Footpath Guides: mapping Melbourne’s architectural secrets

Published:  November 18, 2015

It goes that Melbourne’s new Foothpath Guides series was conceived on the 8th floor terrace of Total House, a now-heritage listed example of Japanese-inspired ‘Brutalist’ architecture on Russell Street, where a carpark deck marked in horizontal lines is topped with a retro TV-like box of offices. The building was under threat from developers, sparking Dave Roper (co-founder of Crumpler) and Jacques Sheard (independent filmmaker and architectural academic) to put together a series of guidebooks as an homage to Melbourne’s architecture.


The guides are compact and colourful, with the first three in the series taking in a different area or aspect of Melbourne’s architecture, from the 19th century work of Joseph Reed who is responsible for some of the city’s most notable public and administrative buildings including the Exhibition Building, the State Library of Victoria and the Melbourne Town Hall; to the Edwardian and Victorian mansions, Mid-Century Modern flats and Art Deco and Spanish Mission Apartments dotted around seaside suburb St Kilda; to a whip around the CBD and its international style espoused by the Swiss modernist Le Corbusier and his contemporaries at the Bahaus school.

Each guide, designed by Sonia Post at Design Democracy, takes an unusual approach for a city guide book, eschewing polished photography and instead using bold colours and an eclectic mash of decorative pattens to dominate the pages. Text is concise and presented in large type, written in a conversational tone that works for both architectural nerds and those just curious. The rare use of photography is heavily treated with colour filters, and the architectural illustrations are bare bones, meaning that an experience or feeling of the buildings cannot be found in the guides themselves, but only in the places the guides will lead you.

Mid-Century-Cover_2048x2048 Mid-Century-P08-09_4691c2af-9811-4a07-add5-abd2a4e18d92_2048x2048 Mid-Century-P18-19_6f588407-f920-48d8-afc8-94d7c24a8d1f_2048x2048 St-Kilda-Cover_4962d0c9-db66-4b04-9743-0cfb0ab9f2e5_2048x2048 St-Kilda-P02-03_2048x2048 St-Kilda-P14-15_2048x2048

All images by Footpath Guides.

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