Tag Archives: Sydney Road

Sydney Road Coburg

The psychogeography of Sydney Road part 2; continuing my tram stop survey from my survey of the Brunswick end of Sydney Road in part 1.

Moreland Road the division marks the division between Brunswick and Coburg. Coburg was once the breadbasket of colonial Melbourne with its rich fertile volcanic soil. Originally called Pentridge Coburg changed its name to disassociate itself from the prison that was its major landmark. To the west on Moreland Road is Moreland Station. The micro suburb of Moreland is no longer much of a feature.

29. Mores Street, there is a vacant patch in this area. The old “Hygienic Diary” is a reminder of Coburg’s past and the 7/11 the contemporary.

30. The Avenue, Kangan Institute’s Coburg Campus. The posh area of Coburg is in the roads off to the east. The division between the wealthy eastern side and poorer western side is typical of social organisation in Melbourne by compass directions. Woodlands Hotel that used to have its own horse racing track out the back.

Post Office Hotel

31. Reynard Street corner with the Post Office Hotel, the hotel is a lot older than its art deco facade. On the east side of the road there are is a new office block with an ALP Senator’s office. On the western side there is an Indian grocery, framers, Italian tailors making handmade suits and fish and chip shop.

32. With Harding Street going east and Munro Street going west. This is the start of the main Coburg shopping, transport and local government hub. The corner also sums up the whole of the Sydney Road shopping experience with bridal, Indian clothing stores, Islamic fashion and a few good places to eat.

Victoria Street Mall Coburg

33. Victoria Street mall and the Coburg Market. Coburg Station is through the mall and across multiple car parks. The facades in the shopping strip date from the 1960s and the modern style is now looking old fashioned. The very thin silk fabric shop that has been there forever is closing down. Lots of banks, take-away food and discount shops.

34. Bell Street is the division between Coburg and Coburg North, another psychogeographical division in the rings around inner Melbourne. Bell Street is now a transport hub with bus stops and an entrance to the Coburg train station. On the opposite corner is a park with the Federation bicentenary pond in front of the church. Following the park there is line of churches next to the prison; it is a remanent of local council compromises with the multi-sectarian population that could not sustain all of them. This area creates a psychic barrier for the North of Coburg’s shopping centre. There is schizophrenic relationship between sides of the road; the western side looks like a slum with demolition work, whereas the eastern side looks more like Parkville, however over the following tram stops this process alternates back and forth. There is a lot of guerrilla gardening on the side streets to the west, the bike path is lined with flower gardens.

35. Champ Street is a city only stop; the entrance of Pentridge Prison is down Champ Street. (See my post on the rehabilitation of Pentridge Prison). On the eastern side is the historic heart of Coburg whereas the western side now looks like a typical main road in a light industrial suburb.

36. Rogers Street and the Drum Hotel; after this suburban houses start to appear along Sydney Road.

37. Gaffney Street; to the west is Batman Station and to the east the Coburg Lake Reserve. On the east side are shops selling blinds, catering equipment and on the west side there is an empty lot with flashing signs, tyre shop and the old Coburg Fire Station that now sells auto parts.

38. Carr Street and Renown Street; on the east side is Lake Park Kindergarten, Budget Motel and Car rental and on there are west side substantial two story brick houses.

39. Mercy College on the east side and the brick houses continue on the west side. Next there is pedestrian overpass followed by a the logical arrangement of funeral services next to an aged care home.

40.  The tram terminus stop at Bakers Road where the tramline ends with a new centre road stop. On the east side is a business selling blinds and the Salvation Army Divisional HQ. On the west side there is a vacant lot being turned into a garden, a bench has been installed and trees planted. The houses beside the road are now weatherboard. North of this the road continues with a motel and other auto related businesses, a clear indication that you are now entering car territory.

End of tram line Coburg


Sydney Road Brunswick

The psychogeography of Sydney Road part 1.

Sydney Road is long straight road; it is the golden lay-line of the road leading to the gold fields. Originally constructed by convict labour so that prisoners could be transported to Pentridge Prison. The convicts then had to build the prison at the end of the road. Later in the Great Depression sustenance pay workers (work for the dole) cut much of the granite bluestone for the curbs and gutters.

