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What if all those heritage buildings hadn’t been torn down?

Imagine if those magnificent historic city streetscapes and marvellous nineteenth century buildings in the centres of our major cities were never destroyed. How would things be different?

Looking east down Collins St from the corner of Queens St in the 1950s (source: image via Walking Melbourne)

Here’s an interesting “thought experiment”: suppose those historic CBD buildings demolished in the 1960s and 70s had instead been preserved and sensitively adapted to other uses. How would our cities be different today?

To keep it simple, assume all the buildings on the main thoroughfares in the CBD remain as they were in 1940 (there wasn’t much change until the mid-1950s anyway because of WW2).

Further, assume that’s the only difference; everything else, like the string of conservative governments that dominated politics across Australia in the 1960s and most of the 70s, remains the same. (1)

I’m going to talk about Melbourne because I know it best but the lessons apply to all Australian cities. Brisbanites can imagine the Bellevue Hotel (demolished in 1979) is still there in George St and Sydneysiders can think about whether they’d prefer Bennelong Point with Fort Macquarie Tram Depot (demolished 1958) or with an Opera House.

In one respect, Melbourne’s real history is a little like my hypothetical scenario; despite the mood of “progress”, Melbourne managed to keep its trams when all around were losing theirs. (2)

The thing I’m interested in is what we might have gained, or lost, if we’d been able to freeze-frame development in these specific locations. There are doubtless multiple scenarios so I’m going to propose just one possibility.

The benefits seem reasonably straightforward. If Melbourne’s CBD had largely avoided the dead hand of post-war architectural internationalism, it would now be a more interesting and distinctive place in terms of contemporary tastes.

There would be many historically valuable buildings with profitable hospitality, retail and office uses. (3) For example, the glorious Federal Coffee Palace would’ve escaped demolition in 1973, as would the Melbourne Fish Markets (1956), The Menzies Hotel (1969), the Wool Broking Premises (1969), the Australia Building (1980), and many more.

Conversely, a modernist monstrosity like the Gas and Fuel Corporation Towers (1967) wouldn’t have been erected on a premium location like the corner of Flinders and Swanston; to do so would’ve required demolition of the remains of the historic Princes Bridge railway station.

Melbourne’s fabled Parisian ambience would’ve been preserved and would be a valuable vehicle for city branding and tourism promotion. In more recent years it might’ve been a way of helping to attract knowledge industries.

There’d be practical benefits too. The absence of office towers would mean fewer shadows and more sunlight reaches the main streets and footpaths.

There’d be other changes though with less certain benefits. There would’ve been a period of 30 years or so when Melbourne probably would’ve been regarded as backward because it rejected “progress”. It’s conceivable this could’ve hampered its ability to attract investment.

There’d be few if any high rise towers on the main streets. Corporates wouldn’t generally find historic buildings attractive because they’d be too small and inflexible. They’d mostly be occupied today by the sort of premium hospitality and retail uses that benefit most from their ambience and location.

Businesses would’ve had to look elsewhere for accommodation. Some might’ve chosen to operate out of suburban centres. Consequently, more of their employees would drive to work today.

Many more would’ve located in large near-CBD centres similar in character to North Sydney. There would’ve been greater pressure to redevelop old commercial, industrial and residential buildings in places like Fitzroy and Carlton. Warehousing and manufacturing would’ve consequently departed the inner city sooner than it did. It’s possible areas like Docklands might’ve come under earlier pressure to convert to high-rise office uses.

But many businesses, perhaps most, would’ve found accommodation in new high-rise blocks behind the main thoroughfares (where the assumed protection didn’t apply). These would’ve replaced some of the laneways, including the older buildings associated with them, that’re so celebrated today.

All those irregular, low rent commercial spaces that underpin today’s vibrant Melbourne either wouldn’t exist or, more likely, they’d be too expensive for current uses.

Given the magnificent buildings in the centre, it might’ve seemed less important to protect inner city terrace houses and warehouses. After all, the spirit of the times was for progress, not preservation.

Modernist buildings would still have been built away from the main streets. However some of the 1960s and 70s buildings that exercise the attention of preservationists today might not have been built at all.

There are other possibilities that’re even more speculative. For example, would the development capacity of the CBD have been restricted to such an extent that the city rail loop never got built? Would the decentralisation of firms have led to significantly lower public transport patronage (use of trains by commuters drops appreciably even within a few hundred metres of the loop)?

