Category Archives: architecture

Beat the GFC?

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Yes, even the arse end of the earth, aka Australia, is experiencing the effects of the GFC. Those hard-up can now get a three-course lunch at the Parkview in Fitzroy North for not much more than a daily train ticket from Frankston to Melbs. It’s fair to say that many people are feeling less inclined to splash their cash, but there are still lots of free things to do… or ways of splash your cash in less abundant amounts. Exhibit A:

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Yes, it’s this weekend. And Exhibit B, also this weekend:

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Not to mention Exhibit C:

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And lastly, Exhibit D (but watch out for the queues):

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:: Arwen ::

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A room of one’s own

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I know what you’re thinking: what is this monstrosity? But if you’ve ever lived in Tokyo, you’ll know this is a beautiful piece of architecture. For a start, it isn’t made from reinforced plastic and concrete that shows every stain and crack instantly. It isn’t drab and uninspiring. And I’ve got my fingers crossed that the walls are thick enough to block out the sound of your neighbours coughing, farting and talking. This is the Fudomae apartment block in Shinjuku, Tokyo, by ISSHO architects in collaboration with Hirofumi Ohno. Each room is a palatial 18 metres squared (don’t laugh), with lots of cupboard space. The architectural blogs have of course posted about it here, here and here, with a wee bit more info about the architectural idea and a few more photos. Looking at this reminds me of Toko Flat A 101, where I spent three years living in a dank corridor-shaped room about the size of this flat, minus the natural light, fresh paint and large windows and plus neighbours with a screaming baby. Ah, memories.

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:: Arwen in Vietnam ::

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Green is the new black

You may have noticed a strange, temporary structure that’s gone up recently at Fed Square. It’s the Greenhouse by Joost, described as ‘guerilla gastronomy’, and it’s made entirely from recycled and recyclable materials. It’s also a cafe/bar, and according to the Greenhouse website, this is what to expect: “tiny ‘taste-tubes’ (science laboratory ware is just some of the discard to double as dishes) will be served by vintage-dressed waiters wheeling ‘de-registered’ shopping trolleys around furniture made from found ‘stuff’.”

Sadly, the test-tubes, vintage-dressed waiters and shopping trolleys were not in evidence today when Kate and I visited. Instead, a normal-looking waiter served us some tiny, delicious sandwiches at $8 a pop – it seems guerilla gastronomy is not cheap. Seated on chairs made from recycled stuff, we admired the wild strawberries growing from the walls (in plastic containers) and drank water from jam jars. The whole place reminded me of a deluxe squat or share house (probably the jam jars… or maybe the uncomfortable furniture). Of course, everything in the place is impeccably green, although I noticed the cutlery was made from wood, which seemed a bit dodgy (surely it’s better to have metal cutlery to wash and reuse?). We went upstairs to check out the rooftop garden (from whence some of the produce in those tiny sandwiches is said to come), and it’s quite lovely – looks to be a good place for a drink on a summer’s evening.

Greenhouse by Joost
Next to ACMI at Federation Square
Melbourne VIC 3000
Open until January 29 2009

:: Arwen ::

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Freeway tragic

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Oh my God. The day has come when I am blogging about a freeway. Yes, a frickin’ great road that bisects the eastern suburbs of Melbourne from north to south. I am not a fan of cars or freeways, but since this one has already been built, I’ll grudgingly admit that Eastlink is good. Actually, kind of cool. For a road. Why? Well, it’s a proper freeway, for a start – unlike the Monash freeway once it hits Richmond and becomes a two-lane donkey trail into town. The road itself is very smooth and there’s good signage. All of these things would indicate that the freeway has been built ‘properly’, i.e. not on the cheap (Burnley Tunnel, anyone?). And lastly, someone involved in Eastlink thought it would be a good idea to employ designers and artists in the construction of the freeway. What a wild idea – blatantly obvious, but rarely put into action.

As a result, Eastlink has colourful, visually interesting noise barriers, neon pedestrian overpasses and a selection of modern art for your viewing pleasure placed at various junctures, like the bird below. My favourite installation (which I couldn’t get a photo of) was a stark white building that looked like an East Berlin office block, with the sign ‘HOTEL’ on the front. I wonder if anyone’s stopped there to see about a room.

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The photo above is not one of the sculptures but might as well be. A cluster of cranes gather to nuzzle and groom by the side of the freeway.

:: Arwen ::

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Movie-going in style

If you happen to be in Camberwell, take a stroll past the Rivoli Cinema. It’s my favourite building in the area, despite the monolithic concrete extension added onto the original Art Deco building. To be fair, the extension doesn’t overshadow the original building except if you approach from the western end of Camberwell Road, where it looks like a school gym or nuclear testing facility. Unlike many cinemas built in the 30s and 40s, the Rivoli is still functioning (farewell, the Metro in Adelaide).

If you get lucky and manage to see a movie in one of the original theatres, you’ll be treated to this view. If it’s a really crap movie (say, anything with Drew Barrymore in it), you could just stare at the ceiling instead. (Many thanks to the Cinemas and Theatre Historical Society for this photo and the one below.)

Above: The main stairwell, complete with arching lady and curlicued railings. The carpet was specially designed as part of the $16 million refit of the building, completed in 2000, and I know that it’s meant to evoke geometric Art Deco-style artwork… but sadly, for me, it evokes nothing more than sticky-floored RSL bistros, airport terminals and casinos.

There’s a great, dedicated Art Deco blog here, for those who want more.

Rivoli Cinemas
200 Camberwell Road
East Hawthorn VIC 3123

:: Arwen ::

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Of Art Deco and op shops

Inspired as I was by the Art Deco exhibition, I’ve been on the lookout for other examples of Art Deco architecture. Here’s one in downtown Rosebud – the Rosebud Hotel, aka the local, built in 1939–1940. All the blokes in stubbies going into the pub for a midday pot thought I was a little odd taking photos of the outside and glanced at me askance from under their Oakleys. Or perhaps it was just because I was as the only person within a 50-metre radius not wearing shorts and a fluorescent utility shirt.

No trip to Rosebud would be complete without a visit to the op shops. This time I found a couple of Bessemer gems – a mustard-coloured butter keeper and a lemon-yellow milk jug – not to mention a set of four Kondo cups and saucers in pleasing pastel shades. Now all I need is a tea party.

But secretly I lust for things like this Wedgwood pink polka dot cup and saucer set (below left)… it’s £21.28 online, or about AUD46 (and you can get it in Australia at Minimax but get ready to pull out your credit card… it’s around AUD90 in store). What would I do with such an object? Break it, probably.


Or this gorgeous Paragon yellow flower cup and saucer (above right)… on eBay with a starting bid of US$22.99 – the auction ends soon. It’s probably too good to use, but you could spend hours gazing at it in pleasure instead – it may well be better than TV. Now that’s money well spent.

Rosebud Hotel
1099 Point Nepean Road
Rosebud VIC

:: Arwen ::

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Blairgowrie bushrangers

Once again I was in Blairgowrie recently, marvelling at the architectural wonders of this sleepy beachside town (or suburb?). It seems that people are more willing to take architectural risks with their beach houses than with their everyday houses, and this place is a good example. It’s a little bit Ned Kelly, no?

And now for something completely different. A lovely example of 1950s fibro beach house construction, painted a fetching shade of mushy-pea green, dating from an era when women still wore beach coats and men wore woollen togs. Mmm. (Can you imagine the itchiness?)

:: Arwen ::

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