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Do a little touristing
Russell Degnan

via Information Victoria there are several good ways to visit Melbourne and the rest of Victoria in the waning days of summer.

Bicylcle Victoria has two events running. The Labour Day weekend is Rail Trail Discovery Weekend. Not many of them are too near Melbourne but they make up for that with the scenery.

And Sunday March 20th is the inaugural Bike Path Discovery Day. It coincides with the Food and Wine festival and Moombafest, so there will be plenty of things to see and do.

The Yarra Shuttle is running again until the end of March. It is still a bit gimmicky, but the travel times are not bad (30 minutes from Fed Square to Docklands). I like to see it integrated into public transport and extended down to the MCG, but this is a start.

Places 24th February, 2005 11:23:06   [#] [0 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LIX, February 2005
Russell Degnan

East from the quiet part of Federation Square over the Yarra.

Melbourne 23rd February, 2005 23:16:25   [#] [0 comments] 

News on this year`s big issues
Russell Degnan

Political opportunism and transport seem to go hand in hand.

What exactly was the Federal Labor party thinking with this? Scare-mongering, not really a Federal responsibility, and not something you could stop anyway. But why not attack the government?

Robert Doyle thinks he's backed a winner too. No other party (including the Nats) thinks buying out the toll contract on the Scoresby is a good idea - a fair proportion of the remaining rabble he leads think its a bad idea. But he presses on, and why not?

Meanwhile, they ignore the bigger issues. Namely, that, as we've argued here many a time, a lack of political will - particularly through funding for infrastructure - is killing Melbourne 2030. I haven't commented on the Metropolitan Transport Plan yet; but I had occasion to read it today and it is embarrassingly bad, with little to suggest the government has really thought how to reach its various transportation targets.

Also transport related, the arguments over deepening the bay continue. More testing on the environmental effects is being interpreted despite the panel hearings being completed. However, regardless of the results; you'd be foolish to think the decision will be anything but political, especially with so many groups lobbying the government one way or another.

The arguments over the bay will likely continue for a while yet. For a government with an overwhelming parliamentary majority and no discernable opposition the Bracks government is incredibly weak-willed.

Planning 23rd February, 2005 23:02:20   [#] [0 comments] 

Harmony & chaos
Aaron Hewett

So one of Australia's leading architects thinks that planners should stay the hell out of urban design and so-called 'neighbourhood character'.

He's probably right.

"But when it comes to housing, when they're asking for harmony, they're actually asking for monotony, because most people don't want to build outside of what is around." Glenn Murcutt on the 7.30 Report - transcript here.

It's interesting to listen to other people like Murcutt talk about planning. Planners often try to many order and harmony out of chaos and discord. Whereas others see the city as inherently and appropriately chaotic and harmony as being something obtainable without monotony.

Something to keep in mind when we're doing our work placement and some senior Council planner leans over your shoulder and says "refuse it... the pillars aren't Victorian enough..."

Planning 19th February, 2005 12:45:46   [#] [3 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LVIII, February 2005
Russell Degnan

Yes yes, late again. Another moody post-rain picture to again match our weather. Taken March 2003.

Melbourne 17th February, 2005 00:01:22   [#] [0 comments] 

Business and the Ethics of Education.
Salacious Sam

Given the current state of the tertiary education in Australia, one could be forgiven if they assumed that the learning that occurs in our tertiary institutions has no ethical component. Today's topic is on work placement, business and the ethics surrounding both.

Currently all 3rd year RMIT Planning Students are, or will commence job placement as part of the course in a variety of settings ranging from Local Government to private practice. The process of job allocation is set up to closely mirror the 'real world' in that students must apply in writing to several employers in the hope of gaining an interview. However, the process is inherently flawed from the outset. The overall process is as follows:

1-Work Experience Office at RMIT places 1st round placements up for students to look at around mid November (placement commences the following Feb).
2-Students are then allowed a maximum of 5 preferred organizations. These must be ranked in order with an accompanying ‘why I want to work here’ note.
3-The Work Placement Office then allocates 2-3 organizations to each student. Allocation is based on GPA with students ‘competing’ against each other. Already the simulated market is taking shape.
4-Once students receive their 2-3 options for placement, it is then expected that they will contact each of these organizations to request an interview. CVs are attached to cover letters and then the hopeful applicants must wait.

It is at this stage that the students leave the supposed safe environment of the university and take their chances in the real world of the job market.

5-Students now wait for each organization to contact them and schedule an interview. Depending on which organization students are engaged with, some will receive calls within a matter of weeks while some must wait until after the Christmas break.
6-Interviews are held, with generally 2-4 students ‘competing’ against each other for a single placement. Students are now judged on personal character, experience and presentation, rather than just on grades alone.
7-The process following these interviews is the standard process any employer would follow. After a successful interview, a student will be contacted and will (on most occasions) accept the offer of the placement.

Now there are, as I have been told repeatedly, many students who don’t get accepted to a placement in the 1st round. These poor unfortunates must then go through the same process in the 2nd round of offers that generally appear after the new year.

Students are urged to take the first placement they are offered, with the fair understanding that all students have been through the nominated process of writing cover letters, attending interviews and the like. Additionally, students are told not to seek other avenues of work outside the prescribed RMIT method.

As it stands, the system is flawed and deserving students are missing out because other students see it fit to muscle their way into placements that they do not deserve.

Planning 16th February, 2005 23:23:03   [#] [3 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: LVII, February 2005
Russell Degnan

A moody picture to match our moody weather. Taken March 2003.

