The Agora Building in Melbourne

melbourne (6)I’d spotted the boarded up windows of the majestic old building while walking through Melbourne. Whenever I find a beautiful old building that looks like it might be abandoned, I try to verify it as quick as I can, and see if I can find a way inside, and the easiest way to do that is to just walk around it. I completed my customary circumnavigation, and in the alleyway between it and its neighbor, I found a pair of double doors held together by a chain and padlock that looked promising (and no signs indicating that it was occupied or an active construction site, so safe to explore!).
The chain holding the doors shut was loose enough that, if you tried, you could pull the doors apart just far enough to wriggle your way in between them. We did so, one after the other, glancing around the unoccupied Melbourne alleyway to verify that it was, in fact, unoccupied.

And just like that we were inside one of the most majestic abandoned buildings I’ve ever seen. Four stories tall, with another tower on the roof, and a basement, it had been completely gutted. There were almost no interior walls left standing, just a series of regularly spaced pillars. The most dramatic feature was the massive hole, going all the way from the ground floor up through each of the other floors and up through the roof, giving an unobstructed view out onto the bright Australian sky, and providing nice illumination for the rest of the (8)

We started our explorations on the cavernous ground floor. We found the only bit of separated rooms, consisting primarily of a pair of no longer functioning toilets, as well as a staircase down into the basement.

Unlike the rest of the building, the basement was positively creepy. Filled with broken shards of wood dumped unceremoniously askew, one had to step carefully to avoid splinters, or worse. Most disturbing of all was the massive, unexplained hole (not contiguous with the one aboveground) filled with foul smelling water. Despite our adventurous attitudes, we steered well clear of that, and soon decided to leave the basement altogether.

The upper floors were much more pleasant. There was a staircase made of temporary looking scaffolding that should have been taken away ages ago, complete with stickers indicating that it should, indeed, have been removed ages ago, which wobbled ominously, giving off that dreadful screech of metal being rubbed against metal. Fortunately, it held, even against a few forceful kicks we gave it before trusting our body weight to it.

melbourne (7) The first and second floors were largely unremarkable, being devoid of anything noteworthy and not having the shock factor that the ground floor had. The fourth floor, though, was where things started getting interesting again. This was the first floor to have one of my favorite features of Melbourne: graffiti! Graffiti is decriminalized in Melbourne, leading to a plethora of wondrous, ever changing public art filling the alleyways and those buildings whose owners consent (or are no longer around to object). It was on the fourth floor that some artists had found another canvas, and it was magnificent. The fourth floor was also missing much of its roof, more than the floors below, allowing more light in, while not having as much wind as the roof proper, making it a perfect place to make large, involved, painstaking art projects.

The roof proved just as astounding. While the fourth floor was home to a variety of huge murals, the roof was home to more written messages. A tower on one corner provided a breathtaking (and nearly heartstopping) view of the rest of the building and much of the city, and contained my favorite of the scrawled messages I read there: a greeting from a past explorer to whoever presently read it, declaring that spot a “special place for seduce woman”. Put a tad cruder, (4)

Photos are by me. The Agora Building is no longer abandoned; it’s now owned by RMIT University. You can find it in the Melbourne CBD.

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