I think one of the best free events held as part of State of Design is Melbourne Open House. The 2-day event sees public and private buildings all around Melbourne throw open their doors for a rare opportunity for you and I to discover the hidden histories and spaces in and around the CBD.

There are more than 60 sites to visit, including bowls clubs, banks, residential buildings, libraries and rooftop gardens. It’s an amazingly popular event so to make the most of it take Melbourne Open House’s advice:

–          Plan your day

–          Know building opening times (they do vary) and if a building is running tours – click here

–          Be prepared for queues

–          Have a contingency plan and be flexible

For instance, I had wanted to check out the normally closed upper levels of Block Arcade, but all the upcoming tours were full so I ended up at the Melbourne Athenaeum Library and Origin Roof Garden instead.

The Melbourne Athenaeum Library is normally open only to subscription members and is the city’s oldest public institution, with the library’s collection starting in 1840. The densely packed dark wood bookshelves overlook the grand facades of the Regent Theatre and Melbourne Theosophical Society, and the library is a step back in time amongst the CBD bustle.

Every visitor is given a self-guided tour briefly explaining various items of interest, from paintings to a metal book press. My favourites were the classical lift façade (from 1930) and the beautiful Art Nouveau bronze lamp holders.

The Origin Roof Garden was a very different space. Designed by famous TV landscape designer Jamie Durie, the 458 square metre balcony garden is for Origin employees to meet, relax and eat lunch. There’s barbecue and cooking facilities, outdoor seating covered in artificial turf and the most distinctive feature, an open-ended cylinder covered in turf. The garden has been designed using sustainable, recycled timber products, artificial turf and drought tolerant and allergy-free plants.

Lucky Origin employees!

Get your walking shoes on! Melbourne Open House finishes today 25 July. Check out all the properties and opening hours here.