This small one-block pedestrian mall on Victoria Street in Coburg is a bustling micro urban environment is centre of Coburg’s shopping precinct. It is very popular, seldom deserted from dawn until dusk. Buskers have been making regular appearances in the mall and it is the location for two award winning sculptures. It makes a change from all the car parks, the major eyesores in Coburg shopping precinct. Waterfield Rd. has large car parks on both sides; the road is nothing but an extended carpark and loading bay.
The mall is almost completely full of tables from the cafes and their customers. Most of the mall is made of cafes (the Half Moon Café does the best falafels) but there is also the public library, the post office and the tobacconist on the corner of Sydney Road. The addition of a large public picnic table in the mall has been very welcomed adding a large public table space. Out the front of the Coburg library the long row of seat are also very popular with a wide range of locals.
Robert Waghorn was the winner of the 2007 Moreland Sculpture Show. His winning sculpture, Doorstop II, is on exhibition in the foyer of the Coburg Public Library. The sculpture, Doorstop II is a rather ominous oblong work, with what appears to be a small prison door on a metal plinth. The prison door, with heavy bolts, chalk graffiti marks and a view window is held ajar by a pile of small brightly painted houses, a final optimistic note to the sculpture. The houses holding open the cell door made me think of the nearby conversion of the former Pentridge Prison into Pentridge Village, housing estate. Although the sculpture appears to be made of rusted iron it is painted and oxidized wood. The little houses are painted with bright brushstrokes of colour, contributing to their optimistic note and contrasting to the detail of the prison door. In 2006 Robert Waghorn received two highly commended awards at the Contemporary Art Soc. Annual exhibition for Doorstop and another similar sculpture. Both of these sculptures were earlier versions of the idea for Doorstop II. This demonstrates that there is some consistency in art prize judging in Melbourne and that the Contemporary Art Soc. is still relevant.
Coburg really needs a purpose built Library rather than the remoulded former supermarket currently used as a library. Such a library could accommodate Waghorn’s sculpture better and wouldn’t flood after heavy rain; every night the doors of the Coburg Library are ‘sandbagged’ with bags of old books. (A new drainage system in front of the library has reduced the chances of the library flooding but a purpose built Library is still needed.)
At the corner of Victoria Street and Waterfield Road there is another sculpture, a small bronze house, a simplified but typical of Australian house, on a mild steel plinth. This is Dwelling by Jason Waterhouse, the winner of the 2005 Moreland Sculpture Show. The house has a corridor with a corridor leading straight through it. Unfortunately this corridor is used, as so often these spaces are in public sculpture, as a place to put rubbish. It also suffers, like many public sculptures, from pigeon’s droppings.
There is obviously a great lack of pedestrian space and other infrastructure in Coburg and as in Waghorn’s Doorstop II, the door to this better life has just been held ajar.