It has always been a busy road, leading north out of Melbourne and that was before cars and bicycles, now it’s a nightmare. Sydney Road varies wildly between upmarket, fancy and then in the next block or next door it is a run down building selling something cheap. There are pockets of different kinds of activities along the road, clusters of shops or restaurants and all along the road are all the wedding boutiques and Islamic fashion boutiques.

I’ve been researching Sydney Road by foot, tram and bicycle. Riding my bicycle as it makes it easier to check down the lane ways looking for interesting street art.

Franco Cozzo

The sight of the Franco Cozzo furniture shop with its pseudo-rocco bedroom sets instantly brings to mind seeing his trilingual adverts on late night TV in the 1980s (I’ve been told that his Greek was as bad as his English). Now there is the smell of the shisha (or hookahs, Turkish tobacco pipes) bubbling along the footpath on warm Friday night.

I’ve recently read Robyn Annear’s A City Lost & Found, Whelan the Wrecker’s Melbourne (Black Inc, 2005, Melbourne), a kind of reverse history of Melbourne by demolition archaeology, recording the destruction and what was discovered, through the history of an iconic wrecking business. The business closed in the 1991 but Whelan’s sign is still up on Sydney Road classified as a heritage feature and the permit for new development at 605 Sydney Road required preservation and restoration of the sign.


Sydney Road is so complex and I needed a more systematic approach. I travelled by tram north taking note of the landmarks between stop 19 at Brunwick Road in Brunswick and Stop 40 at Bakers Road in North Coburg.

19. Leaving the parkland of Parkville I enter Brunswick at Brunswick Road. This stop is in a kind of no-man’s-land, a traffic island in a place that once was a colonial hub complete a drinking fountain, a Boar War memorial and a brick clock tower from the nationalist, ANA (Australian Native’s Association). Parkville washes up with the last of the motels and guesthouses. On the corner of Sydney Road there is a fake Irish pub (I used to have a weekly gig there when it was the Sarah Sands) on the other side of road a medical clinic, after this the fashion boutiques start.


20. The shopping hub of Barkly Square. Down Little Gold Street is Jewell Station. Discount warehouses and, on the corner of Weston Street on the other side of the road is the Brunswick Hotel, a fine music venue where I’ve enjoyed a few gigs.

21. Glenlyon Road and Dawson Street are the same road except that Glenlyon goes east and Dawson west; Melbourne is full of such street name anomalies. This is the official cultural centre of Brunswick: the Brunswick Town Hall with public library, hall and the Counihan Gallery, the Mechanics Institute with another hall for performances. The town hall is an impressive 19th Century building from when every Melbourne suburb had its own city council. Further down Dawson Street there is the Brunswick Campus of RMIT.

22. On the western side Albert Street leads to Brunswick Station.

23. In a painfully sweet Victorian manner, Albert Street is followed by Victoria Street, Brunswick Station where the shopping is less refined with a Mitre 10 and a discount warehouse.

24. Blyth Street, bridal shop and a church

25. Stewart Street, there is a steep hill between stops 24 and 25. At stop 25 there is a bridal and children’s wear shop.

Bronze gold nugget Brunswick 1

26. Albion Street an unofficial cultural centre on Brunswick with 696 Ink, the laundromat and Edinburgh Castle Hotel creating an underground arts hub. There is the bronze “Gold Nugget” at the entrance of the parking lot. It is one of the worst public sculptures in the world; this sculpture is both badly conceived and located. Didn’t anyone in the process of making this memorial that a gold nugget modelled in bronze would look like a lump of bronze? Anstly Station is to the west.

27. Brunswick Tram Depot, Donald Street. There are several empty lots where demolished between stops 26 and 27 – this is an area of transition. The demolition of the old funeral business.

28. Moreland Road, Moreland Station is across the street and further west down Moreland Road. At the tram stop there is pawnbroker and a pub. Moreland Road marks the division between Brunswick and Coburg.

Part 2: Sydney Road Coburg.

