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Due to a recent postgraduate offer and increasing work commitments, the authors of Visual City are not able to continue this blog. We would like to thank our visitors and contributors for supporting Visual City.


Laneway Commissions 2010

The City of Melbourne has announced the Laneway Commissions for 2010. This annual public art commission began in 2001, providing a range of temporary works for Melbourne’s laneways.

Public Writing
Anthony McInneny

Lingham Lane

Public Writing, Anthony McInneny

[Source: City of Melbourne]

Public Writing is a video work by Melbourne based artist Anthony McInneny. On the bluestone walls of Lingham Lane, Public Writing presents an animation of a hybrid writing machine that types sections of text lifted from broadcast and print media.

Matt Blackwood with Tony Birch, Barry Dickens and Cate Kennedy

Various locations in the CBD

MyStory, Matt Blackwood

[Source: MyStory]

Story sites:
Tony Birch: Equitable Place, McKillop Street and Bank Place
Matt Blackwood: Masons Lane, Union Lane and The Causeway
Barry Dickins: Block Arcade: ‘Adams Gallery’, Block Arcade: ‘The Rare Stamp and Coin Shop of J.P. Downie, Esq’, and Block Place: ‘Dinkum Pies’
Cate Kennedy: Whitehart Lane, Hardware Street and St. Francis Church (corner of Lonsdale and Elizabeth streets)

MyStory presents four self-guided audio and text tours, designed to take you on an immersive literary journey through some of the city’s most intriguing laneways. Using mobile technologies, audiences will discover the laneways anew, accompanied by the stories of four Melbourne writers, spinning tales of past and present.

For information on how to access MyStory content and a detailed map of project sites, visit

Urban Codemakers
Troy Innocent

Guildford Lane and surrounds

Urban Codemakers, Troy Innocent

[Source: Urban Codemakers]

Combining the elements of a city treasure hunt and online gaming, Urban Codemakers explores the ways in which urban space is contested.

For information on how to play the game, visit

City of Melbourne has produced a PDF brochure with further information about the 2010 Laneway Commissions.

VEIL Food Map

VEIL Food Map

Urban food production map. [Source: VEIL]

Our recent post on productive streets included a quote from Kirsten Larsen of the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab. VEIL’s website features an urban food production map of Melbourne. The map identifies community gardens, market gardens, food produced in public spaces and shared household gardens across the city.

Hamer Hall redevelopment begins

Animation of the Hamer Hall redevelopment. [Source: Minister for Major Projects]

Work began recently on the $128.5 million redevelopment of Hamer Hall. Originally designed by Roy Grounds, the new works are a joint project between ARM and Peter Elliot. The project will provide upgrades to the hall’s acoustics, staging technologies and equipment, as well as the public foyers and visitor amenities, allowing the Arts Centre to program a broader range of events. The venue will be opened up to the public realm by establishing new connections with the city, St Kilda Road and the river. Hamer Hall is expected to reopen in mid-2012.

Increased planning interventions

The Age reports that Planning Minister Justin Madden has intervened in 44 per cent more planning matters compared with the previous year. Presenting an annual report in Parliament, Mr Madden outlined a total of 223 planning interventions. Economics, rather than planning outcomes, formed a central argument for the increased level of ministerial involvement.


Following our recent post providing a link to the 2010 Victorian Architecture Award winners, we decided to include these photos of EastLink. Designed by Wood Marsh, the project won the Joseph Reed Award for Urban Design. All images are courtesy of ConnectEast & Heaven Pictures.

Eastlink runs for 39 kilometres between Donvale in Melbourne’s north east, through Dandenong, to Frankston in the south-east of Melbourne. A series of artworks have been installed along the motorway including works by James Angus, Emily Floyd, Callum Morton and Simeon Nelson.
















Ellipsoidal Freeway Sculpture, James Angus

Ellipsoidal Freeway Sculpture, James Angus

Public Art Strategy, Emily Floyd

Public Art Strategy, Emily Floyd

Hotel, Callum Morton

Hotel, Callum Morton

Desiring Machine, Simeon Nelson

Desiring Machine, Simeon Nelson

The Eastlink website provides information about the artworks and a map showing their location.

