Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
Roses at the Cottage

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Happy Birthday Fed Square

I must be growing old. It feels as though Federation Square (corner Swanston and Flinders Streets) has been part of the Melbourne scene forever and yet is is just 10 years young this week. Love it (I do) or hate it, it has become part of the fabric of our city. It's 'our' meeting place in ways that the failed City Square (corner Swanston and Collins Streets) never was. It doesn't matter what time you visit there are always groups of people sitting around just 'watching the world go by'. 
Sitting around in a deck chair in the shade
I've participated in one of the openings of the Melbourne International Festival of Arts - singing along with the crowd to 'Singin' in the Rain. I've been led on a wild ride learning how to laugh with a crowd of strangers. I've joined the masses there at the end of a 'sorry' march and to protest about our engagement in the Iraq war (this is showing my colours!). I've watched the crowd dancing, singing, laughing, crying and celebrating. It's just a lively place to be. Groups gather to watch the big screen to either see themselves (always very exciting!) or their sporting idols participating in the Olympics, tennis, soccer, rugby, football and a host of other sporting activities around the world. They come to see in the New Year, they come to see their favourite band, they come for a guided tour - the list is endless. I was thrilled to see our very own (clean) Cadel Evans take to the stage. There seems to be something for everyone. 
We yelled for Cadel at Fed Square with the Premier Ted Baillieu (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
10 years - 10  million visitors. I love the architecture (well most of it). Designed by LAB Architecture - a local firm - it had a torturous birth. The glass shards which were supposed to feature caused outrage as some felt that they would overpower St Paul's Cathedral opposite. Instead we got a hideous 'committee of politicians' shard (neither one thing nor the other) housing the busy Melbourne Visitors Centre. How much better it would have looked as a glass shard mimicking the spires of St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral and the pathetic shard (looking like a temporary booth) on the left 
 The cobbled forecourt also caused outrage - particularly due to the difficulty traversing it in a wheelchair - although this has since been partially rectified. The lack of trees, the fact that it faces away from the Yarra River, the list goes on - and yet thousands flock to it day-in-day-out. It has an energy which can't be created except by human intervention!  The thing is - there is always something happening to draw people to it. This week there is a wonderful installation next to ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image - well worth a visit). Called Stickwork and created by the artist Patrick Dougherty using willow tree saplings and sticks to create a sculptural instillation called Ballroom. Interestingly it seems to have been inspired not only by Flinders Street Station which itself has a sadly neglected Ballroom in its midst. 
The Stickwork Ballroom seems to mirror Flinders Street Station
The 'stick' Ballroom with the city in the background
The Atrium is one of my least favourite spaces - except on a Saturday - when there is a marvellous second hand book market - well worth a visit. Otherwise it's cold, dark and soul-less. Sadly it is the main entrance to the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia Collection (closed Mondays) and the marvellous public auditorium BMW Edge (see earlier post 28 August 2012).

The Atrium - a tunnel to 'nowhere'
But it's the forecourt that captures the general public's attention.It's where the people watching takes place, It's where one goes to meet. It's where the restaurants are. Try my favourite Chocolate Bhudda (Japanese) or the Transport Hotel for a drink or their upstairs one chef's hat restaurant Taxi Dining Room with seriously great views down the Yarra River.
The empty forecourt on a hot Melbourne morning
Do you love it or hate it? What is it about it that you love and what is it about it that you hate? Melbourne is divided but even so it has become 'our meeting place'.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Strike a light!

The historically significant Bryant & May industrial complex of Redhead® Matches fame is now a rather well converted group of offices, showrooms, car parking and other assorted paraphernalia including gyms (yuck). You will find it in Church Street in a HUGE block between Swan Street and the Yarra River surrounded by Balmain, Chestnut (I thought it was the next street - Walnut!) and the very well-named William (!) Streets.
The view from Church Street
The original factory was opened in December 1909 by Australia's second Prime Minister The Hon. Alfred Deakin (see earlier post 17 July 2012). The newly formed (1901) Federal Government wanted to encourage industry and pledged tariff protection. Sadly no amount of tariff protection or other government support could sustain the business and we lost the manufacturing in the early 1980's to a Swedish firm in Tidaholm who now ship our favourite 'Aussie brand matches' back home for us, so we can use 6 million Redheads® a day.
This is a seriously big building just to make matches!
Being the colour of danger - fire engine red - I think Redhead® is a great name for a match (certainly better than their blackhead once they have been lit!). When Googling for its history I was stunned to read that 'Redheads is an Australian Fireneeds brand'. What on earth does that mean - fireneeds. Of course a fire needs a match (or some other lighter) and if there is a fire it won't need a match! Is this a weasel word or perhaps the word of an overpaid marketing executive on fire!
The old (now non-polluting) chimney

The Bryant & May factory was run on model factory conditions. The amenities introduced in the 1920's included the first on-site industrial nurses, tennis and basketball courts and even a bowling green for the staff. Much of which can still be seen in the 'renovated' complex.
The new mod grass tennis court with the old clubhouse

Of course my favourite Richmond mural art wall (see earlier post 8 August 2012) must be included here as it features Miss Redhead.(There's not much it doesn't include)
Miss (or perhaps Ms!) Redhead amongst our history
 The original redhead was a rather glamorous gal in her day and many incarnations followed
A silver jubilee reincarnation (photobucket)
Her 'firey' reputation meant that she needed to keep 'sparking with the times' and she was continually updated!
Perhaps our most familiar image
I think you'll agree she does bear some slight resemblance to our (assisted) redhead Prime Minister!
The clever Illawarra Mercury Newspaper front cover