Rest In Peace

R.I.P. pieces are a tradition in graffiti generally they are tributes to comrades. R.I.P. tribute pieces are not a big part of Melbourne’s graffiti scene as there is a much lower death rate in Melbourne’s youth than in some American inner city youth. They are the street equivalent to death notices in the newspaper or the temporary unofficial memorials of candles and flowers (see my post Melbourne’s Shrines – especially the unofficial).

A 20m long tribute piece was painted along the eastern wall of Melbourne’s iconic graffiti zone of Hosier Lane to murdered ABC employee, Jill Meagher. An unknown artist painted the tribute on Sunday the afternoon of 30th September before 7pm. It must have been a huge effort to buff the walls and spray the whole wall. (See the report in The Sun Herald.)

Jill Meagher was not connected with Melbourne’s graffiti scene; the “Rest In Peace Jill” piece is part of the huge public response, first to her disappearance and then to news of her death. The footpath where she was last scene is blocked pile of flowers and there was a 30,000-person march on Sydney Road.

I’ve been searching my photo files for other Melbourne R.I.P. graffiti tributes and I finally found another one. I have seen a few more than I have photographed, they are not common in Melbourne, let’s hope that it remains that way.


I’ve seen some of the MoreArts exhibition in Moreland. MoreArts appears to be replacing the annual Moreland sculpture show with a more contemporary site-specific series of installations along the Upfield train line from Gowie to Jewell. It has been successful at being noticed and starting conversations. My neighbours have been talking about Carmel O’Conner’s “Traart In Line Travellers” a series of line drawing on clear acetate installed in the Coburg train station waiting room. I have only seen part of the exhibition from the window of the train as the works are installed in wasteland beside the tracks or in the stations and I have been too busy to ride my bicycle along the trail beside the Upfield line to see all of them.

Liz Walker’s field of poles with plastic bags has attracted my attention, blown in the wind the plastic bags look like the ones that get caught in trees. Walker uses the effects of pollution and recycled materials and turned them into an art installation.

The MoreArts 2010 winners, judged by Sam Leach, are: 1st Prize Saffron Lily Gordon for  “Don’t fence me in” and 2nd Prize Danielle Bain and Susie Zarris for “Life Obsolete”. Commendations went to Elizabeth Phillip-Mahney for “Jumper Leads” and Candy Stevens for “Rocks of all ages”.

Art-Vend is an “art gallery in a vending machine dispensing original artworks for $1.20 a pop.” It is a side-project to the MoreArts exhibition. While I was at the Coburg Library I did buy my own miniature artwork from the machine. Not that you could see the work in the machine, so it wasn’t really an art gallery more of a lucky dip. But the packaging and the machine were more attractive than the picture made of squashed plasticine inside.

Art-Vend packaging and art

A less successful exhibition was going on at about the same time along Sydney Road in Brunswick, the annual art in shop windows exhibition that has a different name each year. There is so much to look on Sydney Road that it is kind of pointless having an exhibition in shop windows as well but it is there, with “Window/Frames.” Street art, advertising and shop window displays are all competing with the haphazard quality of a community exhibition. Amongst the better works in “Window/Frames” is Ben Howe, “Everything Sacred Is Stolen By The Rich”. Last year Ben Howe was highly commended in the 2009 Melbourne Stencil Festival’s award exhibition but this is an oil painting. Oil painting is not such a strange move for an artist as both stencils and oil paintings require similar techniques in separating the image into areas of colour. (I also saw some of Howe’s stencils at Brunswick Street Gallery in Fitzroy.) Bliss, one of the few shops to give the artist enough space in the window hosted Aviva Hannah installation with drawings “Dancing on Glass”.

The reasons for the success and failure of these two exhibitions is simple, it is, as any real estate agent will tell you: location, location, location. And although Sydney Road might appear to be a better location than the Upfield line, the variety of locations, the surprise and joy of seeing art on the commute to and from the city makes MoreArt more successful.

Some Brunswick Sculptures

Melbourne’s suburb of Brunswick did not inherit many public sculptures from previous generations. The Temperance Movement from early last century erected a few drinking fountains, a couple of war memorials were commissioned, and there is that ugly bronze lump  – now stuck outside a carpark along Sydney Rd., that commemorates the gold rush of the 19th century.