Would street life in major thoroughfares like Collins, Bourke and Swanston streets be more vibrant than it is today? Or would the loss of workers and constraints on reconfiguring heritage buildings to activate the street mean it was less alive? Would the CBD be a bit like Disneyland?

And with a strong legacy of pre-war buildings, perhaps no one would care much about protecting buildings dating from the 60s or 70s. Or perhaps it would work the other way; a city proud of its outstanding stock of heritage buildings might be more attuned to the historic value of all buildings.

My scenario is only one possibility; no doubt there’re other views of how, given the starting premise, the succeeding years might have played out. It’s also possible the same initial assumption might’ve lead to quite different results in Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney.

I’m certainly not arguing in favour of the heritage losses suffered in the post-war period. Apart from being an interesting speculation, the value of this sort of exercise is understanding that you can’t change one parameter without realising it’ll generate knock-on changes elsewhere, not all of them what you want.

_____________________________

  1. Of course this is an unrealistic premise. If buildings really had been preserved it’s almost certain it would’ve been because of some far-reaching difference in values compared to what actually happened; those values would inevitably have changed many other things too. But I think that sort of “thought experiment” is less informative for current practice.
  2. Keeping the trams was an amazing achievement given the mood of the times (surely there’s a definitive history of why and how it happened?), but I think preserving old buildings and streetscapes would’ve been an order of magnitude harder, if only because of the huge number of private owners involved.
  3. Although having historical importance doesn’t mean they’d necessarily be architecturally distinguished.

    'Paris end' of Collins St, 1969 (source: image via Walking Melbourne)

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  • 1
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    You could though make an argument that Melbourne would be *less* distinctive as a tourist destination, because it would look little different to many European cities, and far more people would be interested in experiencing actual European towns and cities rather than ersatz copies on the opposite side of the world. While it’s a shame that more wasn’t done to preserve at least the facades of many heritage buildings, I think we’ve managed now to end up with a city that’s both modern and vibrant and still full of architectural interest (more so than, e.g., much of Manhattan). If anything I’m now concerned that too much value is put on preserving inner-city heritage buildings in the form of narrow, often poorly lit single-storey terraces that could be capable of housing many more people in more comfort than they do now. Sure, they have a charm and distinctive character that I wouldn’t want to see entirely replaced with soulless modern apartment complexes, but there are always ways to preserve some of the former while gaining the advantages of the latter.

  • 2
    Richard Scott
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    If you preserved the CBD pre-1960, you wouldn’t have a CBD. All the ‘B’usiness would be decentralised and there wouldn’t be enough people in the ‘C’entral ‘D’istrict to support the utopian cosmopolitan centre you imagine. We’d instead have a shabby and run down set of central districts with limited public transport and other facilities.

  • 3
    suburbanite
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    A very interesting thought experiment. I’ve often wondered the same thing but without thinking deeply about what a city like Melbourne would have missed out on in such a scenario. This article about aesthetics was interesting:
    http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/think-you-know-ugly-think-again/

    Although the article raises more questions in my mind than it answers it gives a good perspective on changing tastes. What we regard as ugly and irredeemable brutalist architecture now may be celebrated in the future when it is imbued with history and uniqueness – a little ironic given the year-zero pretensions and reductionism of the times in which it was conceived.

    A thought experiment I like to imagine is what would have happened if Melbourne had been populated before cheap cars and a doomed ideology of car-centrism hadn’t dominated the shape of the city beyond the much more liveable inner city.

  • 4
    Steve777
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I suppose we could also consider another alternative. If business and developers had been allowed to have there way, there would now be very few buildings in the Sydney CBD older than about 50 years. The Rocks and other nearby precincts would certainly have been buried under office towers. I expect that story would have been similar in other cities.

  • 5
    melburnite
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Lets not confuse Collins Street with the entire central city grid – the edges were completely different in scale and quality.

    So architectural historian Miles Lewis preferred alternative history makes sense – that about 1960 a ‘freeze’ was put on Collins Street, and high-rise directed to LaTrobe Street instead, a street which was mostly small unremarkable commercial residential and industrial buildings. This might even have happened as a matter of course if the city rail loop with a station at the Library had been built in the 1930s as proposed in the 1929 plan. Redirecting more trams along that line would have helped too. So we could have ended up like Montreal or Los Angeles – in both cases the new postwar high rise business district was next to, rather then replacing, the old.

