Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Save Flinders Street Station



One morning some decades ago, after a night of depraved and invasive passion, it seems an architect squatted atop a mirror, sketched the gross damage inflicted on a ravaged sphincter, added some walkways and the odd human figure, and then hobbled up to Spring Street, where he sold the then-government of Victoria on the peculiar notion that the image represented a blueprint for a fine, new public building. No doubt he described it as “daring” and “world class”, which would have gone over very well with those in charge of the public cheque book. Nothing brings more comfort to the terminally insecure and provincial than the notion that, elsewhere on the planet, fellow members of BOPAW -- the Brotherhood of Pseuds and Wankers – are inflicting gross ugliness on public spaces.  The end result of this peculiar process was Federation Square (below), which continues to squat at the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets, a jagged and indescribably foul advertisement for the ongoing need to borrow some of those large tip-trucks from Gina Rinehart and load them with a Manhattan Project’s worth of haemorrhoid crème.


Directly across the road from Federation Square is Flinders Street Station which has undergone a number of minor renovations over the last 40 years. Those caught short will know the public toilets, once classic examples of Victorian defecatoriums, are now reeking, stinking, crap-fouled case studies in low-cost plumbing and plastic panelling. The Delft-style blue-on-white wall tiles advising exiting patrons, “Gentlemen adjust your dress” are gone, as are those on the ramps to the platforms, where once commuters were warned, “Do not spit.” Perhaps multiculturalism was to blame for the latter excision; it is, after all, a short walk from Little Bourke Street, where hocking a gaubie or ten is the accepted way to rid the palate of lychee fragments and express one’s appreciation after a satisfying meal. As thick-tongued Greeks and other newly arrived non-English speakers no longer get to announce the departure of trains to Upwey and other locales, the vanished warnings against hanging phlegm off the walls must assure recent arrivals to today’s Australia that diversity is accepted in all its many forms and mucous-rich manifestations.


Still, despite the modern tinkering, Flinders Street remains a handsome and practical example of the Victorian Era’s expansive confidence. A recent guest at the Billabong, a lady visiting from the United States, rated it her favourite Melbourne building and observed in passing that its solid, sober exterior indicts Federation Square’s sprawling eyesore. Alas, unless Melbournians act quickly and with resolve, she may have spoken too soon. Once again, and for no good reason, BOPAW’s agents are planning a massive fix to a building that doesn’t need fixing.


The visions for the new Flinders Street are detailed in today’s Age, where the editor’s sole claim to competence is having once produced a paper in New Zealand on the morning after a large earthquake. We can all expect The Age to support this latest attempt to deface Melbourne because, well, it will be expensive, ugly, pointless and a fine opportunity for journalists and editors at Fairfax’s southern outpost to pause by the bicycle rack and tell each other how much they appreciate the transgressive. Then they will go home to ponder whether it is better to remain for the moment at The Age in hope of a severance cheque, or to beat the rush and get their CVs in early at the ABC.

Victoria has a relatively new Premier, Denis Napthine, who has a greater understanding of his state and its people than his predecessor and recently has been rewarded with more cheerful poll results. Sooner or later, this latest BOPAW project will land on his desk. He needs to be told now, and quite firmly, that it is his duty to roll the artists’ conceptions into a stout, tight tube and stick ’em right up the remodelling advocates’ collective postern gate.

The Premier can be contacted here: premier@dpc.vic.gov.au

Urge him to fix up Flinders Street’s existing ballrooms and other features, and perhaps do some remodelling inside the existing building. But he must never, ever allow anyone, no matter how black-clad they might be or at pains to avoid sitting down, to tamper with the exterior.

Melbourne has endured more than enough damage at the hands of trendies and tossers. Flinders Street Station is where we must draw the line.

   

30 comments:

  1. A futuristic design indeed. It obviously prognosticates Melbourne's first major earthquake. The sketch alone would be a shoe-in for the Turner Prize.

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  2. Back when I was but a mere lad from rural Victoria Flinders Street Station was a veritable place of wonderment and bustling humanity intent on going somewhere. Now it is a veritable place of slothly humanity lolling under the revered clocks in all manners of dishevelment. Any remodelling to take it back to its former magnificence should include the excising of the unwashed from the thoroughfares therein. And restore the magic sodafountain shop which stood proud on the right as one hurried to catch a red rattler somewhere.

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    1. The soda fountain was to the left of the ramp leading to platform 7, featured large glass containers of cordial, and sold excellent thick shakes for 2 shillings (circa 1968).

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    2. Bunyip it was a decade before 1968 that I remember the soda fountain from. They also sold wonderful meat pies [even though they were made in the city and not in the pristine wilderness of rural Vic].

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    3. Bunyip, dismal currency came in to being in Oz on 14 February 1966. Methinks your memory betrays you.

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    4. Meyer, of course, you're right! Decimalisation began on the 14th of February, 1966, with the help of Dollar Bill and Click Go The Shears.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oTDRjyti1s

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  3. oliver from perthJuly 23, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    There are some things about federation square that I like. The gallery and the auditorium beside it mainly. Otherwise I thought it a pretty soulless place.
    On the other hand I thought Flinders st station magnificent apart from the baby shit color it was painted.
    I think the same "architect's" designed the massively expensive eyesore that is our new stadium here.
    I don't know if it has a nickname yet. Probably too soulless to warrant one. I call it The Junkyard as it looks like someone threw a pile of disconnected shspes in a pile and walked away.

