Botanic Gardens precinct
Melbourne is masterful at retrofitting the old with intriguing new relevancies. Take the 172-year-old Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, 36 hectares of spectacular parkland planted with more than 10,000 botanical species that serves as the green lungs and living room of the city by day, and the crucible for edgy culture after dark.
French art luminaries Compagnie Carabosse recently fired it up with a river of flame for the Melbourne Festival, while Circus Oz amplified their acrobatic mayhem with the premiere of Precarious in the grounds. In summer, it is cinema classics and Shakespeare served under the stars with picnic hampers and puppies (dogs are always welcome). This city-wide willingness to drop one ecosystem into a contra-indicated other expresses to great effect in the adjacent Shrine of Remembrance, where architects Ashton Raggatt McDougall — positioned at the playfully expressive end of Melbourne design — have invested the Neoclassical mausoleum with the Galleries of Remembrance.
These emotive underground spaces mapping the narrative of Australia’s war efforts are a must-see for buffs of both history and architecture. So is the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, the sweeping 1950s tensile structure hosting outdoor concerts, and the Walsh Street home of Robin Boyd, arguably the greatest architect of modernist-era Melbourne. Now an immersive event space and incubator of design intelligence (through the Robin Boyd Foundation), the house plays host to film nights, talkfests and tours (check online for dates and details). After beating a path to all that postwar architecture, an appetite is bound to build. Head to the Domain, where Scott Pickett’s new Matilda, masterfully designed by Projects of Imagination into an elemental space, gives a brilliant Aussie salute to bistro classics — think kangaroo tartare and Pink Lady apple tarte tatin. Priority access to its coal-charred fare goes to guests of United Places Botanic Gardens, the new luxury 12-suite ‘home-hotel’ above Pickett’s eatery that surveys the green sweep of Botanic Gardens and city beyond.
The area brags good informal French fare (bonjour, Entrecôte, Bistro Gitan and France-Soir) and a furtive little Japanese jewel in the timber-clad form of Ichi Ichi Ku — a 20-seat all-day izakaya with a mostly gluten-free menu. Walk it all off around The Tan — the favourite Melbourne running route that loops the Botanic Gardens.
Emotive underground spaces mapping the narrative of Australia’s war efforts are must-see for buffs a of both history and architecture
THIS PAGE a suite at the United Places Botanic Gardens boutique hotel. OPPOSITE PAGE Parisianstyle cafe Entrecôte in South Yarra.