Productive Streets

Backyard vegetable garden, Aberfeldie

Vegetables grown in an Aberfeldie backyard are shared between neighbours. [Source: Visual City]

VicUrban’s Meridian in Dandenong will see fruit trees and vegetable plants extending beyond the backyard and into the public realm. According to an article in The Age, streets will be lined with a mix of about 20 kinds of productive trees, urban orchards established in public open space and an area set aside for community gardens.

Introducing such species into the public realm can be difficult as local council’s often have concerns regarding maintenance costs and potential litigation. “Those arguments can be addressed,” says Mr Partos from VicUrban. “Some areas of California have had productive landscapes in their streets for a long time, with community organisations set up to manage and run them.”

Commenting on the broader environmental impact of food supply in cities, Kirsten Larsen, of the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab, believes planning models in urban areas must change. “We need to think about our cities as productive, as well as consumptive spaces.”

Shaping Melbourne Volume 2

Melbourne Beyond 5 Million - Volume 2

Melbourne Beyond 5 Million, Volume 2, Density and Localised Economies
[Source: Committee for Melbourne]

Density and Localised Economies, the second in a series of four volumes that define the outcome of the Committee for Melbourne’s 2010 Shaping Melbourne Taskforce, has been released.

Volume One of this series explored the importance of appropriate governance and effective decision making for the cities future. This included a broadly articulated long-term vision for how Melbourne could best benefit from addressing issues of physical shape, population, development, growth and regional relations.

Volume Two explores the issue of density and discusses the value of both creating new localised economies and reinforcing those that already exist. The report begins by covering population projections, rates of growth and demographic changes. This is followed by a review of Melbourne’s density and an overview of issues associated with viability. The relationship between planning and the market is presented along with a number of growth options. After discussing the role of regional cities, the report concludes with a series of actions to deliver change.

One of the clear issues emerging from the document is the current ‘policy void’ in both existing planning documents:

“Melbourne @ 5 million aspires to accommodate an additional half a million people within the established areas of Melbourne. It places a priority over designated activity areas across the metropolitan area and locations close to existing transport routes. Unfortunately, though, it provides no solution about the scale of development that may be expected, the planning regime that will implement the policy, the role of local municipalities and how local communities will have a voice. The situation is only exacerbated when the state chooses to override planning norms in the name of expediting projects.”

And in an overarching approach for the city’s future development:

“There is also a lack of a strong policy framework as to the preferred physical shape and form of Melbourne. If this ‘policy void’ continues, it is possible that increases in density will happen indiscriminately, with no strategic policies to determine how increased density will link to the provision of transport and other infrastructure. While the State Government has undertaken significant assessments of the capacity of metropolitan Melbourne to accommodate a population of five million, there is currently no plan that demonstrates how aspirations of new and existing communities and densification will actually be converted to reality – let alone for a population significantly beyond five million.”

Quick links

Following our recent slowdown we have posted a number of quick links tracking news items from the last two weeks:

PARLIAMENT approves a 43,600 hectare expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary.

THE UGB EXPANSION is criticised for destroying Melbourne’s green-wedge land, established to protect “rural and agricultural uses, natural resources, landscape, heritage, open space, and conservation values”.

REVALUATION figures reveal that the federal government’s home owners boost, which sparked a boom in Victoria’s first home buyers market last year, contributed little to housing affordability.

REDEVELOPMENT of a Carlton estate fails to deliver the proposed public/private mix, resulting in two physically separated developments with a disproportionately high number of private units.

SMALL-TO-MEDIUM ENTERPRISES miss out as banks favour household lending.

INNER-CITY GOLF COURSES relocate to alternative locations after selling their existing sites to residential developers.

LABOR will provide $200 million in financial incentives to encourage construction of 15,000 new homes for regional cities, shifting money from an existing rental housing affordability scheme.

House prices dip

The Age reports on Melbourne’s first dip in house prices “after 17 months of strong gains that increased the typical price for a house from $404,636 to $500,000”. The figures reflect a national downturn revealed in the latest RP Data-Rismark property index. The report also refers to new figures from the Reserve Bank which show that growth in housing credit slowed to 0.4 per cent in June – its slowest growth for any month since July 1984.

