Saturday, November 22, 2014

Iron filagree enhances Melbourne

I'm breaking from health care today, with a throwback to my training as a city planner.  I'm spending several days in Melbourne, Australia, and had a chance to visit some of the old neighborhoods. We spent some time walking around Drummond Street, in the Carlton section of the city, and came across an incredible collection of terraced houses from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  Fortunately, they have been preserved, and now the district is legally protected from redevelopment.

Wikipedia explains:

In the first half of the twentieth-century, terraced housing in Australia fell into disfavour and the inner-city areas where they were found were often considered slums. In the 1950s, many urban renewal programs were aimed at eradicating them entirely in favour of high-rise development. In recent decades these inner-city areas and their terraced houses have been gentrified. Terrace houses are now highly sought after in Australia, and due to their proximity to the CBD of the major cities, are often expensive.

The most noticeable characteristic of these row houses is the cast iron filagree work.  It is present on the overhang underneath balconies, where it also serves as a sunlight diffuser.  It is also used decoratively on the blaconies themselves.  My host noted that the iron originally came from pig iron that was used as ballast on the incoming ships from England and elsewhere.  (On the outgoing routes, the cargo served as ballast.) Wiki says, "Today Melbourne has more decorative cast iron than any other city in the world."

Another predominant feature is the use of polychrome brickwork.  Some of the houses have been painted over, but the original bricks are visible in quite a few.  Check out this marvelous specimen below:

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