Melbourne, New York or Hong Kong?

Tuesday's Age Newspaper  published an article criticizing several Melbourne developers 'delusion' with attempting to recreate a 'fantasy' of Manhattan in Melbourne.

"As a one-time resident of the Big Apple, and a frequent visitor, it's both hilarious and disheartening that the elements that make New York City such an amazing place are being bastardised to sell a pup to locals."
The author (Daniel Ziffer of ABC radio) points out that the developers are marketing a 'Manhattan' lifestyle, although he states that the dominant built form in New York is lower rise.  Instead, the author likens the recently approved or constructed tower developments in Melbourne to Hong Kong.

"That city [Hong Kong] is vibrant and exciting in parts, but has many dense and grim neighbourhoods where skyscrapers block light and life from the streets."
Ziffer also refers to recent plans to expand residential development to the north and west of the CBD as 'Caroline Springs in the sky'.

Well it's up to you if you buy the 'New York' marketing of apartments in Melbourne.  The 'Sex and the City' lifestyle is appealing for many so I can see why they would want to make that link (though I think it's not so convincing myself).

As for likening Melbourne to the urban form of Hong Kong - um, no.  Even if we get quite a few more tall buildings, Melbourne will not resemble Hong Kong (for better or worse).  I certainly don't see the link between a few new developments and transformation into Hong Kong style urbanism. Alan Davies' blog The Urbanist also tears this analogy to shreds:

"I think Mr Ziffer has made a fundamental mistake here. He’s comparing the entirety of Manhattan and Hong Kong with just a small part of Melbourne’s CBD... In the order of 76 sq kms of Hong Kong is developed for housing use. That’s only a small part of the island but it’s an order of magnitude larger than the relatively tiny precincts in and around Melbourne’s CBD that’re slated for high rise housing."
Davies goes on to mention the benefits of more housing in the CBD, which will enable more people to access amenities, improve access to affordable housing, result in greater sustainability and enhance the vibrancy and street life of the area.

This said, I also think that you don't necessarily have to have mega-towers to achieve these benefits.  The character and amenity of Melbourne is important - and this must also be taken into consideration.

Read on here. Thanks to Matt Sacco (City of Greater Dandenong) for sending this newspaper article on to me.

Read Alan Davies post on the article at The Urbanist.

What's in a Name? The Stories Behind Melbourne's Street Names

I'm sure many of us Melburnians are familiar with one or two clusters of themed street names - did noticing them make you smile? What do street names say about a city?

This is the theme of a current exhibition held at the Melbourne Town Hall.  The Exhibition (supported by City of Melbourne) features local designer and font expert extraordinaire Stephen Banham and historian Graeme Davison.
"The practice of giving a cluster of streets a single theme is suburban branding at its most fundamental and indelible. Real estate marketing, capitalising on the values and aspirations of the day, creates a new cultural landscape with nothing more than a handful of nouns on a pole. As one developer put it: ‘The names weren’t about what was already there. They were about what we were going to create.’ Thus in Elwood, a literary cluster replaced a swamp."
So what are some of the street-name clusters around town?  There are sooo many, but here's a few:

  • A 'Camelot' theme running across 38 streets in Glen Waverley
  • 'Beatles' themed streets in Narre Warren South (keep an eye out for Strawberry Fields)
  • An 'aviation' theme in Burwood (Boeing Crt, Dehavilland Ave, Ansett Cres etc)
  • Golf course-themed Kingsbury (Bunker Ave, Driver St, Wedge St, Flag St, Green Ave, The Fairway, Tee St)
  • Famous writers in Elwood and Lynbrook
  • the Ancient Greek zone of Doncaster (Andromeda Way, Artemis Crt, Olympus Drv, Antigone Crt etc)
But there are so many more.  When you go to the exhibition, you can contribute to a map of Melbourne's clusters by highlighting ones you know!

This is one of my favourites:
"In Avondale Heights the Hundred Years’ War between France and England is playfully re-enacted with 24 French streets facing off against 23 English streets"

Cheeky! But what's in a name anyway? And do clusters matter to our cities?

According to Banham, residents believe that street names (clusters) add to a sense of community.  Some say that the streets take on the persona of their namesake, for example, take this resident's thoughts "When we first moved in, it was quiet so the (literary) theme suited. It was more of an artsy area then with interesting characters so it was a good fit".

According to Banham:
"Naming is the basis of clusters. This makes them well suited to current and future ways of looking at our cities. The immediate method of locating anything – a place, a person, a restaurant menu, medical conditions – is by its name. It is the language of the online search engine, ensuring connections are made (or not) ... All of this has made the ownership of names highly commodified."

"Rather than just walking us through the narrative footprints of history, street name clusters gesture to future readings of our cities – an individualised experience made up of endless connections and patterns of information, all located by name and viewed from the god-like perspective of the satellite. In an age where people are intrigued by sharing and visualising information, the reading of clusters offers something particularly valuable – a whole new way of seeing what we thought was familiar."
Banham claims that now more than ever is a great time to reflect on street names, thanks to technology; 'the silent connections and stories that underly clusters are now more apparent than ever to the viewer'.  Certainly for those keen enough to look.

Read more from Stephen Banham here. Find details on the exhibition here.