2010 Victorian Architecture Awards

Joseph Reed Award for Urban Design – Eastlink Freeway by Wood Marsh
[Source: ConnectEast & Heaven Pictures]

A quick link to the recent winners from the 2010 Victorian Architecture Awards

Melbourne Open House

Melbourne Open House

Melbourne Open House, 24th and 25th of July [Source: Melbourne Open House]

Melbourne Open House will feature over 60 buildings open free to the public on the 24th and 25th of July. As part of the event, ‘Design this! Density in Melbourne’ takes place this Monday where architects and planners will discuss strategies for sustainable city growth.

With upcoming commitments our opportunities to post over the next two weeks will be limited. From the beginning of August we will continue our regular posts.

Victorian Transport Plan

Victorian Transport Plan - Inner West animation still

Inner West projects, animation still [Source: Department of Transport]

The State Government has released the inner city route of the Regional Rail Link and plans for five stations in the Melbourne Metro project. Forming part of the Victorian Transport Plan, the two projects total almost $9 billion and are expected to provide capacity for an extra 20,000 passengers every hour. The plan also includes the Westlink tunnel, which will provide an alternative to the West Gate Bridge and the Truck Action Plan, which aims to reduce the number of trucks using residential streets in Melbourne’s west.

State of Design

Victoria’s design festival – State of Design, begins today with a 12 day programme of activities, talks and exhibitions. The festival theme ‘Change by Design’ was developed by Studio Binocular, this year’s creative partner. Events with a focus on the built environment include:

Friday 2 –Sunday 18 July
Exhibition offering multiple insights on how social sports are manifested in the city’s fabric.

Curating Desire: Designing Melbourne’s Retail Landscape
Thursday 22 July
Discussion about the changing shape of Melbourne’s retail landscape, including shop design, laneways, malls and shopping strips

Creating Sustainable Neighbourhoods
Friday 23 July
Forum exploring how behavioural change and precinct development interrelate to create sustainable communities.

Four Goals for Promoting Urban Cycling with Mikael Colville-Andersen
Saturday 24 July
Mikael Colville-Andersen, Denmark’s Bicycle Ambassador, will give a presentation explaining Copenhagen’s journey – then, now and into the future – towards establishing the bicycle as a feasible, acceptable form of transport.

Nine Star Energy Efficient Design in an Urban Environment
Sunday 25 July
Event providing both technical and practical information about designing and building sustainable energy efficient buildings.

The full programme of public events is available on the State of Design website.

Docklands planning control handed to City of Melbourne


Docklands [Source: Wikimedia]

The Age reports that the City of Melbourne will be handed planning control of all developed parts of the Docklands, while VicUrban, the government’s development agency, will continue to have planning authority for all areas yet to be developed.

Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle welcomed the transfer of planning control as an opportunity to help integrate the waterfront precinct with the rest of Melbourne and improve residential amenities including additional community facilities, a new library and facilitating retail growth.

However, there are a number of challenges in achieving these aims; establishing meaningful connectivity across Wurundjeri Way is difficult, while the public realm suffers from a lack of activation at ground level due to blank facades. Commenting on the Docklands, Kim Dovey, a professor of architecture and urban design at Melbourne University, said:

”[Docklands] was never conceived with public interest to the fore, it was an experiment in privatisation of urban planning and I think that the recognition that that has to be redressed is a good one.”

Kodak site development plan approved

Kodak site development plan

Kodak site development plan [Source: Department of Planning and Community Development]

In May 2009, Planning Minister Justin Madden exercised ‘call-in’ powers for the Kodak site in Coburg. This effectively shifted responsibility for approving and amending the development plan from Moreland City Council to the Planning Department. In March this year, The Age reported on Moreland City Council’s anger at the lack of communication and consultation undertaken by the Planning Minister during the ‘call-in’. Director of city development, Roger Collins, also criticised the plan for falling short of earlier proposals in the amount of affordable housing provision and use of environmentally sustainable design. Having recently approved the development plan for the Kodak site, the minister has returned planning control back to Moreland City Council.

Developers Urbex will take the 20.8Ha site forward with the approved development plan providing 380 new homes, a neighbourhood hub and new open spaces. Moreland City Council has a Kodak site redevelopment page while the development plan is available from the Department of Planning and Community Development.

