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Monday Melbourne: IV, Nov 2003
Russell Degnan

Also taken on Cup Day this year. The statue is Adam Lindsay Gordon. Australia's National Poet. The article describes him as the poet of the sportsman and adventurer. So for no other reason, I'll dedicate some of Gordon's words to the Wallabies.

But a stout heart still maintaining,
††Quells the ills we all must meet,
And a spirit fear disdaining
††Lays our troubles at our feet.

So we'll ne'er surrender tamely
††To the ills that throng us fast.
If we must die, let's die gamely;
††Luck may take a turn at last.

Melbourne 24th November, 2003 20:09:26   [#] [0 comments] 

Urban Growth Boundary ammended; again.
Citizen #381277

This article was on the front page of this week's Pakenham Gazette, the local paper that caters for the region. Not supprisingly, the article itself is a little biased against the UGB, but what do you expect? Seriously.

Pakenham's Greenhills Business Estate has been saved.
The 200-hectare project one Kooweerup Road was threatened by a State Government planning shake-up that had earmarked the site for inclusion on a protected green wedge. But intensive lobbying by Cardinia Council paid off yesterday when Plannign Minister Mary Delahunty announced the site would be included in the Cardinia urban growth boundary.

Ms Delahunty announced boundaries would also be drawn around Bunyip, Beaconsfield Upper, Lang Lang, Kooweerup, Garfield and Gembrook to safeguard against further environmental encroachment within the green wedges.

Cardina mayor Cr Kate Lempriere welcomed the Greenhills news and said it would have a major bearing on future job creation in Cardinia.
"I am excited about the oppotunities created by the inclusion of the Greenhills Business Park in the Casey-Cardinia growth corridor," Ns Lempriere said. The decision by the Bracks Government to change the boundaries of the urban growth corridor recognise the absolute importance of job opportunities being created in our community. The State Government has now given Cardinia Shire Council the opportunity to pursue local jobs for our community.
"We envisage that industries such as building and food production will grab the opportunity provided by the Government's decision and establish in the near future."

Ms Delahunty said the boundary was now defined around the Melbourne metropolitan area. She sadi the boundary was a mangagement tool to protect farming areas from urban sprawl and would provide stability for development and for the farming community. She said the Government had responded to requests, mainly from councils, and put the urban growth boundary around some small townships.

"This legislation will ensure an ongoing supply of land for development, but the land will be mangaged within growth areas. Casey-Cardinia is one of five designated growth areas across Melbourne and will play a pivotal role in accommodating future growth to Melbourne's south-east. The day sof ad hoc decisions on where outward growth occurs are over. As part of the Melbourne 2030 vision we are channelling outward growth development into growth areas like Casey-Cardinia to put a stop to endless encroachment on our green wedges. Better coordinated growth on the city's outer edges will also ensure more efficient use of our infrastructure resources, such as sewerage and transport and greater certainty for coummunities, investors and service providers."

Planning 20th November, 2003 11:57:36   [#] [1 comment] 

"Saving" the inner suburban shopping strip
Russell Degnan

Almost old news now, but there was an interesting article in The Age last Tuesday. You don't have to read the part where Greg Barber laments the lack of a "Stalinist central planning" model, to see that this article is more about a utopian vision for shopping strips than what's best for people who go there.

Like any scarce resource, the land in a shopping trip will be bought by those willing to pay the highest price to achieve their own ends. By implication, the businesses started will attempt to achieve the most profitable use of the land; within the constraints imposed on them by their surrounding clientele, transportation, and the planning system. Therefore, in a free market, there cannot be "too many" restaurants, because if there were some would go broke, to be replaced by the business that the customers want.

In the years before gentrification, most inner-suburban shopping strips were surrounded by slums, and poor immigrant communities. A collection of cheap restaurants and cafes was the result. When people start talking about 'saving' a place now, what they are rejecting are changes in the profitability of businesses in that area. In essence, places like Lygon St. are victims of their own success, attracting a richer clientele and suburban tourists. But, restricting business licenses is quixotic. By stopping further competition the existing restaurants have free reign to raise their prices. The money stays, and the businesses stay, but the result will be a pale imitation of it's old self: by trying to reject the creation of McLygon street they will only create Lygon Disney, an overpriced tourist strip with no heart.

