Letters to the Editor - March 2018

Strong objection to pavillion

The Queen Victoria Market saga rolls on despite the resignation of the Lord Mayor, who was the driving force behind it.  Melbourne City Council has now applied (to itself!) for permission to amend the proposal for a temporary pavillion to be used during the proposed redevelopment of the Queen Victoria Market.

The Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV) has lodged a strong objection to the proposal (see www.historyvictoria.org.au/about-us/rhsv-heritage-committee). The proposal reduces the footprint of the pavillion but now involves the destruction of the splendid mature plane trees at the heart of the market.

The contemporary Scandinavian design is completely at odds with the market and even if temporary would impact the market adversely. Inserted at the heart of the market, dividing the fresh food stalls from the meat, fish and deli markets, it would compound the problems caused by five years of construction.

The temporary pavillion would be an unnecessary waste of $5.5 million. It would not be required if the sheds were renovated on a staged basis. Given that many traders have been squeezed out of the market, there would be ample room to accommodate those remaining while each shed is renovated in turn.

The proposal to excavate three levels below the sheds and relocate services there was driven by the former Lord Mayor’s vision, to “reduce servicing intrusions in public areas” and create “a brighter, lighter, cleaner, greener and more pleasant environment that is clearly historic, yet subtly contemporary”.  Faced with public revulsion at the sterilisation of the Queen Victoria Market, council retreated and stopped putting forward this justification, so now the proposed underground redevelopment has no justification. The proposed pavillion is thus unncessary. The expenditure of $5.5 million on a “temporary” facility is a waste of money.

The RHSV is the peak body representing approximately 340 community historical societies throughout the state. It has been active on history and heritage issues since its formation in 1909. For the RHSV, maintenance of the fabric of the market is a top heritage priority.

It is good that the council is now addressing the structural renovation of the market. This is desperately needed. Now, however, it is time for council to rethink the proposal to underground services. The many lift and stair accesses required would ruin the market’s heritage fabric (see our submission to Heritage Victoria at www.historyvictoria.org.au/about-us/rhsv-heritage-committee).

Instead, the council should restore the market while maintaining historic market operation in line with traditions beloved of residents and tourists alike.

(Professor) Charles Sowerwine,

Chair, Heritage Committee,

Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

Controversy is not the first

The plan to demolish the Yarra Building at Federation Square and replace it with the Apple Store Building is not the first time controversy has visited this location.

The decision to reduce the western shard was criticised by many at the start of this century.
William Birnbauer, in his article The New Heart Of Melbourne, The Age (October 25, 2002) covered the controversy of the height reduction of one of the shards of Federation Square, and the reaction to this decision from the architects.

“The most controversial building is not there. The western shard, in the architects’ original plan, stood more than 20 metres tall on the north-west corner, and with the eastern shard would have framed St Paul’s Cathedral, integrating it into the overall design.”

But following a State Government decision in October, 2000 to preserve views of the cathedral from St Kilda Rd, a smaller green-tinted glass building that looks like a fish tank occupies the site. At one stage, Premier Steve Bracks had supported a flagpole or fountain for the corner.

The fish tank is nothing like the rest of the square. It leads to an underground visitors’ information centre, operated by the City of Melbourne.

But one of the square’s architects, Peter Davidson, says the decision-making processes leading to the shard being cut down in size were deplorable.

However, after years of fighting, he is ready to move on.

“I don’t think it’s our problem any more. I think it’s a problem for the city.”

Fellow architect Don Bates says a common, unprompted response from visitors to the square is that the corner “doesn’t look right”.

He says: “The hope is that as the project becomes open and available completely to the public, that more and more people will recognise that, and particularly those people who had supported the government and their decision to reduce the height of the building.”

Kim Dovey, who is associate professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Melbourne, says cities reflect their processes and that the shard decision “transparently reflects the appalling politics of that decision”.

“There must be no demolition of any existing buildings and there is absolutely no way that a new building can slot into this architectural family, this built representation of our nation’s history.”


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