Ever since Melbourne’s early colonialists (con-artists?) told the indigenous inhabitants that their sensibilities on land and place were a bit ‘namby, pamby’ and not worth the notice of the self-appointed governors, the city has been far more interested in making a buck than listening to its inhabitants and having any sustainable and sensible plan for its development.
Melbourne (Narrm as it should be known) was a spiritual place before it became a pioneering tent city, then a colonial city, then a Victorian era boom town in an emerging Nation. Then thankfully the economy died back for a while.
Between the wars the suburbs embraced the modernity of Frank Lloyd Wright and generous California Bungalows reached out along the railway spines of the city.
By the seventies we so desperately wanted to shrug off the old world ‘dust’ that Melbourne became an Americanised city with glass tower blocks straddling and over-shadowing the Victorian streets.
We are still a restless city – embarrassed by our quaint identity – we want to be seen as part of the new Asia, we want to be a ‘vibrant city’ with money and power and glamour, but we have taken to this by shunning our ‘liveable city’ dusty heritage for chicken coop, dog kennel, concrete block aesthetics.
Our planners are selling the need to become a densified Asian city with the same ‘how are we going to house everybody?’ urgency of China or Hong Kong. (The difference being that Shanghai actually has 14.5million people to house in a pressing population of 1.3 billion)
We want to have our cake and eat the heritage our children could have enjoyed.
No more family home with a backyard for the next generation – the developers have already grabbed these up and are bulldozing them wholesale as I write.
We would rather kill our grandmother, scoop out her insides and strip her to the bone (see the Myer Emporium development) than manage sensitive and slow development.
Given that I’d rather keep up some positive posts here – I’m hoping that having just joined the Melbourne Heritage Action group I can be more pro-active on this issue. Please join them if you would like to add your voice..
The images show the New Myer Emporium Melbourne which was a gross example of façadism – the entire internal structure stripped out and much of the surrounding lane-ways environment sanitised by smoothed plasticised walling.
Of course we should be thankful the facades survived. The developer’s heralded ‘iconic’ glass entrance that replaced Lonsdale House – a true 1930s art deco icon – adds no value to the city. The (now ubiquitous) oversized LED screen which tops the building beats advertising onto the people in the streets below urging them to buy, buy, buy.