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Last Updated: 24 Sep 2014
Georgina Barker

Experience Perth from a different angle by unlocking more than 70 destinations normally closed off to the public, with the return of Open House Perth.

As architecture and design increasingly gain a voice in our public discourse, Open House Perth continues to cement its place as a popular and important event by celebrating and raising awareness of the quality of Perth's buildings, spaces and public art.

"The biggest achievement for Open House Perth is to see people celebrating how great Perth is, and becoming more aware about the incredible standard of design and architecture in the city," says Open House Perth creative director Carly Barrett, who is excited to be bringing the event to our city for the third time.

Open House was founded in London in 1992 and has since been embraced by nearly 30 cities worldwide, including New York, Barcelona, Chicago, Buenos Aires, Lisbon, Melbourne and Perth.

Described as a backstage pass to the city, Open House Perth seeks to celebrate and enhance the day-to-day experience of our city by unlocking the door to great architecture and design through a diverse program of destinations, events, tours and talks, and all for free.

This year – during the first weekend in November – Open House will provide access to more than 70 destinations around Perth, from prominent commercial buildings to heritage and cultural buildings and precincts, design studios, small bars and residential premises, many of which can't normally be viewed by the public.

It's a chance to taste life as a CEO in the sprawling offices of some of the city's tallest buildings; to peek behind the scenes of some of WA's pre-eminent cultural institutions; and to mix with some of the creative talents occupying the city's growing number of collaborative spaces.

In addition, Open House Perth's Love Your City program will be hosting a number of walking tours, taking in fashion and architecture, public art and laneways, to help people discover more about their own city.

"One of the things that's so exciting about the event is that it makes people feel like tourists in their home town," says Carly. "We love that. There are few things better than discovering amazing places in your own backyard."

Public feedback from the previous two years has guided this year's program, with Perth locals able to nominate projects and places they would like to see.

The heart of Open House Perth will always be Perth's CBD, but the expansion of the event this year has catered to a more diverse selection of destinations. People can expect to see many of their favourites from the past two years (such as BHP Billiton – Brookfield Place, Central Park, QV1 and Gordon Stephenson House), but they can now gain unprecedented access to some of Perth's most innovative small homes, too.

The average new home in WA is about 245sqm, among the largest in the world, but the homes Open House Perth is showcasing buck this trend and illustrate how smart planning and design doesn't mean compromising on comfort, functionality and aesthetics just because a home is small.

Carly says Open House Perth is all about having fun and being inspired. "Sometimes it's easy to forget how lucky we are to have such a beautiful and vibrant city that is only getting better," she says. "The city is also getting smarter, celebrating historical precincts whilst encouraging new developments within them.

"The Open House Perth team is pretty much in a constant state of excitement about local design and our city, and we are really thrilled to share that with the people of Perth."

Open House Perth takes place on the weekend of November 1 and 2, and the biggest dilemma will be choosing which destinations to visit. Carly encourages people to wear comfortable shoes and use public transport where possible, particularly taking advantage of the city's CAT service. The event's printed program and website will let people know which bus/train routes are closest.

This year there will also be a membership program, which will offer financial assistance to Open House Perth but, most importantly, it will give people who support the event recognition for their involvement, and a jump-the-queue pass to multiple locations.

Open House Perth, various locations, November 1-2. Click here to find out more.

Photography Thom Perry (MOANA Chambers).


In May 1907, SB Alexander, one of the most prominent builders in Perth, was awarded the contract to build a cafe in Hay Street, not far from its junction with Barrack Street. Named Moana Cafe, and built at a cost of £1875, the building was acknowledged in 1912 to be 'the finest building of its kind in the Commonwealth', from an architectural point of view.

In 2012, this 'fine building', long abandoned, was given a new lease on life by architects Beth George and Nic Brunsdon of Post- Architecture, as part of the City of Perth's Upper Floor Activation project.

"What was a grand old ballroom is now reimagined as a co-working space, gallery and cafe," says Nic. "It's a great blend of public and private use. First-floor spaces are normally closed off from the public realm, so we deliberately placed the gallery and cafe on the first floor, giving visitors a unique perspective of the city from the balcony."

During Open House Perth 2012, Moana Chambers was first open to the publicas an incomplete project. In 2013, the project had only just been completed so was still finding its feet. This year, visitors will find a successful and expanded space that is home to a variety of creative and complementary businesses on the first floor, and artist studios on the second floor.

"The cafe has grown, the whole space has evolved, and for the first time we will have the second-floor artist studios open," says Nic. "This will provide a really nice connection between the gallery and some of Perth's most exciting emerging artists in their working studios.

"Open House is a fantastic event which raises awareness about the hidden life and stories of the city and generates more self-pride in our city. This then ties in with the retention and/or return of great creative people. The more we mature as a city and have these great stories, people, buildings and spaces to show off, the better it is for everyone. It becomes a city that's lovely to return to and hard to leave."

Photography Matt Biocich.


