Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Because we've got soul

Andrew Bolt is back, and he's seen something of the world. He's loped back into his office, having gotten a taxi from the airport, and doesn't like what he sees he find Melbourne wanting.

Maybe it's just me, but every time I get a taxi or drive back from the airport over the bridge and clock the Melbourne skyline, my heart soars. I feel sorry for Andrew that his doesn't. I've travelled the world too. Was born overseas and have made the trek back via god only knows how many places five times. I've seen the sights Andrew laments we don't have, and you know what? I wouldn't live anywhere else.

Fine and dandy the cities that have the landmarks. I've trotted to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I've been on the steps of the Opera House. Seen the London Houses of Parliament. They're all organic to their cities. The latter two are functional. The first was a gift from the Americans. They have meaning. They're intrinsic to their cities. Do we really want a landmark for the sake of having a landmark?

I don't. I prefer the fact that this city has soul. That every time I journey into the city I see something new. There's always something to do, something to see, something to enjoy.

Yes, the Ferris Wheel thing at the Docklands was a bad idea. But for precisely the reason we have no landmark now - the true, enduring landmarks are those that spring up because of what a city already is, not because of what a city wants to be.

Our city is a place of hidden alleys where you stumble across bars that serve drinks in test-tubes. Or an art gallery you never knew existed. Or a tiny restaurant where the owner knows exactly what you want and takes the time to chat to you and your friends. It's footy at the G, it's drinks afterwards at Holliava and the best Souv in all of Victoria (depending on opinion) in Preston. It's music at the Corner.

Melbourne's landmark is it's liveability. It doesn't need some gaudy trinket tacked on to it to make it great. And here's some more pearls of wisdom from Andrew:

"Take Federation Square, all surly elbows and cringing in camouflage colours - just the building for a generation of neo-barbarians with lip rings and bum antlers."

What the bloody hell are bum antlers? I don't particularly think Fed Square is a thing of beauty, but it's a great meeting place, and I think it's contributed a lot to Melbourne's sense of community.

Andrew also hates the fact that the modern is replacing the old skool. He hates that the "Little Italy of Lygon is being diluted by by restaurants of Thai, Lebanese and Malay cuisine."

Right. So what Melbourne needs is some shiny giant trinket and segregation of eateries?

Dude, for serious? Word of advice. Don't write with jet lag. And appreciate what you've got, because you live in one hell of a city, Andrew. Landmark or nay.

**UPDATE** Mike Sheahan weighs in with his opinion that the MCG classifies as a landmark.


Jeremy said...

I can't figure out what he wants of Melbourne, other than that our council travels back in time and brings back some artisans of the eighteenth century (and some oppressed poor people to do the work for them).

dam buster said...

here here Keri.

There is more to a city than a building.

Kartar said...

@Jeremy - that's the spirit of Melbourne! Bring back convict labour and work houses!

Imagine how much fun Sovereign Hill would be if we re-enacted the Eureka Stockade and endemic racism against migrants!

Oh! We could infect a couple of Delfin developments with cholera or Spanish Flu! That'd be character for the city.

I think Andrew is onto something...

cosmicjester said...

I actually quite like Fed Square, I guess I am one of the few.

Melbs is far from perfect but architecture wise it is the best in the country, and has thankfully saved a good chunk of its victorian era buildings. Melbs certainly feels more alive than Brisbane or even Sydney.

thr said...

Melbourne one was of the jewel's in colonial Britain's crown, and it retains many of the best examples of colonial era architecture. Some of the more recent architecture has been hit and miss - I'd consider Fed Square to be a mixed result overall. Nonetheless, it doesn't deserve Bolt's cheap shots. The carping about Lygon is particularly imbecilic, as much of the 'Italian' stuff there is strictly for tourists these days. Actual Italians have spread far and wide, and you can find Italian-Australian culture in authentic forms all over the place. I agree with CJ that Melbourne has better architecture than the other major cities (though Sydney, with its harbour, is naturally beautiful).

Maybe in the afterlife, Bolt can get what he wished for, and be condemned to spend eternity with the Parisians.

TimT said...

I don't particularly think Fed Square is a thing of beauty, but it's a great meeting place, and I think it's contributed a lot to Melbourne's sense of community.

True... a hell of a lot of us agree that we hate it!

I agree with some of that Bolt post. Modern + Bland replacing old + charming is a recognisable theme in the city, as indeed it is in many cities. One of the recognisable sites in the outerlying Melbourne suburbs is the deliquescing of many of the old, grand theatres and cinemas and dance halls, which are sometimes bought up by a furniture company or a department store, and their facades are completely obliterated or given a bland paint job: old community gathering points are turned into places for buying and selling.

Still, the spirit of the old buildings often shines through the new paintwork, and there is at times a rather pleasing contrast between the modern utilitarianism and the old elegance. There's a shambolic, slightly anarchic feel to it all that I love.

The other significant thing about Melbourne architecture is the old street grid that gives the city such a strongly ordered feel to it. It's meant that many of the architects and sculptors of the city have either consciously or unconsciously had to work with this context in mind, and often the most striking and enjoyable public artworks are the ones that play with or work in harmony with the public backdrop. My favourite example is the block of stone disappearing into the pavement outside the State Library of Victoria. I think Fed Square really stuffed up because the architects wanted to break out of this frame of reference, probably motivated by a childish need to bignote themselves.

Keri said...

I agree. If you took the "funky" out of fed square it'd probably work really well. Rather than all the "installation" crap, a nice grass hill would have done the job!

TimT said...

The whole place just makes me feel edgy, nervous, confused and dislocated, so I almost never go to movies at ACMI or shows or events held there. It's always going to get big crowds, being right next to Fed Square and full of whizz bang technologies like the big screen to watch footy on, but I avoid it whenever possible.

Interestingly, you'd expect conservatives to absolutely abhor it, and look upon it as a sign of all that is wrong with modern art and the breakdown of law and order, but I once knew a conservative who championed it. Thought it was great and wonderful - and not, I think, out of a fondness for Jeff Kennett's contributions. No, I think he was just the ultimate contrarian - so much so that he even felt the need to disagree with fellow conservatives. So you never know.