Peter Corlett “Father John Brosnan” 2004

There are now many more contemporary sculptures including some by notable Melbourne sculptors, Peter Corlett (see my entry about Peter Corlett) and Simon Perry. Peter Corlett’s 2004 statue of “Father John Brosnan, Chaplin Pentridge Prison 1945-1985” is out the front of the Brosnan Centre in Brunswick. Simon Perry, whose best-known sculpture, is the “Public Purse” is in the Bourke St. mall, has a number of sculptures around Brunswick.

Simon Perry, “Rolled Path”, 1997

Simon Perry’s “Rolled Path”, 1997, on the Merri Creek bicycle path, north of Albion St. and south of the Brunswick velodrome, is witty and fun. At the end of a short side path, the concrete rolls up into a large cylinder, like a giant classical scroll, or a carpet waiting to be unrolled were its progression not blocked by a large bluestone rock. The sculpture plays with the parkland environment of concrete paths, the boulder is the local bluestone granite found along the creek. It reminds me of Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty”, as a work of earth art because of its form and the invitation to walk a path that ends in the contemplation of art.

“Rolled Path” exhibits many of the qualities that I think are essential to public art. Like all good public art kids can climb on it and you can sit on it. It is practically indestructible without heavy equipment or explosives and even the graffiti that was painted on it when I was there was inconsequential. It fits perfectly into the park environment of Merri Creek, creating an identity for an otherwise nondescript area beside the bicycle path.

“Rolled Path” is a rare example in Moreland of the sculpture that has been incorporated into the design of the landscape. Too often sculpture is put where space can found for it, with little consideration to the landscape or architecture. And for this reason none of these sculptures have become an image for suburb or a meeting place.

At the corner of Sydney and Glenlyon Rd. is a less successful sculpture by Simon Perry. “Monument to free speech” 1993, commemorates artist and activist Noel Counihan. It is a stone carving of a cage being unveiled or covered by a bronze dove. Only 3m high this sculpture is too small to be much of a monument and too ambiguous to be a landmark, given that Australians do not have any rights to free speech. The original commission for this sculpture is probably the source of many of its problems.

Don’t Ban the Can II

I missed the opening of the Don’t Ban the Can exhibition at 696 because I was at the launch of ‘I Art Sydney Road’ (the exhibition title with the least grammar this year). 696 is also participating in the ‘I Art Sydney Road’ with two paintings in their window. I won’t be reviewing ‘I Art Sydney Road’ because I am participating in it; exhibiting a still life painting at Mia Moda, 179 Sydney Road.

At that launch of ‘I Art Sydney Road’ Mayor Joe Caputo of Moreland, was talking enthusiastic about graffiti. He was especially after briefly visiting the Don’t Ban the Can party. He told me that there was only one complaint about the party. “There is always one,” he said. This is in contrast to the media and police speculation about trouble before the event. (See my recent entries: Don’t Ban the Can and Chill.)

The Don’t Ban the Can exhibition in the gallery room at 696 features a large number of artists and art at affordable prices. There are some familiar artists in the exhibition, including Pierre Lloga, Maxcat and Phibs. The exhibition has a surprising variety of media and techniques, not just aerosol works and stencils. There are also photographs, drawings and paintings. I was particularly impressed with Kid Zoom’s painted crushed spray can with its crazy forms and impressive detail.

Many of the works feature sculptural elements. Happy created a deep framed painting combined with a sculptural, paint-sniffing spray-can character. The issue of huffing (paint and solvent sniffing) was on the mind of many of the artists in the exhibition. Huffing is a far more serious medical and social problem than petty vandalism and yet it is not being addressed with draconian legislation.

Much of the art in the exhibition included polemical political statements about Victoria’s anti-graffiti legislation. Braddock stated it clearly in his painting a simplified figure with mask and gloves says in a speech balloon: “You can’t ban culture”. Banning a culture is a crime against humanity.

On the way to the exhibition I stopped to talk to four guys busy painting a piece by the railway line in Coburg. I asked if they wanted anything to do a piece: “just permission” was their reply.

%d bloggers like this: