Insider’s design guide for Voyeur magazine

The nice folks at Voyeur Pacific+ (Virgin Australia’s in-flight magazine) asked me to put together a brief, insiders’ guide to great design experiences in Melbourne for a 2018 issue earlier in the year.

I had some great help with the story from true Melbourne insiders, including street artist Loretta Lizzio, Broached Commissions’ creative director Lou Weis, artist/designer Adam Cruickshank and Multiplicity architect Natasha Wheatland.

Melbourne By Design

A local’s guide to uncovering some of the best and boldest design experiences in Melbourne.

By Peter Barrett

Melbourne is a city that rewards curiosity. Its network of boutique laneway shopping and edgy, tucked-away bars may have become a tourist cliché but only because it’s true. The same goes for art and design. Our big name institutions won’t disappoint but for those smaller, more unusual experiences it pays to have local knowledge.

I’ve been cycling through the inner city suburb of Fitzroy for 20 years and the street art here never fails to excite. Ephemeral and ever changing, you never know what you may find in Rose, Napier of Greeves Streets. Artist Loretta Lizzio, 31, has been applying her fine art talents to walls here for the past two years. It’s a chance, she says, to break out of the studio, battle the elements and work in a different medium. “And I just love getting to deal with the public a lot more […] It’s a lot of fun.” (To see one her largest and most recent work, catch the Upfield Line train to Anstey Station in Brunswick.)

Creative director Lou Weis, 43, whose furniture and object design studio until February features at NGV International’s Design Storytellers: The Work of Broached Commissions, has also lived in Sydney, Amsterdam and New York. He says Melbourne’s design is a product of its history: a “brutal” land-grab by the Port Phillip Association in the 1830s. “It’s always been difficult to protect the heritage skin to Melbourne because it’s always been a modern, transactional, urban environment.” But there’s still plenty of beauty left if you know where to look. Weis recommends a visit to the University of Melbourne to see Newman College, considered one of the best examples in the world of renowned architect Walter Burley Griffin (and while you’re nearby, check out the gothic, concrete forest-like pillars of University Square Underground car park, a location used in Mad Max). Weis’ other recommendations include the Lyon Housemuseum in Kew (a private residence that periodically turns into a public art museum), Burnham Beeches in Sherbrooke (a 1930s mansion in the process of being given a new life by Vue de Monde chef Shannon Bennett) and the minimalist, marble restaurant bar at Di Stasio in St Kilda (a collaboration between artist Callum Morton, architect Robert Simeoni and graphic designer David Pigeon).

For Melbourne’s best selection of art and design books head to World Food Books, says local artist Adam Cruickshank. Located in the quirky Nicholas Building, you’ll also find a host of artists, makers and galleries, such as the artist-run gallery Blindside. Cruickshank also likes True Estate, another artist-run space above Art Deco bar The Alderman, in East Brunswick.

In Carlton you’ll be rewarded with a visit to artist Michael Kelly’s café The Heart of Carlton where you can catch up with his unique works in lath, a wood he reclaims from plasterboard walls that have been demolished.

And finally, after seeing what’s on at Collingwood galleries LON and Backwoods, Multiplicity architect Natasha Wheatland suggests a stop at the “hard-to-find” (and “way-too-cool”) 12-seater bar, Above Board.

The details

Newman College 887 Swanston Street, Parkville (note: this is a private college, open to the public only on university open days or see openhousemelbourne.org).

Lyon Housemuseum 217-219 Cotham Rd, Kew; +61 3 9817 2300; lyonhousemuseum.com.au.

Burnham Beeches 1 Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke; +61 3 9691 3858; burnhambeeches.com.au.

Di Stasio 31Fitzroy St, St Kilda; +61 3 9525 3999; distasio.com.au.

World Food Books The Nicholas Building, Level 3, Studio 19, 37 Swanston St, Melbourne; worldfoodbooks.com.

Blindside Gallery Nicholas Building, Level 7 Room 14, 37 Swanston St, Melbourne; +61 3 9650 0093; blindside.org.au.

True Estate Upstairs at The Alderman, 134 Lygon Street, East Brunswick; true-estate.gallery.

The Heart of Carlton 189 Elgin St, Carlton; 0403 733 570; michaelkellyartistdotcom.wordpress.com.

LON Gallery 21 Easey St, Collingwood; longallery.com.

Backwoods Gallery 25 Easey St, Collingwood; +61 3 9041 3606; backwoods.gallery.

Above Board Chopper Lane, off Smith and Perry St, Collingwood “just behind Beermash”; aboveboardbar.com.

This story was first published in Voyeur, Virgin Australia’s in-flight magazine, in the latter part of 2018. Here’s a pdf: Melbourne bold design