Melbourne’s most fascinating buildings throw doors open

Luna Park ride operator Ola Koch shows off the carousel and its motor area, which are part of this year’s Open House Melbourne program. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

Attention stickybeaks — a bunch of Melbourne’s most weird, wonderful and well-known buildings will open their doors to the public next weekend.

Curious Melburnians will peek behind the scenes at St Kilda landmark Luna Park, peruse the birthplace of Victoria Bitter, and explore recently-built floors in Melbourne’s soon-to-be tallest tower, Australia 108, as part of Open House Melbourne.

More than 200 buildings are part of this year’s program.

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Open House Melbourne program and business manager Victoria Bennett says this marks dramatic growth from the event’s first year in 2008, when just eight buildings on Swanston St took part.

The under-construction Australia 108 is part of this year’s Open House Melbourne program.

Since then, OHM has overseen more than 900,000 visits to 934 sites across the city.

“Now we’re all over metropolitan Melbourne,” Bennett says.

“We’re providing access to places people wouldn’t normally be able to access, allowing them to engage with great architecture.”

Bennett says about 50 of this year’s properties require pre-bookings. But attendees can simply turn up to view the vast majority across July 27-28.

Luna Park ride operators Ola Koch and Greg Smith behind the scenes at the 1912 fun park. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

Open House Melbourne attendees can also view the 165-year-old Willows Homestead in Melton.

They’ll be treated to guided tours from buildings’ architects, designers and custodians at a host of the sites.

Select attendees will tour Luna Park’s century-old Great Scenic Railway, including its normally off-limits motor room and heritage-listed maintenance shed, along with the 1912 fun park’s famed carousel and ghost train.

Bookings are also required to gain behind-the-scenes access to the under-construction Australia 108 apartment tower in Southbank.

Bennett says the skyscraper — which will stretch 100 levels when it’s completed mid next year — was part of last year’s program, but the floors open this year hadn’t been built then.

Hawthorn’s Tay Creggan is another heritage highlight.

The spectacular ceiling of Tay Creggan.

At the other end of the spectrum, one of Melbourne’s oldest remaining residences can be viewed in Melton: the 1854 Willows Homestead.

Magnificent mansions will also open their doors, with no bookings needed, including Hawthorn’s 1890s Tay Creggan and Malvern East’s 1902 The Gables.

The former hosted Princess Margaret during her 1975 royal tour, and featured in Hollywood film Charlotte’s Web.

Malvern’s magnificent The Gables.

East Melbourne’s Brew Tower Museum Tribeca will also be open as part of the cultural weekend.

The recently refurbished Hotel Esplanade in St Kilda is also on the program.

Beer-lovers can check out the home of VB at East Melbourne’s Brew Tower Museum, and reimagined St Kilda institution The Espy.

Those with more morbid taste can explore the Melbourne General Cemetery, the resting place of Sir Robert Menzies and Burke and Wills.

Bennett’s picks included the CBD’s recently refurbished The Capitol theatre — described by leading architect Robin Boyd as “the best cinema that was ever built” — and Williamstown “historic gem” Blunt Boat Builders.

Melbourne General Cemetery is the resting place of many famous people, and can be toured next weekend.

The refurbished The Capitol is one of program manager Victoria Bennett’s picks …

… and it’s easy to see why.

Open House has expanded to Ballarat and Bendigo in recent years, with the latter city set to host its second event later this year.

Visit openhousemelbourne.org for buildings’ opening hours and more information.

Williamstown’s humble Blunt Boat Builders is also part of the program.