Not taking it at face value

Featuring in both the people’s paper and The Age today was the new thirty-two storey apartment block at the Carlton end of Swanston Street by ARM which features the image of indigenous leader William Barak across its 100-metre-high, sculpted façade which The Age incorrectly cites as an architectural world first.

Obviously the proposed has caused much discussion on the respective newspaper’s websites along with being a topic of conversation of talkback radio this morning. Whilst ARM are not at all publicity-shy, it was quickly pointed out by a number of my colleagues that this proposal is a rehash of a previous ARM proposal that never got off the ground in Sydney. That proposal was also eerily similar to a project by BIG, which has recently been completed.

In The Age, Professor Phillip Goad who backed the proposal. “It is in a way quite haunting, that fact that the surface of the building is white rather than black,”’ he said. ”It could be Melbourne’s equivalent of Mount Rushmore.” Thanks for your insightful comments Professor Goad but we don’t need a Melbourne equivalent of Mount Rushmore.

Less enthusiastic in his praise was historian Geoffrey Blainey. “[I] wonder about the wisdom of using the facades of skyscrapers as historical, political, or commercial advertisement – no matter whose face or logo is on them,” Dr Blainey said. Well said Dr Blainey, who unlike Goad was not towing the party line. Probably not being heavily involved in the architectural community helps in this regard.

Again, like the issue of planning a week or so ago there is no response at all from the Victorian State Government Architect, Geoffrey London. Surely he would have something to say about a building on one of the most prominent sites in Melbourne. Also why wasn’t a quote sought from the AIA and Victorian Chapter President, Robert Puksand?

For me, this proposal by ARM smacks a little of laziness and seems like a cheap stunt aimed at getting some publicity for both themselves and the developer. Architects, myself included, have all been guilty of rehashing old projects but never in such an obvious manner as this proposal. It will be interesting to see how the architectural community, Phillip Goad aside, responds to this proposal.

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