Sunday, September 27, 2015

The old and the new

I think I mentioned that I now work in Parliament House; my job is very interesting and the people are great but one of the best parts of the job is actually working in the building. It's less than 30 years old and the architect - Romaldo Giurgola - must be an absolute genius, because it manages to be grand and accessible at the same time. And it also feels very modern - limited materials, lots of wood,  pale colours. Even in the back corridors where I am you can see it; there are no cornices - the walls curve into the ceiling - and the door frames are flush with the walls. It's a bit starship enterprise and I like it a lot.

I'm rambling on about door frames because on Friday we had a day working in the State Parliament of Victoria, in Melbourne, which was built in 1856. Apparently it's only half finished, and they meant to do a whole heap more, but gave up in the 1920s. The whole thing would have been extraordinary. It's a hunk of neoclassical gorgeousness as it is. We were in one of the large old rooms, and it was amazing. Huge gilt chandeliers hanging out of thirty-layer ceiling roses, ornate carved doors and window frames, crazy levels of painted cornices, mosaic tile floors, vast wooden banisters, marble fireplaces  and history up the wazoo. Love it, and it made our Canberra minimalist rooms look definitely under-done.

But ... there were the icy draughts every time someone came into the room, and the tiny inconvenient toilets half a mile away, and not nearly enough power points, and the queue to get through security because nobody designed space for a metal detector in 1856, and having to haul your suitcase up all those stairs .... it didn't make you happy to spend the day in it in the same way the new building does. Nice to visit but I'm glad I don't work there.

I had a spare hour before my flight home so took a stroll down by the river. Melbourne, as ever, is awesome. It was late Friday afternoon and people were starting to have a few beers and wind down. Melbourne is regularly named one of the world's most liveable cities in one of those completely unscientific polls that they do and I can see why - heaps going on but still quite human-sized and friendly.

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