Architecture for art’s sake


by Very Impressive

Space is important. The ways in which a space is used or not used help to inform the viewer of the precise purpose of a building just the same as a work of art.

Recently I was in attendance at a number of exhibition openings at art galleries in North Melbourne. While the works themselves were interesting in their own right, what I found myself most fascinated by was the space.

An exhibition at Gallery Voltaire, 14 Raglan Street, included photographic works by Carmen Caruana and Steve Sheddick.

Several photos of light cracking through clouds were on display. Cumulatively when looking around the room at images ripped from the heavens the exhibition took on a dreamlike quality as if one was walking through clouds.

The immersive effect was no doubt aided by the beautiful space in which the exhibition took place.

Nestled into the single-lane street alongside modern apartments and offices crafted out of historic warehouses, 14 Raglan Street is one of North Melbourne’s few remaining examples of commercial Art Deco architecture.

With many of North Melbourne’s Art Deco buildings already gone and the few that remain hardly protected from the auctioneer’s hammer, the spaces we do have seem all the more important.

At an exhibition of local artists held at the Jean McKendry Neighbourhood Centre the issue of space came up again.

With several local artists showcasing their works, the exhibition was generally a success and the artists were grateful to the Jean McKendry Neighbourhood Centre for giving them somewhere to display their works.

Yet a more conventional gallery space might have helped the exhibition really come to life.

North Melbourne is an historic suburb with several fantastic examples of various different architectural forms. While many of these buildings are protected in some way the prohibitively high property prices mean these buildings still fall prey to developers and hoteliers.

Of course, development in its own right isn’t necessarily negative. However, with so few of North Melbourne’s Art Deco buildings remaining and a limited number of gallery spaces accessible to the suburb’s emerging artists, an opportunity seems to exist.

Art Deco structures are, not surprisingly, great spaces for exhibiting art. Some clever urban planning might appease artists and architecture enthusiasts alike.

If an arrangement could be made whereby North Melbourne’s existing Art Deco buildings were not only protected but allowed to become functioning arts spaces, it could be of great benefit to the community.

Such an arrangement would help to revitalise some of our historic buildings that now lie in disrepair, while also creating space for the existing arts community.

With space at a premium in this busy inner-city suburb it seems unlikely that such a dream will come to fruition. Yet part of the reason I moved to North Melbourne is that it helps me to dream.

A thriving arts community, a beautiful setting of historic buildings from every era of North Melbourne’s past, these are some of the reasons that I live here.

Good art and good architecture have more than just space in common. Both are created by dreamers.


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