    Our ‘old town’ would have been much nicer than theirs though. Collins Street in 1940 was not ‘ersatz europe’ as Dylan posits, it was much taller, and more varied in type than typical European centres, and even Montreal and LA – we had loads more huge Victorian landmarks, lots of towers and spires, and a great tight urban streetscape.

    Interestingly what’s left is often seen as being ‘wonderfully european’ and distinctive, but thats mainly in comparison to other non-european cities which used to look like Collins Street too, mainly in the US, but have now gone. Except a chunk of old downtown San Francisco.

  • 6
    michael r james
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    There is an alternative history that AD and the first 4 comments weirdly completely ignore. It is not hypothetical or overly speculative. As usual, on these matter, look to Paris. (I can hear the groans but bear with me.)

    The idea that if you preserve the old (at least the worthwhile*) then you are condemning the city to stagnation is just nonsense. First let’s deal with that caveat asterisk: “old” Paris (intramuros) has some of the most modern architecture in the world (IM Pei’s Louvre Pyramid; Piano & Rogers Pompidou Centre; Bibliotheque Nationale; Ctr du Monde Arabe; Opera Bastille etc). This was built on truly decrepit sites in the city without removing heritage (the arguable exception is the old Halles whose replacement looks very 70s today, currently getting a makeover).

    But the important point is that the city well knew it had to cater for modern business, so they built La Defense. It grew into the biggest business & financial centre in all of Europe (yes, bigger than London Dockland or the old City, and Frankfurt etc). Of course, in typical contrast the French did it correctly by building excellent transport infrastructure from the beginning (unlike the usual laggard Brits who took close to 20 years to build the Jubilee extension into Docklands). Metro LIne 1 (that serves the heart of Paris) was extended to La Defense followed later by the RER line A.

    Certainly one can grumble about the 70s era depressing architecture though the French don’t give up on this stuff and the imaginative addition of the Grande Arche (one of Mitterand’s grand projets) has had a big impact –bringing a, dare I say Pharonic, vision and coherence between old city and new city, forming a single eyeline from Grande Arche, Arc de Triomphe, the old arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and on to Colonne de Juillet at Bastille and Nation at the other end of Paris. (OK, not many cities will be able to manage that but just thinking of these issues would help and improve the outcomes.)

    And of course one can ask whether one would prefer these buildings in one compact location (greatly adding to their amenity) or scattered around old Paris? Or, no need to speculate, look at London which has both and suffers terribly from it (Centepoint?). Is there anyone who seriously thinks Tour Montparnasse wasn’t a mistake? (Its main unintended benefit was to put more energy into developing La Defense than destroy old Paris.) As a final point on this subject one notes that, finally, London has learned with its continuing development of Docklands and now the Stratford (Olympic) site with its own Eurostar station, and London Crossrail–40 years after Paris built its first RER!.

    Anyway the point is that every major city faced a similar choice in the post-war growth period (or 70s/80s in the case of laggard Australia). All big cities had old decrepit areas adjacent to their CBDs which were perfect for such redevo.–often railway tracks and old stranded docks. Thus in the case of Melbourne one should ask, what would Docklands be like if it was planned/redeveloped earlier with the money and energy that otherwise went into destroying old Melbourne? IMO it would have been vastly superior to the depressing mix we now have: old Melbourne is littered (and overshadowed) by mediocre hi-rise and Docklands is a windy wasteland of equally depressing hi-rise with lousy ground-level amenity. (Given the examples from decades earlier of big, empty and windy plazas in London Docklands and La Defense this was inexcusable by the planners.) Better that it was a free-for-all Manhattanite (or La Defense, or London Docklands; BTW no contradiction here, both these places have tried to ameliorate those giant plazas as inevitably M. Docklands will.) crowded forest of hi-rise. Equally in Brisbane there were decrepit areas (George st towards Roma st; over the river in SthBriz & West End).
    Incidentally one can include Singapore in this list of cities that kept its colonial era district while building a modern business district adjacent to it in a very successful bit of town planning.
    ………………………….
    PS. Really that pic of old Collins street should be side-by-side with one of the current Collins street.

