I work in a beautiful part of East Melbourne surrounded by historic buildings and parks, most notably St Patrick’s Cathedral and the Old Treasury building.
Just across the street, is a three story Victorian terrace building called Tasma Terrace. At the back of the building is The Commune, a cafe that I visit at least once a day. From very early each morning the kiosk outside the cafe serves takeaway coffee to a steady stream of local workers. Inside there is also a constant flow of customers buying breakfast, lunch, coffee or one of their delicious cakes or pastries.
On Thursday and Friday nights The Commune becomes a bar with live music. Late in the afternoon the tables begin to fill with people looking to relax, have a drink and enjoy the music and company of friends and colleagues.
At the front of Tasma Terrace is the National Trust head office. The National Trust recently hosted a Steampunk Exhibition and so I decided to stroll across the street and take a look. I had never been inside the main part of the building, and knew nothing about Steampunk, so figured it was an good way to learn about both.
Tasma Terrace was built in 1879 and designed by Charles Webb who also designed Wesley College, the Alfred hospital, the Royal Arcade, and the famous Windsor Hotel, just a short walk away in Spring Street.
From 1970-72, Tasma Terrace, was the subject of a major battle between the National Trust and high-rise developers, resulting in Australia’s first legislation for the preservation of government owned historic buildings. It is said to be one of Melbourne’s finest terrace buildings and is often used as a set for films and TV productions set in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, such as Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
And what did I learn about Steampunk? Well the Steampunk movement began in the late 1980’s and takes modern technologies and redesigns them to look like something from the Victorian era or America’s Wild West. Typical materials used in the earlier designs were brass, copper, iron, glass, and wood.
Over the past 35 years Steampunk has become much more mainstream and the revival of craft and artisan products has created a demand for Steampunk costumes, jewellery and accessories.
The National Trust exhibition included some great costumes, works of art, and many of the more traditional Steampunk designs including jewellery, shoes, time machines, ray guns and music players. Although not my cup of tea I could certainly appreciate the skill and artisanship that went into each piece.
I plan to do some more exploring of my work neighbourhood soon, so stay posted.