There is scope for businesses to work together to create unique shopping areas that are vibrant and specialised. But they should not deceive themselves into thinking they are favouring the customers, and local residents. Even in cases where businesses are started that cash in on existing local conditions without enhancing them, it is still the customers who get burnt by attempts at protectionism. The higher prices they are charged are the cost of that unique experience. And higher prices will not "save" the old poor inner suburbs.

Planning 19th November, 2003 11:20:05   [#] [0 comments] 

NEWS FLASH: Re-enrolment
LisaB.UrbnPL

TAKEN from RMIT email services.

Dear student,

Re enrolment dates and times for Bachelor of Applied Science (Planning) are as follows;

BP107/188(Planning) A-K (surname) Friday December 5th,10.00am
BP107/188(Planning) L-Z (surname) Friday December 5th, 1.30pm

Enrolments are located in Building 8, Level 8.

Please note that if you cant attend enrolment you must send someone to enrol on your behalf at the time specified with an authorized proxy form signed by yourself, otherwise you risk losing your place in the program. Students are advised to disregard any previous information regarding completion times for the enrolment process and are required to attend enrolment sessions at the relevant time listed above.

Brian Walsh
School of Social Science and Planning
RMIT University
GPO Box 2476 V Melbourne VIC 3001
Ph. 03 9925 2901

Career/Education 19th November, 2003 05:45:25   [#] [2 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: III, Nov 2003
Russell Degnan


Last Tuesday, November 11th, was Separation Day. This was Flagstaff gardens, looking towards the flagpole where the news was announced in 1850

Melbourne 17th November, 2003 22:42:37   [#] [0 comments] 

City Life - Witold Rybczynski
Russell Degnan

It is indicative of how far behind on my reading I am that I bought this book a year ago, and only just finished it. Although, having said that, there are books I bought two years ago I haven't even looked at. In essence, City Life is a history of the thoughts behind American urban planning, starting from when it was first settled. It isn't long, and therefore lacks depth, but it is certainly interesting.

It starts by looking at Paris - which has, perhaps more than any other city in the world, a clear plan and purpose in its urban form - and asks, "why aren't our [North American] cities like that?". The answer appears to be a perceived need for space. In Europe, this need was a direct response to the disease ridden slums in the 17th and 18th centries. The British colonies, the United States, Canada, and Australia, the space to lay out cities differently though, and they did.

Although very early cities in the United States were small and "organic", with winding roads and small streets, such as the old parts of New York. The classic model most were built on was the grid, sometimes imaginatively, but often not, stretching indefinitely, and expanding rapidly across the landscape. The lots were large, allowing landholders to plant trees and grow vegetables. However, in later years, two technological and social changes changed the nature of these cities.

The first was the industrial revolution, and the rapidly expanding population. The spacious lots filled up with houses, and factories, and the cities became intense and urban. Starting in Chicago the centres erected enormous skyscrapers. The response, abetted by the railroads, was the suburb, though mostly for the well-heeled.

The second change, was the automobile, and the rapid rise in the standard of living after the second World War. Suddenly the railroad and tramway were unnecessary, and the suburbs came into their own. At the same time, massive immigration of the black community into the cities - essentially the same rural emmigration that the white population did a hundred years previously - made the inner cities poorer. Attempts to improve housing in the inner areas were debacles, and the inner cities rapidly lost population to the suburban areas.

The move of the lower-middle classes to the suburbs resulted in a decline in their quality though. The garden suburb with an urban centre was discarded. The suburban shopping centre became the "new downtown", and the residents drove everywhere. Rybczynski is averse to criticising the shopping malls, recognising that they are pedestrian orientated and popular. But he does see them as artificial, without identifying exactly why that is so.

In my opinion, that artificiality comes entirely from their disconnection to the community itself. Noone lives in a mall; it opens, and shuts; is alternatively lively, and dead. You can't leave an urban community like Paris. With an open window, you can hear your neighbours, the street, the cafes - you are part of it as long as you are amongst it. Even after dark, you can sense the people nearby. A shopping mall though, takes life from people, but never gives anything back. When it closes, everyone leaves. The control is the artificiality; like a movie with a stilted script, that you never believe even though it is playing right in front of you. Similarly, the suburban house allows you to escape your neighbours, traffic, commerce: society. It is dead because it is not part of society itself; merely viewing it from a window, easily closed and shuttered.

