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The Incinerator Gallery

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by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (subscribe)
Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
Published March 23rd 2013
All fired up about Walter Burley Griffin

Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahony c. 1930. Photo from Wikimedia Commons
I visited the Incinerator Gallery on a wild and woolly day, when the sky was dark and threatening and tree branches whipped down on passing motorists.

No one else was braving the elements and I was the only visitor.

But despite the dreary and uncertain conditions nothing could dampen my enthusiasm for this inspiring building.

I had long known that the architect who designed Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin, had left another legacy. Funnily enough it was industrial incinerators.

By that I mean huge industrial incinerators that were built to devour waste. In this case, it was built for the Essendon City Council on their rubbish dump as a way of burning rubbish rather than letting it stack up.

One could not think of anything more alien to beauty than a belching, smoke spewing incinerator but Griffin was an architect who could find beauty in anything.

Griffin and his wife, Marion Mahony, had worked for the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright and were schooled in the Arts and Crafts legacy of creating beauty and functionality in all things.

The present exhibition Fireworks if of VCE students who live or go to school in Moonee Valley.

It is a little hard to explain the sheer beauty of this building. It has to do with the simplicity, the clean lines and geometric features which are so simple in concept yet so dramatic in their overall impression. The result is stunning Art Deco.

Walking around particularly the outside of the building you can see the sheer glory of Griffin's architectural style. You can imagine him planning the overall concept making marks with a compass, glorying in the functionality and beauty of intersecting lines, geometric shapes and diamond patterning.

The final drawings were executed in the Griffin's Melbourne office under the direct supervision of Eric Nicholls and the incinerator was completed in 1929.

Griffin and his wife were also early conservationists. The workings of the incinerator were also devised to minimise effluence into the atmosphere. And in keeping with Griffin's Arts and Crafts ethos the council workers were well catered for and given a beautifully tiled bathroom with showers and even a plunge bath.

If you happen to catch Richard Ennis, the Arts officer at the Incinerator Gallery, he knows everything there is to know about Griffin and the surrounding area.

He told me how the original design even encompassed a garden although today only the peppercorn trees remain.

Remnants of the sites industrial heritage are still in place

Noted Melbourne architect Greg Burgess who supervised the refurbishment of the Incinerator in 2004 so it could become a gallery said: "In everything that they did they ennobled every day life. They imbued it with the quality of soul."

And that seems more than a fitting epitaph.

Windows are the eyes of the soul

Windows are the eyes of the soul

The Incinerator Gallery is also home to various important local art exhibitions. But don't forget to walk around the outside of the building because architecture is art in and of itself. And this art work should not be missed.
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Why? Because Walter Burley Griffin still stokes our imagination
When: 180 Holmes Road Moonee Ponds
Phone: 8325 1750
Where: 180 Holmes Road Moonee Ponds. A ten minute alkd down Holmes Road from the Moonee Ponds station.
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Hi Nadine, I quite liked the insights into form and function you presented here and can see how it relates to your PhD work. Well done. Earl
by elivi (score: 1|80) 2856 days ago
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