January 26, 2005

ugly cities

Guy Rundle, had an op.ed in The Age,last week that draws attention to, and highlights, the ugly urban design in Melbourne. He says:

"Ever since the late 1980s, Melbourne has been immeasurably disfigured by rows and rows of ultra-cheap apartments, flats and low-grade offices made possible by the development of the "tilt-slab" method of construction. Tilt slab is just as it sounds - the building is constructed from a series of pre-fabricated concrete sheets, with a minimum of steel framing and a total absence of brick, plaster or, God forbid, wood - and its total uniformity is thus guaranteed. Even the minimal design required of steel-and-glass skyscrapers in the mid-20th century is absent from tilt slab. In South Melbourne, which was once filled with brick warehouses and factories, it has spread between the flyovers like a yeast infection. It is, in short, the shortest way to kill a city."

The same process is happening in Adelaide in the inner city as the old warehouses in King William and Gilles Street are torn down to make way for tilt slab airconditioned boxes.

Rundle says that one way of dealign with this is to reverse:

"...the presumption of the planning laws, so that the onus is on developers to show that they are making an effort to add to the beauty of the city, rather than on protesters to show that it is detracting from it."

I do not think that design/aesthetic arguments will work. Economics rules the city. The city is seen as a machine to make money not a place for people to live.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at January 26, 2005 07:52 AM | TrackBack

Sometimes, though, the economic rule of the city is given an aesthetic face. Here in Manhattan, under the Giuliani administration there was an informal agreement between various interests (some of them motivated by aesthetic concerns) that no building would be permitted which would be taller than the "prevailing height" in given neighborhoods.

This resulted in a historic run-up in housing prices -- a boon for landlords in a town with a huge population of renters.

more info:

Posted by: sam on January 29, 2005 12:11 PM
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