Looking at buildings gives me a sense of the age of a place, style, and how lively and economically vibrant it is. You won’t see construction cranes on the horizon if people aren’t doing well. Melbourne is very dynamic, with a skyline full of cranes, new buildings pushing out the old. The skyline is developing a panorama of very new, very tall structures. “Melbourne style” consists of angular multi-story buildings patterned with color. There are apartments that look like stacks of cubes and buildings decorated with lego-like designs and dramatic geometric patterns.
The skyline is filling with tall structures and continues to expand. It certainly impressed us when we arrived. Contemporary architecture is entering the neighborhoods, too. It can be jarring to see it run into the older building styles when angular contemporary homes fill lots created by the demolition of older homes gradually transforming neighborhoods.
The other interesting architecture harks way back–Victorian/Edwardian cottages decorated with elaborate cast iron railings or complex wooden barge boards and gingerbread trim, beautiful and intriguing. These are often quite small, 1000-1800 sq ft, with a tiny garden front and back. Many were designed and built as single story duplexes, sharing a center wall.
Fans of Phryne Fisher will recognize the older buildings and some of the more ornate civic structures that display decorative circular towers, balconies, and niches. The covered shopping arcades also reflect turn-of-the-century style. The Flinders St. train station is a stately and highly decorative central place. In addition to all its flourishes, it apparently hides a ballroom on the top floor that is only open once a year for visits by architecture aficionados.
While I like the old style, a brick cottage has limited space and light. Upkeep on all that gorgeous decorative trim…. I was unable to find any evidence of historic districts in residential areas. This may not be a concept that is applied in Australia. Without one, though, the charming cottages of the older neighborhoods will be gone sooner rather than later as the city expands upward.