Discover Parts Unknown with Open House Melbourne Weekend

With a program stretching from Melton in the north, Narre Warren in the south, Box Hill in the east and Werribee in the west, Open House Melbourne Weekend on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 July is the perfect excuse to get out of your usual stomping-ground and explore a new side of the city.

A recent partnership with the City of Hobson’s Bay means a hive of activity over the Weekend, with must-see sights in Williamstown, Newport and Altona. Heritage enthusiasts rejoice, as the precinct represents all architectural periods including Pre-separation Colonial era Ann Street Morgue, the Victorian era Blunts Boat Builders, late 20th century Hobsons Bay City Council Chambers and Federation era with The Substation gallery. Not forgetting contemporary gems like the Australian Islamic Centre, and new additions to the program like Park Life – a residential renovation adopting the principles of the ‘garden city’.

The full Weekend program will go live online on Thursday 27 June. Highlight buildings to explore further afield are:

Napier Waller House, Ivanhoe
Take a guided tour and journey back into the 20s enclave of Melbourne artists Napier, Christian and Lorna Waller, whose murals, mosaics, and stained-glass paintings adorn prominent buildings in Australia and whose work is represented in major Australian galleries. Built in 1922, their heritage-listed Ivanhoe home (pictured right) and studio has been left intact as a memorial. The house featured in the Dr Blake Murder Mysteries series.

Bunjil Place, Narre Warren
Winning architectural accolades and much civic and cultural love since it opened in late 2017, Bunjil Place in Narre Warren was designed by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (FJMT). The City of Casey’s multi-award- winning precinct will be activated with guided tours of the back of house spaces, self-guided tours of public spaces, films on the big screen in the plaza, kids activities and design talks. Visit the current exhibition in the gallery and explore the three level library.

Hobsons Bay City Council Chambers, Altona
With its striking modernist design and distinctive copper-clad dome, the Hobsons Bay City Council Chambers (artist impression, right) were designed by mid-century architect Robert Warren in 1962-63 and built to symbolise the progressive and forward-thinking philosophy of the newly- incepted council of the time.

Inspired by contemporary buildings such as Romberg and Boyd’s Academy of Science in Canberra, the building’s dome followed the latest trends at the time in concrete shell design (a speciality of Warren’s), and is now one of a small number of its kind in Australia. Take a self-guided tour of the building which is still in use as Council Chambers today.

Blunts Boat Builders, Williamstown
From sea-faring vessels carrying missionaries to beautiful race-winning yachts, the fifth-generation C. Blunt Boat Builders has been launching wooden boats into Port Phillip Bay for over 160 years. Located in Williamstown, the former workshop turned boatyard is an important link to Victoria’s maritime past. Unlike many other boatyards that have since been modernised, the Blunt’s yard is a rare surviving example of small-scale boat building, remaining true to its early 20th century function and layout. Visit for a self-guided tour of the workshop and yard access with city views. Meet Greg Blunt – sixth generation boat builder and proprietor of Blunts Boat Builders.

Park Life, Williamstown
Park Life (pictured right) is a highly contextual extension and renovation designed by Melbourne practice Architecture Architecture. This contemporary design responds to the principles of the ‘garden city’, integrating home, garden and streetscape. In doing so, it continues the vision for the area as laid out by the Housing Commission of Victoria in the 1940s.

The Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts, Clayton
Comprised of the state-of-the art Alexander Theatre, Sound Gallery and Jazz Club, The Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts heralds a new era for performing arts in Melbourne’s south east. Tours will be led by Monash Academy of Performing Arts and Peter Elliott Architecture + Urban Design. Visitors will have unique access to back of stage areas and a live performance showcasing the centre’s world-class active acoustic system. Book tours of other Monash University sites and make a day of it!

St George’s Anglican Church, East Ivanhoe
This is one of only two Australian churches designed by renowned Australian architects, Robin Boyd and Frederick Romberg. Completed in 1964, St George’s (pictured left) was part of Melbourne’s post-war church building boom, inspired by modernism and taking a less-traditional approach to ecclesiastical design. 

Most furniture and joinery are also designed by the architects. Join a guided tour, view artworks, hand-sewn vestments, jewelled altar silverware, original architectural plans, drawings and the original model. 

Werribee Mansion, Werribee
Experience the grandeur of the park and the opulence of the 19th century Werribee Mansion up close and personal. Built in the renaissance revival style and boasting 60 rooms across several wings, the mansion now operates as a hotel. Learn what it took to maintain the household and the estate, how the busy kitchen wing was run, about the work of the servants, and what the lives, society and leisure activities of the rich and famous pastoralists of the colony of Victoria were like.

Open House Melbourne is an independent organisation that fosters public appreciation for architecture and public engagement in design in the built environment. We exist because we believe a more engaged public will result in better design outcomes for our buildings, our streets and our cities. We are registered as a charity (as Melbourne Open House Inc) with the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission ABN 68295482310, we are part of the Open House Worldwide network, and we are an initiative of the Committee for Melbourne Future Focus Leadership Program.

Image: Napier Waller House by Alyce McCue @openhousemelb