Monday, 29 January 2007

Meeting Melbourne

So here we are; Melbourne, Victorian city abroad.

Actually, I must stop using the word Victorian in this way. Here it simply means someone hailing from the state of Victoria, while to me it counjers up images of chimney sweeps, toffs and children in factories.

Melbourne is very proud of its architecture, and rightly so. What they are most proud of though, are the Anglo-Saxon nineteenth century structures. Towers of neo-Gothic/Orientalist glitz. If this is what blows your bubble then they are indeed perfec examples, but these are viewable in any English major city (perhaps that is traditionally the source of pride? Cultural cringe etc?). But what has impressed me most id the whole-hearted embracing of modernism. Not the concrete brutalism of post-war London, but elegant, poetical design that encompasses the best of modernist intentions.

For instance, the local library in the area we are staying in is a fantastic, perfectly proportioned building of wood and glass that is two parts Bauhaus, one part traditional Japanese. All along this street are buildings that reflect Roman villas, Gaudiesque towers, futurist pamphlets, or nothing seen before, and all with a delightful twentieth century edge. For a supposedly conservative nation they have taken to new ideas of architecture in a way that makes dreary old England look like a curmudgeonly, bigoted backwater.

The city centre too espouses this ethic. No-where to be seen are the disgustingly anonymous blocks of central Manchester or the unthinking, pseudo-design of modern London buildings. Everywhere are bold, bright, imaginitive designs from Art Deco to the modern day. This is what Manchester could and should have looked like if it wasn't so short-sighted.

In a word; impressive.

More to follow...


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