  • 7
    Steve777
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Re Michael R James @6: interesting. The nearest equivalent for Sydeny would have been, say, to redevelop Darling Harbour (wharves, warehouses, railyards, etc), moving shipping to Port Botany (which would have to have happened earlier than it did). We could have a shiny new CBD instead of a tourist trap, with ‘old Sydney’ being given over to retail, entertainment, medical & professional, parklands that aren’t overshadowed, etc. it would have required additional transport infrastructure but a bonus would have been that the Cahill Expressway and Circular Quay station would never have been needed.

  • 8
    Alan Davies
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    melburnite #5; michael r james #6:

    Well yes, the politicians of the day could’ve designated a particular area with little intrinsic historic value and insisted it took all the new development, thus preserving the historically valuable areas like Collins St. They could indeed have done it differently and from today’s perspective it’s a real pity they didn’t.

    But it’s not a particularly useful or informative perspective. You’re looking at it essentially as a technical problem; with the benefit of hindsight; and with a contemporary sensibility. No one then would’ve seen creating something along the lines of La Defense as a worthy goal. No one would’ve done the hard negotiating and head banging to ensure it happened. It’s a real pity but they didn’t even see Collins St as worth preserving (not withstanding its Parisian pretensions).

    You’re both making the fantasy assumption that historically valuable buildings were protected (as indeed do I) but you’re going a step further into full-blown unreality by implicitly assuming it was the result of an enlightened political culture. What’s the value in that? With Sir Henry Bolte as the Premier? You’ve just assumed away all the problems! This is a counter-factual exercise so we all need to give some leeway, but your approach verges on the tautological.

  • 9
    Jane Sandler
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    We have lost some wonderful architecture and buildings which can never be replaced. Our cities are becoming homogenized and characterless. If you take a gander at the photos on the Facebook groups, “lost Sydney” and “Lost Newcastle” you too, like me, may feel a great sense of loss.

  • 10
    Adam Ford
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Interesting stuff. I would argue though that the result would have been the creation as you suggest of a newer Nth Sydney style CBD over a limited redevelopment area, such as we have seen develop in Paris and London. We probably would have got Southbank earlier but with a commercial rather than residential focus.
    Can we identify examples of heritage practices elsewhere leading to these sorts of outcomes? I think rather that Melbourne was subject to the same phenomena most similar sized cities were grappling with following dramatic technological changes in construction techniques. No city anywhere in the world has ever had an approach as blanket as this hypothetical, thus the extreme scenario isn’t realistic. History played out in the manner it did because some powerful drivers were behind it.
    For mine, we need to imagine a world in which this scenario would have realistically arisen, and try to enhance the conditions that better enable it. Thus it’s all less about heritage policy and more about other aspects of the urban design regime.

  • 11
    michael r james
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    AD #8

    Your entire second paragraph summarizes everything that is wrong with long range planning in Australia: there is none and it is even considered an effete luxury by many of the ruling class, the business class, economists (Chicago school of Hayekians) and is a product of what Ross Garnaut calls the Great Australian Complacency. And incidentally I was one of the people watching at midnight as the Deen Brothers demolished the Bellevue Hotel in George Street in 1979 (the year I left Australia for a couple of decades)–so there were people who understood what was happening and how pointless it was.

    The French planned La Defense at least 20 years before London began acting on Docklands; another 20 years before they built proper PT (Jubilee Line extension) connecting it to the rest of London; didn’t embrace Eurostar (so that the line connecting Dover to London remained slow-speed for another 12 years until they finally got over the Thatcher era and it got built; what an embarrassment); 40 years before they started on London Crossrail (an exact equivalent of Paris’ RER-Line A, 1977); 35 years after Paris-Lyon (Europe’s first HSR, 1981) they finally (kind of) embrace HSR for their country (which, being long and skinny like Japan, is perfectly suited for it). (The TGV line Paris-Barcelona just opened–and of course there is a Spanish AVE connecting Barca to Madrid, not to forget on to Seville, 1992) And so on.

    And so it goes. Public infrastructure is beyond pathetic in Australia. It is pretty amazing we function as well as we do. Just one project kind of sums it all up: Sydney’s second airport. (Incidentally I should have added that to the London:Paris comparison; Paris-CDG was created east of Paris on a huge piece of protected real estate that would allow another entire city if necessary. Nothing in the future would compromise its operation. Meanwhile Thatcher privatized all London airports (and what a mess they are) under a single private company (sounds familiar? KSA) then finally came to its senses after 25 years and undid it (too late to make any difference).

