Monday, 10 September 2018

ACTION NEEDED: Save Federation Square's "Shard" from Metro Tunnel and AppleScum

The Western Shard at Federation Square was a compromise to the original design, but it was built largely stylistically integrated with the rest of the square, and is therefore integral to the whole.

I must apologise to the world for the lateness of this post, life moves so damn quickly these days. Tomorrow, Wednesday September 12 is the deadline for submissions to Heritage Victoria in opposition to the awful and unnecessary new Metro Station entrance proposed for Federation Square.

I also apologise the layout on this post is a little haywire but I haven't got time to fix it right now.

I write today encouraging all Melburnians to lift up their pens for what will not be the first time in defence of one of the world's premiere civic spaces, and will briefly run through the core arguments that we feel should inform the public objections.
The core of our objection to the proposal is that the Western Shard is specifically listed as significant in the site's interim heritage listing as adopted by Heritage Victoria. That means it is protected from demolition unless in the most exceptional of circumstances that demonstrate an overwhelming imperative to demolish the structure.

Quite simply, no such imperative is demonstrated in the plans submitted by the Metro Tunnel Project, and therefore the plans must be rejected.

The plans do not demonstrate any need to demolish the structure, because they do not give any valid reason why a station entrance could not be constructed within the existing structure.

A Disingenuous Proposal

disingenuous - adjective. Not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.
It's one of my favourite words - disingenuous. Once you've conceptually grasped it, you start to see it in evidence everywhere if you spend any time at all engaged with public policy. Politicians, of course, are severely recidivist criminals here, but most public servants (especially those with public facing roles) are well trained, both formally and informally in the dark arts of the disingenuous.

So, what IS the imperative to demolish this structure and erect a low-rise, lightweight, see-through structure in it's place? It is VERY obvious that this has been done for Apple (scum), probably at their insistence, because the existing structure, as clearly shown in the photo below, would block sightlines to the Apple (scum) store from the existing retail strip, and indeed from the entrance to the Square itself.

Image from the submitted plans clearly showing the shard obscures the location of the proposed Apple (scum) store from the existing retail strip.

The entire proposal is therefore both disingenuous and in bad faith to both the public at large, who are being sold a lie concerning the reasons why this project is deemed necessary, and to the processes of Heritage Victoria, which are being gamed.

Precedent Shows This Must Be Rejected

The clear precedent for Heritage Victoria decisions is that arguments of mere economic convenience to the applicant or one of the applicant's stakeholders should not be accepted as the basis for demolition of a protected structure. Without any pressing argument to this effect contained in the proposal's business case, Heritage Victoria must reject the proposal.

The heritage citation for the site, as adopted in interim by Heritage Victoria clearly states:
"The Western Shard The Swanston/Flinders Street corner of the site is occupied by the Western Shard, a glass-walled pavilion which provides access to the underground Melbourne Visitor Centre. The entrance features interactive news tickers in colour LEDs and small screens promoting current activities."

The proposal posits that "as it is not an element that reflects the original design intent, we consider that the proposed demolition and replacement with another sympathetic structure is acceptable." We find this an appalling statement from a heritage professional. Where the feature in question is specifically cited as significant, trying to second guess that citation after the event and now argue the feature is not significant does not represent a valid argument.

Attempting to Alter a Protected Heritage Place

Furthermore the proposal itself concedes that the proposed structure is also not stylistically consistent with the original design intent for Federation Square (a position that is completely undermined by the previous argument), stating that "architecturally, the proposed eastern station entry for the Town Hall Station draws on the same ‘NewModern’ functionalist architectural tradition of Federation Square without attempting to replicate the Deconstructivist architectural forms of the Lab/Bates Smart design."

Coupled with the proposed introduction of yet another new design style in the form of Apple (scum) store, we can clearly see how through the complete raft of changes proposed for the space, that  their effect would be to take a coherently-designed world-beating, deeply symbolic, major architectural space of tremendous significance to most Melburnians, which even in its short lifespan is already iconic to the city, and replace two of the existing buildings replaced with new structures in TWO COMPLETELY NON-COHERING STYLES, and thereby literally ruin the entire whole, as we explained in an earlier post.

How Can I Help?

So, we urge all caring Melburnians to urgently get tapping on their keyboards and make these points politely and succinctly to Heritage Victoria by close of business, Wednesday September 12.

To make your submission, email
Please reference "Permit Application P29470, Federation Square" in the subject line.
View Metro Tunnel's plans online

And don't forget the Rally in the Square to oppose the Applescum Store - next Wed September 19 at 5.30pm

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