So next time you're in the supermarket buying 'Aussie' Redhead® Matches spare a thought for the workers of Sweden who are saving our heritage! (I wonder how many Swedes are redheads?). Take a walk down Church Street towards the Yarra - you won't miss it the site is enormous - and toast our Aussie Redhead® icon at either the trendy Royal Saxon Hotel or Pillar of Salt cafe opposite. And if you're a smoker then strike a light and pay homage to the Redhead® while overlooking the old factory site - before butting out!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Melbourne's Petit Giverny

I've been fortunate to have spent time in the world-renowned gardens of impressionist painter Claude Monet, Giverny, in France. 
Giverny - the waterlily pond and the crowds (on a rainy day)
It had been on my 'must do list' for years and finally on a wet and miserable day I took my chance. It was wonderful, the crowds were thinner than usual thanks to the weather - I hate to think what it would have been like on a glorious sunny day - and it was memorable.
Looking towards Manet's home
For those of you who have been fortunate to visit and for those who still have it on their 'must do before I die list' then I encourage you to visit our very own petit version!  And it's right here in downtown East Melbourne (a mere hop, step and a jump from Richmond). Words fail me with its beauty. 
Inner urban Giverny with its own bridge

Located in the Conservatory of the glorious Fitzroy Gardens it will bring a leap of joy to your heart. 
What can I say
The colours, the choice of plants and the symmetary all combine beautifully. And to make it even more joyous is the choice of glorious music to really make your heart soar. Watching other visitors I was struck by their silence. The beauty is almost overwhelming.   
The mass plantings - divine
There is something rather wonderful about the intimacy in the Conservatory. So if you are looking for a little uplift for your soul then I can't recommend it more highly.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

What is it about the Rhino?

It seems that Rhino's are invading Melbourne at the moment! It follows on from all the pachyderms that I wrote about recently. Those elephants have now all headed back to the Zoo. Walking along Bridge Road the other day I came across the most striking graffiti (or is it art) wall - advertising Richmond's postcode - and the appropriately named Three One 2 One Cafe. You can see the 3121 on his (or her) hump!
The 3121 Rhino on the corner of Hunter Street & Bridge Road
Co-incidentally Yarra Trams are currently running a series of advertisements to alert people to the weight and strength of one of their trams (50 tons). They are using the image of 30 charging rhinoceros (or is that rhinocerosi!) bearing down on you at speed on skateboards.
Imagine 30 rhinos heading straight for you - the winner would be....
It seems that the problem tram drivers have is that so many pedestrians are now hooked into their ear phones that they have no awareness of their surroundings and don't hear the approach of a tram - and that can have disasterous consequences. The Beware The Rhino passenger safety campaign is in response to an alarming increase in pedestrians being hit by trams.

If you haven't seen the advertisement - here it is. It's worth watching! 
You'll find reminder advertisements at most tram stops
Why not take a rhino tram - or walk - east along Bridge Road to see the 3121 mural. I'm not sure about the colour but I think it's a nice piece of graffiti art.  Alternatively take either the number 75 or the 48 direct into the city along Bridge Road - just around the corner from the Cottage. And please be mindful while in the vicinity of 30 skateboarding rhinocerosi particularly if you're chatting on your smartphone or 'groovin' to your favourite music.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

(Lucky we're with) AAMI (Park)

It seems there's no end to advertising these days. There's Telstra Dome - now Etihad Stadium and the old Olympic Park which was demolished and has been replaced with the new AAMI Park Stadium. All I can think of is that nice smiling face on the AAMI television ads for crash repair insurance! Still if that's the only way our sporting arenas can exist then I guess it really doesn't matter - all that much! After all 'what's in a name'.
The square oval!
I love the new AAMI Park Stadium located in Melbourne's most amazing sporting precinct - consisting of the MCG, Melbourne Park - formerly known as the National Tennis Centre, (I can hardly bring myself to say this - but)  the old 1956 Olympic Swimming Centre which is now the home of AFL club Collingwood. And then there's AAMI Park - the first purpose build rectangular stadium - all the others are oval - well I guess they have an oval in them so....
The lit up 'caterpillar' (Sandra Davis)
It replaced the old Olympic Park where sporting activities included not only athletics but also the racing of cars, motor bikes, cyclists and even greyhounds. Completed in 2010 I love the building but like all innovative design it is only now being embraced. My friend thinks it looks like a caterpillar from the outside while I think it looks like a whole lot of soccer balls - 20 actually. Suffice to say it's 'different'. I love it at night. It's like a twinkling fairyland with 1544 environmental LED lights 'performing' a number of sequences.

I must admit I haven't stepped inside (the outside is good enough for me) but I have it on good advice that it has an intimate feel with seating for 30,500 in comparison to the MCG (which last Saturday hosted 99,683). 
The 'performing' lights
The stadium's major tenants are 2 soccer teams the Melbourne Victory and the Melbourne Heart and 2 rugby teams including the Melbourne Rebels. But more importantly it is also home to the NRL Grand Final winners the Melbourne Storm.
How ironic that the AFL Grand Final played in Melbourne at the MCG was won by the Sydney Swans while the NRL Grand Final played in Sydney was won by the Melbourne Storm. Yet again the Sydney/Melbourne rivalry has played out. Sydney - the home of rugby - won the AFL Grand Final whilst Melbourne - the home of AFL -  won the NRL. Does that make the city rivalry a draw?

It's an easy walk from the Cottage - so why not wander down to see if you agree that it looks like a soccer ball or a caterpillar twinkling at night.
Bowen Cottage client comment: We've had a great time at Bowen Cottage exploring Richmond