    So the reality is that there are excellent examples around the world (Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong) where long range planning is the norm. And where it unarguably works–it not only solves the logistical problems cities have, adds hugely to amenity, but it saves incalculable amounts of money and where the (early) investment is repaid a hundred times (and avoids the massive opportunity cost incurred by London, Sydney and other Anglophone cities (those US sunbelt cities you lurve so much).. Apparently the latter is something beyond the ken or imagination or calculation of Anglophone economists. I curse them all.

    It is beyond my ken why you call this a fantasy. And why I call your attitude a perfect fit to the Great Australian Complacency.

  • 12
    michael r james
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    @Adam Ford #10

    Genuinely I do not grasp whatever you are trying to say.

    “No city anywhere in the world has ever had an approach as blanket as this hypothetical, thus the extreme scenario isn’t realistic”

    I believe I comprehensively described how Paris did exactly that. Twice–first by Haussmann then by the post-war planners. (London also had two historic opportunities but flubbed both–after the great fire and post-war.) And on a smaller scale it is true for many provincial French cities from Lyon, Montpellier to Toulouse all of which have safeguarded their old hearts–which as it happens in all three cases is UNESCO listed, yet these are very dynamic cities; in fact the latter two vie to be the most dynamic in all.of.Europe! And regularly voted the most desirable to live (in.all.Europe). (Just to counter the Hayekians like AD who will claim it is somehow, mysteriously incompatible with a good economy or .. whatever. I’m never quite sure what the negative arguments are …)

    Tokyo is a bit of a messy example but its deliberate development of Shinjuku is similar; true it was partly dictated by geology but unarguably also by planners realizing they needed one concentrated business district. No accident that Shinjuku subway station is cited to be the busiest in the world, though Châtelet-Les-Halles also makes that claim. No doubt some station in Shanghai surpasses them all. In fact that is another example for you. Admittedly they got a late start so had plenty of prior examples to learn from and they only partly succeeded: they preserved the historic Bund while developing the Lujiazui business district across the river; alas they fell into the same trap as Melbourne Docklands and so many others, in making a spread-out set of hi-rise encircled by mega-roads and vast empty “plazas” (always windy, planners have known this about what happens between hi-rise for a century!) which is a soulless and oddly people-free zone. I suppose the planners envisage reproducing Madrid’s Plaza de Mayor though how anyone could imagine it working on ten times the scale is beyond me. (And look, another city that has safeguarded the ambience of its old city without sacrificing its future: third largest economic entity–after London & Paris–in Europe.)

    You mention Sydney but you should note that I have not discussed Sydney (other than the fictional second airport) because indeed it is more problematic. Just like Manhattan (esp. lower Manhattan) it is limited by geography–all that water. North Sydney was never a full alternative (though I suppose it is no further removed from the old city than La Defense is). Obviously the more logical areas were west of the city which only now are they finally beginning to develop.

    “History played out in the manner it did because some powerful drivers were behind it”

    Certainly. Developers and “economists” like AD.

    I use quotation marks because it seems most economists simply do not use evidence-based arguments or data from the real world (in the way a scientist like myself does). AD does it endlessly to “justify” not funding PT (versus endless roads at higher cost), to charge unrealistic and counter-productive fares on PT, segregated bike-paths, or in fact any strong central planning of any kind. His mindset is exactly why Sydney never got its second airport or why nothing much gets built–because it fails the narrow economic-rationalist case in these economists’ alternative reality. (The one that leads to those sunbelt cities like Phoenix, Houston, Dallas etc. which seem to work for a while until finally, and ineluctably, the scale problem hits them in the face.) This anti-logic is then used to take the ≈$5bn from privatizing Medibank to build mega-roads which will simply make congestion worse and be a drain on our economy instead of the reverse.

    So, Adam (forgive me if I have misinterpreted) are you also just saying, “nah it can’t be done”, and in so doing, ignoring all the counter-examples of exactly how it can be, and more importantly, has been done?

    (Oops, I am a victim of my own poor forward planning: about to run out of laptop power so will post this without editing!)

