Man About the Shell House

Thursday 22 November 


Shell Headquarters Building by Harry Seidler 

1 Spring Street, Melbourne 


SOLD OUT – for waitlist tickets, please email

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Straight from a sell out season at the Sydney Opera House, Tim Ross and Kit Warhurst are thrilled to perform their hit show at the Shell Headquarters Building by Harry Seidler.

For the last five years they have taken temporary possession of architecturally significant buildings and skillfully blended comedy, storytelling, music and design in a mold breaking format that has seen them literally sell out houses across the globe.

Following rave reviews for the recent film series, Streets of Your Town, Tim and Kit welcome you to the breathtaking Shell Headquarters Building by Harry Seidler.

Must see show of the Festival.
New York Times.

Had us in stitches.”
Sunday Times (UK)

The Age.

With quick wit and telling anecdotes, Tim shares his passion for modern design and architecture — the fortunate audience is left both enlightened and entertained.”
 Wendy Kaplan 
Department Head and Curator Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Tickets are extremely limited, book now to avoid missing out.

The show runs for one hour and 35 minutes with a short interval.

Charles Perry’s sculpture ‘Shell Mace’ at Shell House. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files 

Shell Headquarters by Harry Seidler

(Article on The Design Files by Stuart Harrison)

Shell House is fascinating for several reasons. It’s Seidler’s only tower in Melbourne, with a unique site on the corner of Robert Hoddle’s grid. A bookend to the city is created, and Seidler smooths this grand corner – denying the city a sharp edge as others may have done. This move also dealt with the recently completed city train loop tunnel cutting under the site, making building above it restrictive. The train line itself a curving form, trying to turn the corner of a grid city.

The building uses two main forms to resolve the ‘L’ shaped site – the tall tower and the side podium. There are three street entries – in addition to the main tower entry on Spring Street, the lower podium links Flinders Street to Finders Lane. Once in the main foyer off Spring Street, look up to see Arthur Boyd’s mural ‘Pulpit Rock, Bathers and Muzzled Dog‘. These entries are connected – you can walk through internally (do it!) as well as down the dramatic lane of stairs on the western side. In front of all three entries is a small plaza, an intimate public-like space. Seidler’s towers often have this element of (privately owned) public space around them, with distinctive brown slate tile underfoot.

Sky gardens, where the façade is pushed in to create protected balconies, scatter the façade of Shell House, adding subtle variation to the rigorous and repeating concrete framework of the building. The tower is co-owned by Daniel Besen, who has offices on the top floor. These refurbished suites, designed by Simone Serle, utilise sky gardens to great effect. The fit-out here builds on the original palette, and expresses key original elements such as a quintessential sculptural white Seidler staircase. Shell House has other uses at the lower levels – within the podium a gallery and lecture theatre are used for public events.

Seidler’s towers of this period – Shell House, Riverside (Brisbane), Grosvenor Place (Sydney) and Perth’s QV1 (one I watched being built as an excited teenager) are similar stylistically, with consistent elements and materials. These key elements include decent, effective sunshades on all windows – something not as common as you would think in Australia! The dominant style for office towers today is still unshaded glass – I remember Seidler saying in the early 90s that this was madness – and it still is.

Harry’s national family of office towers from the 80s and 90s all feature raking columns at the base, granite cladding, tall foyer spaces with expressed beams, with a restricted material palette of whites and greys. And all have a sculpture out the front, a classic modernist composition that allows the building to happily be the backdrop. Here in Melbourne, Charles Perry’s unpeeling work ‘Shell Mace‘ still holds this corner of the city.


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