On a site surrounded by shops, cafes and pubs, Apartment House on Charles Street in North Perth occupies the south side of the block to make the most of the winter sun and to create a house and yard suitable for a young professional couple.

The one-bedroom, one-bathroom house was designed in response to Perth's easy indoor/outdoor lifestyle, for which entertaining spaces are a focal point. The entire roof is a concrete deck with views north over the landscape and west to the setting sun.

"As Perth gets more dense in population and developments, Apartment House is an example of how people can live big in a small house on a small block," says architect David Weir. "It's all about applying strong architectural principles to a simple site."

David is excited to be involved in Open House Perth, which he says is a fantastic addition to Perth's cultural scene. "Too often architecture gets ignored in this town, mostly through a lack of awareness, so it's great for exposing interesting work to the masses," he says. "It's especially good for demonstrating to Perth just how beautiful a humble house can be, allowing people to experience little gems in the sea of cookie-cutter homes."

Photography Perth Convention Bureau.


With more tourists than locals visiting the Bell Tower, Open House Perth gives us a chance to turn around the stats and learn some facts about this iconic building and the treasures it holds.

"It's the largest musical instrument in the world, and home to a precious Millennium gift to the people of WA – 18th century bells from London's famous St Martin-in-the-Fields," explains operations and events manager Emma Went.

"The only set of royal bells known to have left England, these ancient bells were rung to signal the end of the Battle of Trafalgar, again at Lord Nelson's funeral, and to welcome back Captain James Cook after charting Australia.

The Bell Tower is the only location in the world where you can view the ancient art of change ringing and the bell movement simultaneously. It is truly a unique experience."

The architecture and engineering is just as compelling. Following extensive public consultation and influenced by the traditional boat-building activities of the area, Hames Sharley designed the tower in a bygone context, evoking boats and sailing.

The historical aspect, coupled with the architects' vision of a contemporary structure that celebrates the Millennium, led to the eventual decision to separate the functions of the Bell Tower: the bells – historic and solid; the tower – modern, lightweight, technologically advanced and iconic. "In addition, the challenging requirement of public access while the bells are in full swing makes this bell tower one of the most distinctive in the world," adds Emma.

The completion of Elizabeth Quay will make the Bell Tower much more accessible and, in the mean time, the tower provides a fantastic view of all the work going on at the waterfront.


Completed in 1988 on the site incorporating the 1895 Palace Hotel, Perth's first skyscraper remains a distinctive landmark and plays an important role in the history of the city.

"Architecturally significant, the sweeping 52-level tower and heritage-listed Palace building are seamlessly integrated, resulting in a property that is distinguished and contemporary," says Emma Tearne, marketing manager of Brookfield Office Properties.

Those who visited the building during Open House Perth in 2012 will notice some changes, including a stunning new stone and marble lobby, and top quality fit-outs on some of the upper levels.

Open House creative director Carly Barrett points to the marketing suite on level 51 as the perfect location to channel some power. "If you want to feel like you're a CEO, this is a great destination," says Carly.

"It's so exciting being up in these really tall buildings of Perth. The quality of the spaces makes you feel like you could be in New York or Hong Kong, but then you look out at the sweeping views of the city and all the way to Rottnest."


Beau Est Mien on William Street in Northbridge is a young, creative business
run by a team of enthusiastic artists that's excited about sharing printmaking and handmade goodness with the public.

"We share our love through our shop (sourcing treasures such as homewares, jewellery and stationery by talented artists, designers and makers from all around the world), and also through our workshop program, studio access, and
artist-in-residence program," says Alina Tang, one of the team of five at Beau Est Mien.

During Open House Perth, the upstairs working studio will be open to the public. Visitors can discover the ins and outs of how the space operates, and take part in a printmaking demonstration.

"We're so excited to be a part of Open House Perth," says Alina. "It's a celebration of all the great buildings and what happens inside them. Perth's creative scene is growing rapidly. We highly recommend everyone to get involved and see for themselves what's going on."

Photography Emma van Dordrecht.


Kinder Shophouse on Richmond Street in North Perth is a vibrant family home and working photographic studio. Blending the past with the present, it is a great example of adaptive re-use of a 1920s corner shop and attached house on a small inner-city site.

"The carving out and creation of a double-height void between the house and shop elements creates a space where the whole family can come together, and it's a space that also lets the light and sky in," explains architect Joe Chindarsi.
"The design leaves cracks and gaps between the old and the new, bathing the interior with light, which even shines through the glass box gutters. Old brick walls have been strategically revealed to tell the story of the layering of time and history within the spaces, whilst providing texture and warmth to the home.

"The focus was on the quality of the light and the spaces, and the innovative use of low-cost materials to achieve interestingly designed interiors."

Joe says it's an honour and privilege to be involved with an event like Open House Perth.

"It helps to promote awareness of how good design can positively impact our everyday lives by experiencing uplifting and inspiring spaces, whether it be at work, at play, or at home."

To find out more about Open House Perth 2014, click here.

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