‘Decent not Dodgy’ rental housing report

'Decent not Dodgy' report

‘Decent not Dodgy’ Report [Source: Victorian Council of Social Service]

The full report of the ‘Decent not Dodgy’ survey of 116 rental properties in Melbourne and Geelong conducted by the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) counters claims and concerns that legislating minimum standards for rental homes in Victoria would cost landlords too much.

Acting Chief Executive Officer of VCOSS Carolyn Atkins said, “Although more than one in ten properties inspected by VCOSS were uninhabitable and would require significant investment to guarantee they were safe, secure and affordable to live in, the majority of homes surveyed would meet basic living standards with the installation of one or two basic and inexpensive items like electrical safety switches, or deadlocks.”

“VCOSS analysis also showed that more than half of properties could be brought up to an acceptable standard with just two alterations or repairs, and 41 percent could meet VCOSS’ proposed standards with either no alterations or the installation of a low flow showerhead and/or a deadlock.”

“This winter tenants will struggle with high electricity bills and freezing homes. VCOSS’s report shows that minimum standards could save renters up to $363 a year on their winter energy bills if their landlords installed a gas heater and ceiling insulation and $336 a year if the property switched from electric to gas hot water heating.”

Information about the campaign launch and VCOSS’ policy position on rental standards is covered in a previous post.

City Baths celebrate 150th anniversary

City Baths

City Baths [Source: Wikimedia]

Opened in 1860 to provide bathing facilities for the public, Melbourne’s City Baths celebrate their 150th anniversary today. The current building was constructed between 1903-04 to competition winning designs by J. J. Clark and his son, E. J. Clark. Responding to a complex triangular site, the well planned building contained two large swimming baths and associated changing facilities, as well as slipper baths, spray baths, Jewish Mikva baths and Turkish Baths. Restoration and alteration work from 1981-83 included the addition of spas, saunas, squash courts and a gymnasium.

Melbourne Airport turns 40

Melbourne Airport, Tullamarine

Melbourne Airport, Tullamarine [Source: The Collector’s Marvellous Melbourne]

Melbourne Airport, also known as Tullamarine Airport, turns 40 next Thursday. Rather than celebrating the occasion, two recent news items have focused on the continuing lack of a direct rail link to the airport.

Train derailed by buck-passing and vested interests details the history of decision making associated with accessing the airport. This has resulted in the continual widening of the Tullamarine Freeway which services airport buses, taxis and private cars, and a long-term surface car park stretching over two kilometres.

Doyle plea for rail link to airport focuses on an interview with lord mayor Robert Doyle in which he argues for a ‘duplicate grid’ within Melbourne’s infrastructure. The Tullamarine Freeway is given as an example in which large volumes of traffic are reliant on a single infrastructure connection. The obvious problem highlighted by Mr Doyle is the massive impact on traffic flows when an accident occurs. Building a ‘duplicate grid’, in this case a rail link, would provide an alternative means of travel between the airport and city centre.

Social Housing Audit

Access to Social Housing Cover, June 2010

Access to Social Housing Report [Source: Victorian Auditor-General’s Office]

The Victorian Auditor-General’s report Access to Social Housing highlights a number of key problems, particularly the failure to adequately house people of the highest need. The background summary provides a bleak opening:

“Victoria has an undersupply of affordable housing for those on low incomes … many low-income Victorians find it difficult to access public housing as it is increasingly targeted to those on the waiting list classified as having special needs. Waiting times for other tenants are up to seven years”

The report makes a number of recommendations targeting the three key entities involved in the provision of affordable housing; the Director of Housing, the Department of Human Services and the Registrar of Housing Agencies.

While housing associations are on track to meet the original target of 1,550 properties, perhaps one of the more disturbing elements of the report is the lack of clear guidelines to deliver equity of access for applicants on the public housing waiting list. Originally there was a requirement for 50 per cent of new vacancies in housing association properties to be filled from the waiting list. This has been modified to ‘up to’ 50 per cent. During 2008-09 only 17 per cent of new vacancies were filled by DHS referrals from the top of the waiting list. This implies that the current social housing model places pressure on associations to select tenants with an adequate income, thereby achieving favourable rent revenue and ensuring financial viability.

Full report and Summary (PDF)