Melbourne 12th February, 2005 01:48:22   [#] [0 comments] 

Review - Our Course to Date
Citizen #381277

While this intended to be somewhat light-hearted, it does contain serious thoughts on the current structure of the RMIT B app(sci) Planning course...

While talking with several RMIT students concerning their various work
placement jobs over the summer, a recurring theme has emerged concerning
the adequacy of training in the classroom prior to starting in the planning
workforce. While generally it is an accepted norm that students will
experience a steep learning curve when they first being to work in any of
their chosen profession, be it social work, psychology or planning, it
would appear that young student planners are completely unaware of many of
the problems, tasks and requirements of working in the profession. Does the
problem lie in the overall course structure or in the individuals’ learning
abilities? Far from attempting to answer these rhetorical questions, the
purpose of this piece is to assess the progression from 1st Year to the
beginning of work placement at the beginning of 3rd Year.

In first year the School of Social Science and Planning chooses to group
all students together in a set of foundation classes that should, in theory
give them a grounding in the basics of what they will be learning over the
next 2-3 years. This is all well and good, but feedback from students
suggests that while the grounding courses are interesting, many don’t see
them as relevant to their chosen course and ultimately, their target
profession. On the basis of these (sketchy) reports, it would seem that a
large portion of first year students within the school feel that they
aren’t given enough starting tuition in their chosen field. This may well
be the case, but when it comes down to it, the skills learnt in that first
semester do contribute largely to the success of the student later in their
university career.

In my own personal view, the introductory class on planning did little to
prepare me for subsequent forays into the subject. In fact, if it wasn’t
for the two study camps we were assigned to, I’m pretty sure the subject
would’ve been a complete waste of time. Not only have I completely
forgotten most of the topics (if any) covered by the class, but also the
mish-mash of class times meant that most students didn’t turn up to the
scheduled classes.

Moreover, due to the Planning course being closely linked with the
Environment course, we as planning students were exposed to all the wonders
of the many facets of environmental management. To a degree. Cursory
investigation of Environmental and biological processes in several classes
seemed to further harden many students’ hearts against ever getting to
study real planning subjects, such as the mythical History and Theory of
Planning. Even Strategic Planning was largely regarded as something of a
joke, despite the wonderful tuition of Michael Buxton and Robin Goodman.

It wasn’t until 2nd year that we finally got to grips with the core of the
planning system in Statutory Planning and Environment, taken by the
ever-popular Trevor Budge. While generally the subject helped with those
who had never seen a planning scheme before, given a few hours to do some
reading, a lot was fairly self-explanatory. The sessions on the Planning
and Environment Act 1987 were rather good, letting us get into the
important sections of the act etc etc. This was possibly the most important
subject for us. It showed the basics and general function of the VPP while
also incorporating several other important sections on relevant documents,
the aforementioned P & E Act and a few practice reports.

Semester 2 of 2nd year allowed us some greater freedom in the selection of
our ever-diminishing list of school electives, while Alan March’s Urban
Design & Planning subject yielded some interesting new information
regarding drawing conventions, structure plans and several urban design
research techniques. I think, perhaps, that the design areas of Alan’s
class left quite a few students trying to keep their heads above the water,
seeing as many had very little drawing skills. This was perhaps the only
failing of the course outline.

Overall, the course has provided us with a general overview of many of the facets that constitute 'decent' planning skills. 8/10

General 3rd February, 2005 22:24:34   [#] [1 comment] 

Monday Melbourne: LVI, January 2005
Russell Degnan

The last Yarra picture. Of the area between the boat sheds and the Princes Bridge. Taken January 2003.

Melbourne 1st February, 2005 08:15:09   [#] [0 comments] 

From ugly cities to something better?
Russell Degnan

Gary Sauer-Thompson comments on an op-ed by Guy Rundle in The Age last week on ugly cities, noting that

"I do not think that design/aesthetic arguments will work. Economics rules the city. The city is seen as a machine to make money not a place for people to live"

I am not that cynical. People would like to live in nice buildings, and work in nice buildings. For example, corporations spend a lot of money on lobbies to make good impressions. The question on quality comes down to whether the cost of good design is more than people are willing to pay. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't.

I blame architects and not the wide-spread use of tilt-slab construction for ugly buildings. As noted in this Paul Graham essay (hat-tip 2 Blowhards), good design is simple (and therefore cheap), but also it is hard, and daring. Architects have been given a great opportunity with such a simple and flexible construction material, and all they are producing are what Rundle called "construction[s] so devoid of feature and style as to make the average Holiday Inn look like the Bilbao Guggenheim.". We should expect better, and tell them so (though I might add that not all new buildings are horrendous sins against nature).

The second part of Rundle's article asks for planning legislation to enforce good design. It is an interesting point. As a rule, planning does not concern itself with aesthetics - an area that is highly controversial in any event. The exception is for heritage listings, which are currently done badly, with an all or nothing approach to preservation.

The hope, for any city, is that it will slowly improve. That each generation's icons and classic forms will remain while their featureless piles and cheap ruins are replaced with something better. We don't need to save everything, merely the best. But we do need to keep improving.

Perhaps we should look to something akin to the Native Vegetation legislation, where each demolition is assessed for its aesthetic and heritage value and given a grade. Any building that would replace it must then achieve a better grade of aesthetic worth before it can be built.

This would hopefully give much greater certainty to developers regarding what they could do, though I doubt the legal brawls would cease. Another positive benefit, would be that highly graded buildings would be cheaper to buy and rent - because they are harder to replace - hopefully also making them cheaper to maintain.

Planning 1st February, 2005 08:09:59   [#] [1 comment] 


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