The City of Melbourne or the State Government like to promote with much fanfare, unique urban spaces such as Federation Square as a space for social interactions. Like they are cementing their sovereignty over our urban lives by giving us “beautiful” spaces (while approving the destruction of heritage buildings). Our Right to the City (Stead), our social interactions have been rounded up, placed where it is easy to manage and control, even economised to save the governing bodies money and resources. Sometimes we can act against the capitalist desires, such as the planned Apple store in Fed-Square.
The forecourt of the old Suncorp building on the corner of Collins and William street is an example of constructed social place. This space was designed for workers to use, socially engage and rest. Not long after the settlement of Melbourne, this space was home to one of Melbourne’s first hotel and markets. This space is being recycled again into residential and office towers, which will resemble a pair of pants, aka The Pant-Scraper. The populations right to public space is now gone, well this one anyway. This space transforms again to meet the desire of capitalist growth to keep the machine of the city going. The site seems to capture all the principles and ontologies of modernity (stead p87). Also captures Cityness (Simone p.3), forever in the making.
Another space is the Queen Victoria Market. In the early settlement days, it was the Melbourne General Cemetery 1837-1922. As the city grew, first buildings were constructed over the Aboriginal graves (which are still there). Then most of the European graves were moved to make way for economic purposes with the establishment of the market. For nearly a century it has been a place of commerce and even tourism. Now this space is being contested again, as open space (below and above ground) is ripe for capitalist intentions. So the right to the city for those small traders, the farms that provide produce, the fisherman or those who hose out the dreadful stench of rotting fruit. All likely to be displaced eventually when their economic value is no longer valued. Our sentiment of place may be what saves it. Waves on new residents from far off places won’t have the same phenomenology to the space as previous generations.
In some ways, urban life has been downgraded, especially in the right to the city. But hey look at these new train stations, aren’t they wonderful; just don’t look at the homeless sleeping in the concourse.
Again another long one, I won’t look at Melbourne the same every again.
Homeland, territory, property: Contesting land, state, and nation in urban Timor-Leste in Political Geography, Victoria Stead 2015
On Cityness in City Life from Jakarta to Dakar: Movements at the Crossroads, AbdouMaliq Simone 2010