Inside the Chamber…

As I was lead towards the Council Chambers, through the Altona Civic Centre by Hobsons Bay City Council’s Janet Dawes, the anticipation built.

“It will be cold in here,” she warned.

We stood before glass doors, that revealed nothing – the room shrouded in darkness.

In a moment of pure drama, Janet flicked the light switch, revealing the chambers in all their glory….

On Saturday July 27, between 10am and 2pm, The Council Chambers will be open for visitors to view, as part of Open House Melbourne. Hobsons Bay are heavily featured in this year’s festival, with nine iconic buildings across the municipality, opening their doors to visitors over the last weekend of July.

For eleven years, Open House Melbourne has provided visitors an opportunity to explore more than 900 different locations. In its 12th year, the event is thriving, with over 100 special events planned for the weekend ahead. Allowing people to explore and discover their surrounds, builds “a groundswell of interest in critical issues” regarding environment, liveability and design impact.

As I step into the domed, circular room, I am immediately struck by the chill – it really is cold.

Architecture is not my area of expertise, but I know what I like – I like this room.

The experts will tell you that this space was:

. . . designed by mid-century architect Robert Warren in 1962-63, the Council Chambers were built to symbolise the progressive and forward-thinking philosophy of the newly-incepted Council for the former City of Altona, a region under rapid development. The building has a striking modernist design with a distinctive copper-clad dome.

As I lay down on the plush sapphire carpet, directly below the incredible light fixture that is all drama, all the time, I am struck by my privilege….

How blessed to sneak behind the curtains, to photograph this remarkable space.

How blessed to live in a country where women are not only free to vote, but to be voted for.

How blessed that I know some of these powerful, intelligent and passionate women – Councillor Altair, Gates and Wilson – women I deeply respect.

The acoustics are incredible and I can only imagine the way the sound carries, as the councillors advocate for their respective shires.

It’s unlikely that any of our Mayors – past or present – have seen the light from this perspective. From anywhere within this circular room, the light will draw your eye, but the carpet below certainly offers the best view.

As the lights are flicked off, the room is given back to the darkness – a shame really. Thankfully, Open House Melbourne will have the lights switched back on for all to enjoy – don’t miss your chance to see them.

Melissa Longo

  • Open: Saturday 27 July 10am–2pm
  • Tour Type: Open Entry, Self-guided
  • Access: Fully accessible, all ages.
  • Notes: Toilets available
  • Building Type: Government
  • Architecture Era: Late Twentieth Century (1961-2000)

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