Cairo, Fitzroy

5 January 2021

The exotically named ‘Cairo’, Nicholson Street Fitzroy – a set of ‘bachelor flats’ with those famous cantilevered stairs. Many flats are compact #bedsits, with huge windows mostly facing north, with little balconies, so very light (perhaps too light in summer before the trees grew?). There’s 26 of those, while another 10 are one beds. Designed by architect Best Overend, then in his mid 20s, who was inspired by the similar landmark white Modernist Lawn Road Flats in London, which he had worked on in 1931. But here he used #clinkerbricks, a bit more homely than white render, and facing the sun was a German idea. There was also famously a restaurant/cafe facing the side street ‘for the convenience of residents’ but not sure it ever operated to the point they didn’t use their kitchens, which were TINY, partly because they included a ‘dinette’ (built in seats for two), of none survive (all kitchens and bathrooms replaced in c2002, despite it being on the Victorian Heritage Register). I was reminded of this place when I discovered there’s a 2013 novel set there ! Author Chris Womersley. Set in 1987 with a plot revolving around the theft of the Weeping Woman from the NGV. Can’t get more Melb than putting all that together. It’s a good read with a surprise ending. In the 80s Cairo was popular with archi students that I knew, and I visited, it’s nice, but I don’t think I could cope with a one room flat.

Update June 2022: So if you’ve ever lived at Cairo, in Fitzroy, there’s a website that’s gathering history and memories. Click here.

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