City Life is a good book though. Well written and an easy read, with good insights on how American cities were formed, why, and where they have gone wrong. If anyone wants to borrow it, let me know.

Book Club 14th November, 2003 16:17:21   [#] [0 comments] 

Test your Political Compass
Citizen #381277

An old friend of mine sent me this and I found it quite interesting.

The Political Compass

If you click on the take the test link, you will be taken to a series of questions that will, apparently, determine your position on the "political compass". Now I won't spoil it all for you, but it's interesting to note that at the end, when they give you a little run down of major political players on this graph, Howard is more right than Shrubby*, who is more authoritarian than Howard. "What does all this mean?", I hear you cry, but bear with me. Howard is more open to neoliberalist tendencies, which some could say correlate to a being less authoritarian while Shrubby, being the fan of his little "War on Terrorism" is more authoritarian thus showing a greater tendency for the economic left.

Thus ends my rant. I now leave it open for Russ to destroy my ideas! ;)

General 13th November, 2003 21:42:06   [#] [2 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: II, Nov 2003
Citizen #381277

I took this photo one brisk August afternoon while I was waiting for my train at Flinders. This is Platform 12, which is also platform 10. Work that out!

Melbourne 10th November, 2003 20:57:16   [#] [0 comments] 

Melbourne in Art: Charles Conder
Russell Degnan

Spring St. Melbourne

One of the many things I like about the National Gallery (of Victoria: for you federalists) are the many paintings (and photographs) of Melbourne, and other Australian cities from earlier times. Others may like the Nolans and the visitors flock around The Pioneer or Shearing the Rams; but I spend the most time looking at the cityscapes, to see how things were.

So, in what will (I hope) be a series, I'm going to scour the Australian collection and compare them to what exists today.

The first selection is Charles Conder, for reasons I'll get shortly. He was born in England and was in Australia only six years, but, like so many artists of all types who would follow, we claim him as our own. He had travelled to Australia at 15 (in 1884) to train as a surveyor. By 1886 he had quit to paint, and soon studied and worked with some of Australia's best contemporary artists, such as Roberts, Streeton and McCubbin.

The ulterior motive behind my choosing him first is the exhibition currently being held at the gallery. It closes November 9th, and I highly recommend it while you have the chance. (Also see the other exhibit Second Sight until the 16th, which is also excellent). Conder's art is amazingly lively, full of colour, and humour, and seems to emphasise the human element where his contemporaries were often more interested in the landscape itself. His work in Melbourne (from 1888 till 1890) was in some ways his best. On returning to Paris, and then England, he seems hampered by trends, and forced into trying styles that don't suit him. But you can judge that for yourself.

Spring Street, Melbourne was painted around 1890, and isn't in the aforementioned exhibition - actually, I am not sure I have ever seen it. It has been painted from in front of Old Treasury, on the corner of MacArthur St. and Spring St. looking north up Spring St. I suspect - having the two pictures side by side - that Conder was painting from the top of the steps, rather than the street corner, but they are close enough. The photo on the right was taken on Cup Day. It should, in theory, be at approximately the same time, to get the same shadow across the road, but, one of the ugliest buildings in Melbourne has been built in the way for that. And yes, it is from the 1960s.

This area of town went through some radical changes in the decade before the painting was done. On the left, out of shot, is the "Parisian end" of Collins St. On page 84 and 85 of Melbourne: the city's history and development, you can see them clearly. Several new buildings have been constructed, and the elm trees that still exist today have been planted. In the painting, but not the photo, you can see them along Spring St. as well, on the left. In the photo you can see the remnants of another change from Melbourne's boom. Down the middle of Collins St. and running across Spring St. and along MacArthur St. are the tram tracks. These existed in 1888 although, unlike today, they were cable and not electric. Conder has either neglected to put them in, or they have faded over time. I can't tell from either the black and white photo, or the painting if the streets were paved (asphalted) at the time - it certainly wasnt of today's standard - but the gutters and footpaths had been put in before 1880. One final change at the street level. White and Yellow Lines.

