Fujita and William Llewellyn Griffiths – some of their work can be purchased at one of the many jewellery studios in the city such as e.g.etal, a contemporary jewellery gallery in Flinders Lane, or once again in the creative hub of Fitzroy at Studio Ingot.
A key event on the international fashion calendar is L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival, March 8 – 15, 2012. The festival prides itself on presenting the best of Australian fashion to a world stage. Renowned for dramatic style and impeccable detail, each runway presents collections from Australia’s leading designers and showcases the beauty trends of the season.
Further proof of Melbourne’s love for design and individuality is the success of new initiative Design a Space. Having recently launched the third instalment in Fitzroy after successful openings in Windsor, near Prahran, and Manchester Lane in the city, Design a Space is like an art gallery but for fashion labels. Each space showcases one-off or limited edition ‘work’ by independent designers of clothing, shoes, bags and accessories. All available to purchase by visitors looking to take home that Melbourne look.
Media contact: Zoë Shurgold, +61 (0) 3 9653 9814 or email@example.com