Tag Archives: railway station

Coburg 2010

“Coburg – it’s beautiful. Look around. It’s a great place to live.” The young man said leaning out of his black car as he drove slowly past me.

This is Coburg, not the city in Germany, but it’s namesake, Coburg, a suburb in the north of Melbourne, Australia. The sky was blue, the bottlebrush trees were in flower, covering the sidewalk in drifts of yellow stamin, but it is just a suburban street. He must be high on something but he is right.

“It great place” I replied and he drove on.

Coburg is a friendly area; people still talk to each other on the street. The northern suburbs have a great street culture because people use the street, people walk, people shop on the Sydney Rd., rather than the hyper-reality of shopping malls. The 19th century architecture of the longest shopping strip in Melbourne is part of the reason why Brunswick and Coburg has a good street culture.

When my Lebanese neighbour’s son got married I knew about it. Part of the festivities took place in the small front garden of their house. There was drumming, dancing, bride and groom held on people’s shoulders, ululation, car horns, rice thrown… a real wedding, not a hyper-real wedding at a wedding reception place where everything is perfectly contrived. Certainly the autumn weather wasn’t perfect but it didn’t rain on the festivities.

And the street culture is improving; in recent years there has been a marked increase in cafes on Sydney Rd., a greater variety of restaurants than the Turkish restaurants that Sydney Rd is famous.

Pentridge Prison, Coburg

Along with the prison a large amount of 19th and turn of the century buildings were constructed in Coburg. There is the oldest school building in Melbourne along with other old buildings around the old Pentridge Prison. There are also magnificent turn of the century mansions on The Grove and The Avenue. And there are pieces of heritage listed architecture scattered around Coburg’s streets one of my favourites is the American Cottage on the west side of Moreland station at 21 Station Street.

19th century school building on Sydney Rd. Coburg

The Moreland City council has a bold ambitious $1 billion plan, the Coburg Initiative, to remodel heart of the suburb. Lorna Edwards reported on Coburg’s “Extreme Makeover” in The Age (18/3/10). So far the only materialization of this plan has been the redevelopment of the front of the Coburg’s railway station, the redevelopment of the former Pentridge Prison and the construction of more medium and high-density housing. Every possible old building in the suburb is being converted into flats.

The new entrance and surround to the city bound entrance to Coburg’s 19th century, gothic revival train-station. It isn’t much just a few steps, paving stones and landscaping but the bicycle path is now safely separate from the train-station entrance. The new entrance replaces the bodged railings, paths, the over-grown shrubs and scraggly trees that formerly surrounded the station. However, the other side of the station is still a neglected gravel parking lot with a large open drain and no lighting.

I had a dream that I was returning home to my street in Coburg from a long journey. I found that my street has been grassed over and that my neighbours were playing cricket and having BBQs where there once was tarmac. The biggest problems in Coburg are the cars, the vast expanse of ugly parking lots that accommodates them and Melbourne’s poor public transport.


Flinders Street Station Centennial

Today is the centennial of Flinders Street Station. The centennial of Flinders Street Station has been largely ignored amidst the debacle and neglect endemic in Melbourne’s public transport, there is nothing to celebrate. This iconic Melbourne building is a popular and convenient meeting place. The original Melbourne Terminus railways station was completed in 1854 but was soon outgrown but the city. In 1900 construction of the current Flinders Street Station building began and it was completed in 1910.

Jenny Davies is author of the new book, Beyond The Façade, about Flinders Street Station http://www.flindersstreetstation100.com/ and has curated the current exhibition at Platform. It is very relevant exhibition to the Platform exhibition space, the public and the time. There are artifacts, photographs and didactic panels in a very professional museum display presenting a decade-by-decade view of the railway station.

Major central railway stations are cities within cities and this was the idea of the original design for Flinders Street Station. The station had everything: a gym, a public library, meeting rooms, a ballroom and a children’s nursery. In the 1960s there was even a bowling alley under the station. Nothing has replaced these facilities; they lie empty and abandoned in the building. It is tragic that it has been neglected for so many decades by State governments more interested in building roads and hosting major sporting events.

Along with this didactic historicy exhibition at Platform there is there are two cabinets of art about Flinders Street Station. Artist, John Bates has very flat paintings of the station displayed in the “Vitrine” cabinet. And in the “Sampler” cabinet are stylish images of Flinders Street Station by industrial design student, Tristan Tait,

There are the microenvironments of the city centre that can be changed by the existence of art galleries. For example, the revitalisation of the Degraves St. Subway, also known as Campbell’s Arcade, that goes under Flinders St. to the station from Degraves St. The subway was completed in time for the 1956 Olympics and it has not been refurbished since. It has many of its original features like the long row of telephone booths (no longer functional). Campbell’s Arcade has its own dynamic, given that it is one of the entrances to Melbourne’s main metropolitan railway station. And since the Platform art space the Degraves St. subway became an interesting place to walk through and even sit and eat your lunch on the benches in during Melbourne’s winters.

The revitalization of Campbell’s Arcade started with Platform 2. There already was a Platform artist space in vitrines in a subway at the old Spencer Street Station. And buskers have always found the space at the end of the stairs attractive for its position and acoustics. Platform 2, now simply called Platform after the closure of the Spencer Street location. Platform utilized built in display cases that were originally intended for commercial displays but were no longer used.

I have taken an interest in the underpass after exhibiting at Platform 2 in 1995. A year later when a group of friends and I opened Subterranean Arts, an artist run space. There was, already, a millenaries and a shop selling PVA clothes leading the way on the alternate direction for the arcade. At the time there were still the traditional type of shops: the newsagent, second-hand book window and old-fashioned barbershop. Subterranean Arts closed down after six months when energy, finance and direction ran out; the fate of many an artist-run space. Other shops have opened and closed but the trend has been towards boutique alternative fashion and other interests like vinyl records and skateboards. Sticky, a shop specializing in zines, and other limited edition publication opened a few years later and has been growing stronger ever since. It is incredible to think that in the age of the internet people are still producing handmade publications. And Sticky helps them do it with an extra long stapler, badge machines and typewriters for public use. The second-hand book window has been converted into another exhibition space – Vitrine. And Platform continued to expand into more used display cases.

I have written about the exhibitions at Platform many times in this blog – including when it was flooded when road works above collapsed the roof – Is the Art Alright? When I was there on Thursday afternoon I meet the author, Jenny Davis and enjoyed a jazz busker duo playing.

Aside from Platform and Sticky there isn’t much art in Flinders Street Station, even compared to other major railway stations. The only officially commissioned work is the Mirka Mora mosaic mural was installed in 1986.


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