I must be growing old. It feels as though Federation Square (corner Swanston and Flinders Streets) has been part of the Melbourne scene forever and yet is is just 10 years young this week. Love it (I do) or hate it, it has become part of the fabric of our city. It's 'our' meeting place in ways that the failed City Square (corner Swanston and Collins Streets) never was. It doesn't matter what time you visit there are always groups of people sitting around just 'watching the world go by'.
|Sitting around in a deck chair in the shade|
I've participated in one of the openings of the Melbourne International Festival of Arts - singing along with the crowd to 'Singin' in the Rain. I've been led on a wild ride learning how to laugh with a crowd of strangers. I've joined the masses there at the end of a 'sorry' march and to protest about our engagement in the Iraq war (this is showing my colours!). I've watched the crowd dancing, singing, laughing, crying and celebrating. It's just a lively place to be. Groups gather to watch the big screen to either see themselves (always very exciting!) or their sporting idols participating in the Olympics, tennis, soccer, rugby, football and a host of other sporting activities around the world. They come to see in the New Year, they come to see their favourite band, they come for a guided tour - the list is endless. I was thrilled to see our very own (clean) Cadel Evans take to the stage. There seems to be something for everyone.
|We yelled for Cadel at Fed Square with the Premier Ted Baillieu (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)|
10 years - 10 million visitors. I love the architecture (well most of it). Designed by LAB Architecture - a local firm - it had a torturous birth. The glass shards which were supposed to feature caused outrage as some felt that they would overpower St Paul's Cathedral opposite. Instead we got a hideous 'committee of politicians' shard (neither one thing nor the other) housing the busy Melbourne Visitors Centre. How much better it would have looked as a glass shard mimicking the spires of St Paul's Cathedral
|St Paul's Cathedral and the pathetic shard (looking like a temporary booth) on the left|
The cobbled forecourt also caused outrage - particularly due to the difficulty traversing it in a wheelchair - although this has since been partially rectified. The lack of trees, the fact that it faces away from the Yarra River, the list goes on - and yet thousands flock to it day-in-day-out. It has an energy which can't be created except by human intervention! The thing is - there is always something happening to draw people to it. This week there is a wonderful installation next to ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image - well worth a visit). Called Stickwork and created by the artist Patrick Dougherty using willow tree saplings and sticks to create a sculptural instillation called Ballroom. Interestingly it seems to have been inspired not only by Flinders Street Station which itself has a sadly neglected Ballroom in its midst.
|The Stickwork Ballroom seems to mirror Flinders Street Station|
|The 'stick' Ballroom with the city in the background|
The Atrium is one of my least favourite spaces - except on a Saturday - when there is a marvellous second hand book market - well worth a visit. Otherwise it's cold, dark and soul-less. Sadly it is the main entrance to the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia Collection (closed Mondays) and the marvellous public auditorium BMW Edge (see earlier post 28 August 2012).
|The Atrium - a tunnel to 'nowhere'|
But it's the forecourt that captures the general public's attention.It's where the people watching takes place, It's where one goes to meet. It's where the restaurants are. Try my favourite Chocolate Bhudda (Japanese) or the Transport Hotel for a drink or their upstairs one chef's hat restaurant Taxi Dining Room with seriously great views down the Yarra River.
|The empty forecourt on a hot Melbourne morning|
Do you love it or hate it? What is it about it that you love and what is it about it that you hate? Melbourne is divided but even so it has become 'our meeting place'.