Melbourne Open House – Manchester Unity Building

Yesterday we went off to see the inaugural Melbourne Open House – seven of the city’s best buildings, open to the public for the day, as part of the Melbourne International Design Festival that is now happening.

Judging by the crowds who joined us, it was a huge hit and hopefully they’ll do it again next year, perhaps with more buildings open for viewing. I’d like to see the ACMI Labyrinth which booked out quickly.

Photo by Charles Weetman, taken in the late ’30s. Collection State Library of Victoria

Built in 1932, the Manchester Unity Building was number one on our list of “want to sees” so we headed there first – good thing too! It took almost three hours of standing in a queue that snaked down Collins street and along a block of Swanston before we were allowed into the hallowed ornate elevator and onto the eleventh floor to see the art deco boardroom with the largest board table in the country.

I was particularly impressed by the Lalique glass top: around 5.5 metres long, all one piece and was put into the room before they built the roof on. Apparently it’s very gently lifted once a year, by many hands, who carefully clean underneath it and place it back. If there is a larger piece of Lalique glass any where in the world, I’d be surprised. Needless to say – it’s irreplaceable.

Photo courtesy – the boardroom is available for events too.

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