  • 13
    Alan Davies
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    michael r james #11:

    As I took pains to point out in my previous comment (#8), I agree it would have been possible, and better, if Melbourne’s politicians had followed the La Defense model in the post-war period. But that’s a bit like saying it would have been better if Hitler had been a caring and sharing sort of guy and the culture and politics of Germany in the 1930s had been liberal and enlightened.

    That’s an interesting alternative reality, but I think we learn more from accepting the historical reality of Bolte et al and thinking about how things might have panned out if just one variable had been different. As I said last time, your approach isn’t very useful because it essentially assumes most of the problem away.

  • 14
    michael r james
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Groan. That was a particularly BS argument! (and as if to prove it you broke Godwin’s Law too! Well, you got a laugh if that was your aim) You are seriously missing the point. As is your want, you just repeat the Great Australian Complacent plangent. A fatalist lament that we can’t do anything about anything. And try to use profoundly inadequate economic theory to determine what should be done. As bad as Abbott’s cringeful “stick to our knitting” (but actually amounting to the same infantile outcome.)

    And I was not “assuming” a single thing. I was describing historical fact-based reality. If you want to build (big) cities that work, there are quite good models out there. No fantasy required. European ones. Asian ones. Even American one (alas just one, NYC unless one included Vancouver, Toronto & Montreal?). I would have thought an economist would embrace this essentially “world’s best practice” approach?

    I am saying let’s do what they do. I am advocating for strong central planning. While you always seem to be arguing for some weird (to me) mix of do-nothing or do the wrong thing for the wrong reason (build super-expensive roads but not PT; pour scorn on HSR or segregated bike paths, or higher fares for PT) based on extraordinarily dubious “economic” theory. Scratch that, it is beyond “dubious”, it is demonstrably false.

    I use those various historic examples (in previous arguments) to illustrate that all that is bunkum, not least the wrong economic theory. In fact this is almost the same style of argument that was taking place at the end of the 70s (and maybe during Hawke-Keating, I wasn’t here). We seem to be in a destructive Groundhog Day infinite loop of doing the wrong things, and never learning (“from Las Vegas”; even more important in a post-GFC and energy + water constrained world). In this (relatively short period) approx. 3 decades I have witnessed firsthand France build TGVs, channel tunnels, RER lines, introduce the Velib + bikepaths in Paris (which shocked even me!) rejuvenate their provincial cities, reduce their dependence on imported fossil fuels etc etc. while we have done very close to sum total of bugger-all! No wonder when the UK appears to be our model (though they are finally trying to catch up, often turning to French companies to help them! eg. HSR, Crossrail, nuclear power). Here PT has barely moved a millimetre during this time. The Sydney airport argument is never ending and two decades late.

    I blame many things and people but especially those who should know better, such as you. Don’t you think you need to change your mindset?

  • 15
    melburnite
    Posted April 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Er Alan, I dont quite get your vehement statement that mine and others alternative histories were unrealistic ‘fantasies’ -in what way was your “thought experiment” also not a fantasy ?

  • 16
    Alan Davies
    Posted April 7, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    melburnite #15:

    I acknowledge my “thought experiment” is by defintion a fantasy. As I said at #8:

    You’re both making the fantasy assumption that historically valuable buildings were protected (as indeed do I) but you’re going a step further into full-blown unreality by implicitly assuming it was the result of an enlightened political culture. What’s the value in that? With Sir Henry Bolte as the Premier? You’ve just assumed away all the problems! This is a counter-factual exercise so we all need to give some leeway, but your approach verges on the tautological.

  • 17
    melburnite
    Posted April 9, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    OK fair enough. Though if your fantasy assumes the protection of historic buildings too, how could that happen without an ‘enlightened political culture’ ? But agreed that was unlikely to have happened with Bolte in charge !

  • 18
    Alan Davies
    Posted April 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    melburnite #17:

    As I said in footnote 1, my scenario is unrealistic, but it at least minimises the number of assumptions. The closest “real life” parallel would probably be Melbourne’s trams.

  • 19
    Emily Marno
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Our cities could have been beauty… instead they are a sad shadow of their former selves. Someone said we could have been the greatest European city outside of Europe, and considering the elegant Victorian and Gothic architecture we HAD, this could have been true.

  • 20
    Emily Marno
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful ^

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