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  4. I like the way that the old Gas and Fuel eyesore was demolished and something worse built in its place. It takes talent to replace something ugly with something worse.

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  5. They'll turn it into something like the RMIT Snot Buildings.

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  6. The design in the second picture above looks as if it had the foundering "Costa Concordia" cruise liner before it rolled over, as its inspiration..

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  7. The Old and Unimproved DaveJuly 23, 2013 at 7:35 PM

    Yes, Flinderella, you SHALL go to the ball!

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  8. James In FootscrayJuly 23, 2013 at 9:07 PM

    Oh no, Professor, you're sounding like Jon Faine - if it's old architecture, it must be good architecture.

    People in the 1920s realised Victorian architecture was stodgy and depressing.

    Rip it down along with those terrible Cartlon terrace houses.

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  9. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.July 24, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    Federation square looks like a scrap metal yard. I've actually lived in a real one. In some ways, it was better. Lots of busted but interesting old cars, and a creative range of residents and visitors. The Golden Roast coffee of course was a bit of a drawback.

    The Flinders Street Station? Well, it's Melbourne, isn't it? Let it be.

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  10. Professor the mention of sphincter accords exactly with my reaction at seeing Federation Square and the defecations therein.

    As an infrequent visitor to Melbourne I was appalled to see those great gobs of formless shit ina public space

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  11. I was going to say, as Lizzie has, that Fed Square looks like a scrap metal yard. It's an eyesore!

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  12. That's the proposed design for Flinders Street? I thought the Costa Concordia had been moved to Melbourne.

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  13. Are they going to name the new Flinders Street monstrosity the Leaning Tower of Napthine?

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  14. At a quick glance, it looks as though the heathens are going to plant a gauche, ugly, assymetrical fantasy from the gaughe, ugly, assymetrical mind of a post-modern archichect on top of a classic and familiar Victorian landmark that is etched into the psyche of anyone who has lived in Melbourne for the past 100 years.

    This desecration must never be allowed to see the light of day. A loving restoration that allows people access to the full extent of one of their buildings is required. I note with approval that the Premier won't commit to the drug-induced stupor now being proposed. Do the right thing, Denis.

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  15. As an occasional visitor to Melbourne, I find the Flinders Street Station a much more interesting building than the jumble of junk over the road. If something is to be pulled down, get rid of Federation Square and leave FSS alone.

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  16. I'm a New Zealander and what I really love about Melbourne is how much of its architecture and character from the Victorian and Edwardian eras has been retained. It's the closest thing Australasia has to one of the great European cities.
    So I'm stunned at the prospect of "redeveloping" the iconic Flinders Street Station to the extent of demolishing the grand old Victorian building and building another sure-0to-fail Aussie attempt to be "cutting edge" that will probably just become another eyesore like federation Square or Southern cross station.
    Sure; Flinders street station is a bit worn-out and could be redeveloped. But why not in the manner of one of those redeveloped stations in Europe like those German Hauptbahnhof's? or St Pancras? or the Gare du Nord? etc. where they keep and modernise the iconic old original buildings?
    But it seems to me that Melbourne is hell-bent on robbing itself of its virtues, almost everything in or near the CBD in the last 20 years seems to undermine its character, such as that dreadful Docklands development....

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    1. There is such a thing as right and there is such a thing as wrong. Unfortunately, there is such a thing as right and there is such a thing as left....which usually means what's left of a mess.

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    2. You have already said what I came here to say.

      "But it seems to me that Melbourne is hell-bent on robbing itself of its virtues"

      I was a regular business visitor for decades and used drink in the distinctive difference between the three eastern cities. Melbourne looked and felt like Broken Hill Proprietary, a monument to its importance as the centre of Australian commerce when that was motoring so powerfully, and it had a touch of international gravity somewhat like New York.

      Why despoil such a beautiful place so? To what good end?

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  17. Federation Square was built by a young boy with a Meccano set, a hammer and a bad temper.

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  18. Worth a look if you haven't previously seen it:
    http://kristofferpaulsen.tumblr.com/post/47749436698/amazing-old-film-footage-of-melbourne-in-1910

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  19. Seems architects go crazy at the prospect of a state government opening its coffers - from the look of those pics they don't just want to touch up Flinders Street Station, they want to completely dominate the space with extravagant designs and flamboyant and hyperbolic post-post-post-postmodern flourishes.

    Aside from the obvious damage to heritage on-site - there's a lot of heritage around Fed Square that they don't seem to care much for: Young and Jackson's opposite, or the cathedral adjacent.

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  20. what a confused bunch of crap this post is. the design competition was the liberal government's idea, and the various designs that have been submitted so far have been reported by most news outlets, so I fail to see how this can be turned into a partisan issue? surprised you didn't add in some 'latte sipping' and 'bleeding heart' comments to make it even more cliched.

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    1. It's an aesthetic issue: trusted old design versus trendy new design. Professor Bunyip is perfectly within his rights - and perfectly right - to criticise some of the architecture on offer. It's not all about left v right.

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  21. As an occasional visitor to Melbourne, I am sure Federation Square will look lovely once it is actually finished.

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  22. Prince Charles would disapprove of all the designs. At least he has taste when it comes to architecture.

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