This weekend is the time for Melbourne divers who are feeling the cold and may prefer to stay dry to take the opportunity to explore our city and some of its’ famous (and not so famous) built landmarks. The Open House weekend allows us to visit significant buildings and sites across our city in order to learn about how the built environment and urban planning initiatives and issues influence our culture and shape our future.
We have compiled a list of sites that we think may be of interest to divers or those with an interest in the Bay, the buildings that serviced maritime industries or simply the sites that have a focus on water. You can’t dive any of the sites on our list but it does provide a different aspect of how we view water as a resource for aquatic pleasure and industry.
So here is a list of “Open Houses” that we will be trying to visit this weekend:
MISSION TO SEAFARERS
The Mission to Seafarers Victoria (MtSV) dates back to 1857, when it was established in the Port of Melbourne, and now operates as one of 29 port agencies nationally and over 230 port agencies worldwide.
It has operated from the now heritage-listed building at 717 Flinders Street since 1917. The building is iconic to the City of Melbourne and is regarded for its perpetual service of responding to the unique circumstances of those who live and work at sea.
Maritime imagery is evident throughout the buildings, including stained glass windows in the chapel depicting stories of seafarers lost at sea, the pulpit in the form of a ship’s stern and the large mariner’s compass inlaid in the terrazzo floor. The new Early Origins exhibition provides in-depth information about the building and its people, and their service over 160 years.
Open: Sun 10am – 4pm
Located in Frankston South, any diver lucky enough to own this pad would have excellent views of the bay and an easy way to check what the conditions would be. In order to marvel at the beauty of this design and excellent site location make a booking to visit Chamfer House. A post-and-beam dwelling, designed in 1977 by Kevin Borland, it sits within an established garden on Oliver’s Hill, an example of late Modernism overlooking Port Phillip Bay.
Open: Sat 12pm – 4pm – Booking required for this building
Book here: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/chamfer-house-tickets-36035078891
PORT OF MELBOURNE BOAT TOURS
Divers will probably not get to visit a luxurious liveaboard dive vessel on this tour but will get to understand some of the workings of Australia’s largest container and general cargo port. Handling around 36% of the nation’s container trade, over 3,000 ships call at the port each year. Open House Melbourne boat tours visit the three main docks in the northern part of the port: Swanson Dock, Appleton Dock, and Victoria Dock. Swanson Dock is Australia’s busiest international shipping container terminal, handling 2.6 million TEU (twenty-foot containers or their equivalent unit). Appleton Dock, built on the site of the old course of the Yarra, is located just west of the Bolte Bridge next to the Swanson Dock East container terminal. It comprises five berths and is 980m long. Victoria Dock was opened in 1893, and by 1908 it was handling 90% of Victoria’s imports. In 1914, its capacity was enlarged by the addition of a central pier, and in 1925 the entrance was widened.
Tour Details: 6 tours per day. 45 minute boat tour, 240 people per tour. Tours depart hourly, first tour at 10 am, last tour at 3pm Boat tours depart from Water Plaza Victoria Harbour, Docklands and pass Victoria Dock, Appleton Dock, Swanson Dock and the decommissioned harbour control tower on North Wharf. Tours include a guided commentary from Port of Melbourne staff.
Photo Credit: Port of Melbourne
Architect: Mordechai Benshemesh
Divers lucky enough to live in this building are able to obtain commanding views over the bay, for the rest of us there is Open House Melbourne! Edgewater Towers is the only high rise apartment building south of Luna Park on the St Kilda foreshore. When the building was completed in 1961, it was advertised as ‘Manhattan Living Comes to Melbourne’ and it promised sophisticated, luxurious living. Designed by émigré architect Mordechai Benshemesh, the building’s international style and multi-storey slab construction were new to Melbourne. Edgewater Towers still retains many original mid-century features, especially in the lobby.
Open (lobby and rooftop): Sat 10am – 4pm
Tour Details: Tours will run every 30 minutes with 10 people per tour. A guided tour including the history of Edgewater Towers, stories of the architect and past notable (some notorious) residents. Flat interiors imagery and panoramic views of St Kilda, the bay and city.
Photo Credit: Pietro Giordano
MELBOURNE CITY BATHS
Historically the Melbourne City Baths provided Melbournians with the opportunity for clean water in which to wash as well as an early example of health and fitness of the aquatic type.
The Baths were first opened in 1860 and have continued to provide health and fitness services to the community for more than 150 years. This achievement distinguishes it from any other health and fitness facility in Victoria. The baths were opened to give Melburnians an alternative to bathing in the Yarra River, which was not only polluted but blamed for causing a deadly epidemic of typhoid fever.
Open (Viewing area above pool with small collection of historical articles and architectural drawings) Sat & Sun 10am – 2pm
Substation J is one of a number of electricity zone substations located in the Melbourne CBD. It was originally built to distribute electricity from the adjacent Spencer Street Power Station. Although the power station was demolished in 2007, Substation J continues to provide power to adjacent streets through four 22kV/6.6kV transformers. The power station has been replaced by Upper West Side residential apartments, however there are reminders of the former use of the site such as the control room, which was decommissioned in 1982 but remains largely intact, and the heritage-protected cast iron water tank, which was installed in 1927. This tank was part of a hydraulic power system that pumped pressurised water from the Yarra River through pipes to operate the CBD’s lifts and wool presses. The former Spencer Street Power Station was believed to be linked to the Yarra River and other parts of the city by underground canals. One tunnel, built in 1915, ran from the Power Station all the way underneath Spencer Street down to the site now occupied by the Melbourne Aquarium.
Open: Sat & Sun 10am – 4pm
Tour Details: Two tours will run every 30 minutes with 20 people per tour. Queue at main entry point on Lonsdale St.
There are a huge number of interesting buildings and unique places to visit this weekend. Some require payment and or booking, others do not. This is just a quick pick of what we would love to visit. For more information on Open House Melbourne please visit http://www.openhousemelbourne.org/buildings