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The fine art of deluding oneself
Russell Degnan

There is something compelling about attempts by marketers to brand a product as something it is not - and never could be. Are they aware how forced it looks? Do they even care? Or is the brand itself the important feature, and the product merely adequate?

When it comes to tapping into local culture, governments are more guilty of this little charade than anyone; and local government is the worst of all. Take Melbourne City Council's plan for a Lygon Piazza.

Good idea you'd think. Reinforce the Italian links, create a central focal point for the area. Maybe reduce traffic and give more scope for pedestrians to 'just hang'.

Well, no.


The Lygon Piazza is a park - not a piazza. It is away from Lygon St., isolated from it by the strange - though not surprising - decision to retain the existing flower bed and bluestone wall. On three of it's sides it has warehouses and residential buildings; on the other, it faces perhaps the quietest part of Lygon St. itself where an empty carpark dominates, and some of the few remaining non-restaurants are located.

The place itself is surrounded by trees - most un-Italian - further isolating it visually. While it does have a paved surface; the dominating feature of piazzas in Italy, that ability to sit, or stand and watch other people isn't there. Instead the council proposes that: "at night, visitors will be drawn into the piazza to admire the dramatically lit fountain."

Like moths!


Not that the MCC doesn't recognise this problem, it is right there in their document:

Changes to pedestrian access and circulation are also needed to encourage social interaction and more effective links with surrounding residential, retail and commercial activities.

and

Ultimately the success of Argyle Square piazza will depend on its sense of vitality and its ability to attract and draw people to spend time there throughout the year. Its future will be linked to the way it can inspire spontaneous acts of enjoyment and accommodate major public events.

But their method of addressing it is, well, lacking?

connection    Argyle Square Piazza will be an essential part of the life of the Carlton community. The new piazza will have strong links to Carlton’s other parks and reserves and to the area’s commercial, retail and cultural places. Likewise the established southern half of Argyle Square will be integrated with the piazza and cultural connections will be expressed through programming of events and activities by the local Italian community.


No, the Piazza should have strong links to its surrounding area. The designed square does not - except in that special world they inhabit, where what is stated becomes true. In the future, when the area around the square has become cafes and shops, instead of housing, when the car traffic isn't an impediment to pedestrians, when people must go through the square to conduct their daily activities, and when other people stop in the square to watch the maddening crowds. Then it will be a piazza.

For now, it is a park, a nice looking park, to be sure, but just a park.

Urban Design 27th March, 2004 14:49:18   [#] 

Comments

Confirmation please
I certainly agree with you Russell. There are many other things that need to be taken into consideration when developing a "piazza" (not pizza like I first thought when I saw this) in this particular area. Firstly, where abouts is this proposed site? And secondly just a comment, do not some parks have fountains and the like in them already? What would be hugely different about this? Or is there more of a concern about the Italian style piazza not fitting in here. Just some weird thoughts I had going through my head.
Anthony  31st March, 2004 00:54:37  

These are all very serious questions
None of which I am addressing...

The park is in Argyle Square, where the bowling green was, on Lygon St. (in the middle of the whole strip). Your comment is rather my point, this new 'piazza' will actually be a park (a paved park, but a park). Which is totally different to a piazza. These are central places - the former markets in old Italian towns - and pretty much everything revolves around them.

In short, I was teasing the council for trying to tell us they were building a piazza - when they aren't.
Russ  31st March, 2004 21:46:19  


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