University of Melbourne Magazine

Visions splendid

  • Peter Malatt in the tiny bar in Meyers Place.

    Peter Malatt in the tiny bar in Meyers Place.

    PETER MALATT (BArch(Hons) 1989)

    Six Degrees

    Meyers Place Bar: Tiny, European-style bar, constructed with reclaimed materials and recognised as the venue that kick-started

    Melbourne’s laneway culture. UTAS School of Architecture: A multiaward-winning home for a university school of architecture constructed within

    a heritage-listed 1950s diesel workshop.

    As a student and for a year after graduating, Peter Malatt worked for Maggie Edmond (BArch 1969) and Peter Corrigan AM (BArch 1966), whose firm would become famous for controversial and award-winning buildings such as RMIT’s Building 8 extension. But by 1991, he was doing contract work and sharing a cold Richmond studio with five other graduates.

    They collaborated on architectural competitions and small residential and commercial jobs but had few assets beyond their six architecture degrees. On a winter’s day when the nearby Nylex clock displayed a temperature of six degrees, they had a name for a new practice.

    Their “democratic business friendship” became known for its inventive reuse of recycled materials on small jobs, such as the Meyers Place Bar, and is famous for its inventive and sustainable approach to large residential and institutional projects.

    Malatt, president of the Victorian chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects, is passionate about architecture’s role in enacting positive social change and outraged by the proliferation of badly designed city apartments — “the slums of the future”. “Melbourne has a lot of ordinary design by non-architects,” he says.

    Architecture is quite simple. It’s about concept, function, materials, people and place. The world’s best buildings, like the Sydney Opera House make it look so easy as all five elements are pure and in perfect symphony

    My top five (modern) Melbourne buildings are: Melbourne University Underground Car Park (Dik van der Molen) – probably my favourite; BHP House (Yuncken Freeman Griffith Simpson); Triangle House (Peter and Dionne McIntyre); Capitol Theatre (Mahoney and Griffin); NGV Great Hall (Sir Roy Grounds).

    “I remember
    Peter McIntyre AO (BArch 1950, GDipT&RP 1955, DArch 1993) telling us in our fourth year about studying under Roy Grounds (BArch 1951) and Robin Boyd in the old Nissen huts and the influence they had on him. Peter fought the Buildings Department to allow us 24‑hour access to the architecture studio and to rekindle that 1950s studio culture. We used to drink and smoke and draw all through the night — it was a bonding experience — then go to Cafe Notturno at dawn for coffee.”