Blog

Visual diary and observations by David Hollywood about art, architecture, theatre, design and popular culture.​

East Melbourne

I have shifted my base from water's edge to East Melbourne.

Brunswick Street Fitzroy

Brunswick Street Fitzroy

To my North is Fitzroy and the grungey tendrils of Brunswick and Smith Streets. Here you will find a sort of rekindling of the Beat generation in cafes like Grace. Soft bearded waiters and a girl with purple hair. The best of coffees and yummy cakes!

To my East is Richmond, which feels like three distinct suburbs side by side.

Swan Street, Bridge Road and Victoria Street lend their distinctive characters to make up the multiple personalities of this town.

Swan Street refers to a more traditional Australia - the kind that had milk bars and frock shops.

Bridge Road shifts from boutique to design interiors with a mix of cafes in between.

Victoria Street presents the visitor with all the flavours of Vietnam with a Woolworths in the centre.

Victoria Street, Richmond

Victoria Street, Richmond

To my South is the MCG and the Yarra - the world of Chapel Street, Prahran, Toorak, Punt Road, and the suburbs that stretch out along the bay. That parkland, bounded by busy roads and sprouting high-tech domes and stadiums still feels foreign to me - a kind of no man's land until some occasion like a Grand Final opens the flood gates to the transient sea of humanity.

To my West is Fitzroy Gardens and the CBD. What a wonderful way to approach the city of Melbourne. The mornings have been relatively cool (we are in the midst of an unprecedented heatwave) and the avenues are misted by the spray from sprinklers. There are no signs of Autumn. The flower beds are still brimming with colour.

Fitzroy Gardens

Fitzroy Gardens


My new base, East Melbourne, is an oasis. No major thoroughfares cut through my pocket of existence. The trams skirt by to the north and the south. Hoddle Street rumbles to the East.

The compact cottages of St Kilda West that played against my walker's eye are now supplanted by 19th century terraces interspersed with the odd 1930s apartment building.

I find myself looking up rather than along the street.

In the suburbs of Middle Park and St Kilda West, your eye follows the rippling river of terracotta tile from roof to roof. The river effect is strengthened by the low profile, often single story homes, butted against each other with long stretches of road and footpath. 

In East Melbourne, the Victorian homes are more akin to grand ladies, presenting their embroidered aprons to the passing parade. You look up to a pediment, a cupola, a gable or iron lacework. It makes me think of Manet and Edwardian London. Genteel.

I would not be surprised at all if Mary Poppins sailed by with her brolly tilted to the wind.

Pocket parks: men playing boules in Darling Square.

Islands of spongey grass and shade trees divide the roads edged with grey cobble stone - the same stone used to construct St Patrick's Cathedral.

Grassy island

A woman cuts her husband's hair while he sits on a stool in one of these green islands bounded by road. He reads a newspaper in the shade while she snips away at his locks. There are some children around, but not many. There are more dogs than children. Nice dogs, like there are in Wentworth Falls. 

These encounters with very liveable places...

I want to explore this further. What makes a successful or an "ideal" neighbourhood? How would you measure "successful" and how different is my "ideal" neighbourhood to yours, I wonder? And, where would we find common ground? In our similarities? Our age, our sex, our cultural background?

Please feel free to add your thoughts...

The Gallery below is a mix of East Melbourne and Fitzroy. The eye drawn upwards by gables and cupolas and lacey iron...