Loving the dramatic city light

By Antony Di Mase

Image courtesy: Matt Irwin

Recently there has been considerable media attention on over-shadowing by tall buildings on places in the city that we consider to be sacrosanct.  

Just recently, it was reported that the high-rise buildings in Southbank would cast a shadow at certain times of the year on the Shrine of Remembrance. 

The State Library forecourt is under renewed threat from overshadowing from new buildings being planned to its north-west.

As well, the banks of the Yarra will also be in shadow at certain times from tall buildings that are planned for the western end of the city.

Daylight access is an important public health issue.

The approval of new tall buildings without due consideration is a concern and it means there will be more places of importance, more streets and more gardens in shadow.

Daylight in the CBD is in scarce supply and every ray of light that reaches the ground plane is an opportunity for nature to thrive and for people to feel connected to the simple pleasures of time, weather and season.

Those many people who work in artificially lit and air-conditioned office in the city need access to daylight. This short piece about daylight celebrates those places in the city where daylight contributes something special to the experience. 

It should never be taken for granted and, whilst daylight in the city is complex, changing and transient, we should not simply trade it away for more new high-rise buildings that limit our enjoyment of this wonderful city.

So for all the daylight-lovers out there – here is my top 12 daylight inspired places of Melbourne.

State Library forecourt There is always lots to watch from the grass embankments. 

The forecourt is Melbourne’s version of an Italian piazza – art and architecture and, to top it all, trees and grass for people to sink their hands and toes into.

Latrobe Reading Room, State Library of Victoria – People feed off the generous scholarly atmosphere that is the Latrobe Reading Room. 

The lantern gives beautiful, diffuse light - a perfect place to study, read or write the next great Australian novel.

Deakin Edge, Federation Square The view of the Yarra makes this auditorium a joy to be in. 

Be it day or night, watching a great performance whilst having contact with natural light and such a view is rare in these types of performance and lecture spaces.

Atrium of 171 Collins St This beautifully-designed atrium is shrouded with an inclining glass curtain on four sides that plays with the light from above.

Collins Place Plaza The late 1970s space-frame-canopy spans this magnificent space and the tall office buildings to the north protect it from the harsh effects of the sun during the middle of the day.

St Patrick’s Cathedral The amber glass of the cathedral interior creates a beautiful light in this gothic revival church. 

Putting religion to one side, walking through this magnificent gothic-revival cathedral when the sun is setting is a truly uplifting experience.

Hosier Lane Natural light is the best light to experience art and in Hosier Lane we are treated to a constantly-changing art display that is big bold and always unusual.

Great Hall ceiling, National Gallery of Victoria The Great Hall is a modern cathedral – where Leonard French’s stained-glass masterpiece is on the horizontal plane.  

The beautiful, slender steel columns and modern proportions of the space are a treat for kids who lie on the floor and gaze up to the kaleidoscopic-coloured roof.

Manchester Unity tower When the sun is setting in the west, there are times when the tower on this Melbourne icon shines like a beacon as the sun passes through the top level windows. 

The view of the tower from the top of Collins St is something to behold.  The banks of the Yarra in front of the rowing pavilions.

If you can wake up early, the banks of the Yarra are a great vantage point to enjoy the city skyline. 

Joggers, rowers, the occasional hot air balloon and, if you’re lucky, the early morning mist drifts of the river.

Terraced steps, Federation Square On a Friday night, with the sun setting, the terraced steps of Federation Square is a great spot to welcome the weekend. 

The setting sun, tall buildings to the west, the end of a working week and Federation Square becomes a great place to welcome the weekend.

GPO steps The sandstone, neo-classical facade is beautiful in bright sunshine.  The steps are a great place to sit and enjoy the warmth on a cold winter’s day and watch a performance from buskers. 

It’s a great place where architecture and people get to play on one of our most impressive buildings. Daylight in the city is dramatic and occasionally surprising.

Write in and tell us your favourite daylight place in the city – [email protected]

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