But enough of Collins St. The small park you can see is the Gordon reserve, and the statue in the centre of both pictures is of General Gordon. It was put there on 26th June 1889, which provides a reasonable clue as to the painting's date. The landscaping of the reserve has changed considerably: whereas in 1890 flowers predominated, it is now all grass, with the two statues (the other is of poet Adam Lindsay Gordon), and a fountain. The fountain dates from earlier than 1890, but may have moved; the flowers are certainly no more, and what appears to be a hedge is now an entrance to Parliament Station (or a ladies toilet). The biggest change though, are the trees, the large green (native?) has been removed, and several large palm trees dot the reserve. They also provide very little shade.

Behind the reserve lies Parliament, which hasn't changed substantially (although it may not have been completely finished then). The trees surrounding it are a little bigger perhaps. But there are two more substantial differences behind that. In the photo, you can see the ICI/Orica building, I think, Melbourne's first modern glass-fronted office building. In the painting, and again across the street: a water- tower. In a city with no running water, these were essential. And, I am guessing, so ubiquitous as to go almost unnoticed.

The last, and probably biggest, changes can be seen on the western side of Spring St. The Windsor Hotel - formerly the Grand Hotel - (visible in the photo) was built in 1883, and must be slightly out of frame in the painting. The other buildings on the left in the painting are not recognisable as anything (one should be the Imperial Hotel - 1856), however, the distinctive widow's walk atop the Princess Theatre (1886) is very noticeable. By contrast, in the photo the red building obscures the theatre, and the most prominent building by far, is Casselden Place, former site of brothels and now the Federal Government offices.

Overall, the changes are actually quite few. Both sides of Spring St. from Little Collins to Little Bourke are almost unchanged. And the most prominent, and attractive of the landmarks remain (albeit obscured). There are even, blessedly, few cars in the area, which does hark back the 113 years since Charles Conder sat and painted there. Few streets in Melbourne can say that.

UPDATE: After a week of looking at a not-quite-right cropping I decided to change it. The major change is that the Windsor Hotel is not visible in either picture. The 'artistic' effects put on the statue are more visible too, the plinth and the statue seem slightly broader, and taller, giving it emphasis in the painting.

Tales of the City 7th November, 2003 00:40:05   [#] [0 comments] 

Melbourne 2030... again
Russell Degnan

The Age had an article on Melbourne 2030 today. It is basically what we have all heard before, but looking at the politics more. Which, after all, is what planning normally becomes.

Some quotes:

"The problem is that Melbourne 2030, as the blueprint is known, has so far triggered as much discontent as it has solved. Coming on top of a deeply flawed existing urban planning system, 2030 has fine aims but flaky fine-print."

[...]

"Weíre trying to diminish the amount of unnecessary angst," she [Mary Delahunty] says. "This is not a choice. Melbourne will grow by more than a million people over the next 30 years. Thatís an extra Adelaide or five Canberras. We either deal with it or bumble along.""

[...]

"Delahunty is about to legislate to release more land in Melbourneís Hume growth corridor to the north and the Caroline Springs-Melton corridor to the west."

[...]

"Delahunty blames Yarra, saying the councilís failure to state precisely what it will permit (a housing structure plan) has left the door open. But, as mayor Barber says, because Melbourne 2030 is a year old, few if any councils have had time to produce a plan. Then there is the expense. Nailing down detail will cost Yarra $500,000, just $150,000 of which will come from the Government."

[...]

"One of its goals ó to double public transportís share of motorised trips to 20 per cent by 2020 ó is unlikely to be achieved. No costings appear in 2030, and nothing like the money necessary to achieve this objective has been committed."

[...]

"This is not necessarily Delahuntyís fault. According to well-placed sources, she has had to battle Treasuryís "failure to see the big picture"."

[...]

""I donít underestimate the difficulty," she [Mary Delahunty] says. Nor does she doubt 2030 will deliver. "It will be open and transparent," she says. "I believe it will be constantly tested.""

I get two things out of this. Firstly, Melbourne 2030 requires firm, committed governance, and it isn't there. For all the reasons cited above.

Secondly, I have all sorts of problems with saying that a strategic goal will be tested. Because that is what you should be trying to achieve, and, as much as possible, it must be both unambiguous, and uncontestable. That it is neither is a major issue. But I'll save those comments for a different day.

Planning 6th November, 2003 19:39:03   [#] [0 comments] 

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