Hosier and Rutledge Lanes continue to attract local, national and international interest with it’s ever increasing foot traffic, street tours, photographers, wedding parties and school excursions. It’s been an unpredictable ride toward a safer and more friendly laneway culture, with the graffiti and arts communities revisiting this well trodden and at times controversial destination.
Much has been written about the pros and cons of street art and graffiti. CBD News has been following the progress of the PaintUp! series, while Black Mark is prolific in writing about his journey seeking out Melbourne’s art and culture. New books such as Street Art Now and Street Art:Melbourne feature the works of street artists as an ongoing record of the fleeting nature of this creative medium.
City councils are becoming more strategic in their approaches to social inclusion, urban amenity and crime prevention. At the core of the Hosier Inc discourse with the users of the laneways has been a belief that creative endeavour outperforms punitive measures – although there is still little research to back these projects. Nonetheless, we have seen a huge increase in public interest, and an accompanying groundswell of foot traffic to the area. If increased traffic is a deterrent to anti-social behaviour, the success of the Hosier Lane experience appears self evident. The flip side of this is benefit is evident in the percentages – larger crowds bring inevitable incidents, irrespective of the numbers.
While Melbourne council City of Yarra considers graffiti tours, the public debate and accompanying backlash needs to be tempered with a discussion about street amenity, safety and aesthetic sensibility. We’ve seen Hosier Lane go through phases of renewal and overpainting, including significant tagging. The outcome is very much in the eye of the beholder – tagging has it’s proponents, street art and murals have their detractors. The discussion around graffiti, street art, writing, stencils, street sculpture, gallery and commercial art generates fervent opinions and responses depending upon who’s talking.
At the end of the day, none of the subjective assessments really matter – our laneway appears to be a much safer, vibrant and enjoyable place to be! Indeed, the street community has embraced the precinct in ways we could never anticipate, such is the unpredictable nature of a vibrant social discourse overlaid upon this uncontrollable landscape. Who knows what the future holds, but we’re pretty sure local, state and federal governments see the value.
Here’s an old piece published by the ABC way back in 2013 – for old times sake!
Earlier this month, at the opening of an exhibition dedicated to his work at Brisbane’s GOMA, David Lynch got stuck into street art, calling it “ugly, stupid, and threatening”. Apparently, shooting movies can be very difficult when the building you want to film is covered in graffiti and you don’t want it to be.
Is there a distinction between art and vandalism? This is the question that always seems to rise up when graffiti becomes a topic of conversation, as it has after Lynch’s outburst. This is, however, not just important for those of us who want to know the answers to obscure questions such as, “what is art?” It affects everyone.
Why? Because graffiti exists in our public spaces, our communities and our streets.
Let’s for a minute put aside the fact that an artist such as David Lynch, known for pushing the envelope in terms of what art is and can be, is criticising one type of art on the grounds that it is inconvenient to the kind of art that he prefers to undertake.
There is something more important to discuss here. The opinion that street art is vandalism (that is, not art) is widely held. Many people despise graffiti – but we are more than happy to line our public spaces with something much more offensive: advertising. That’s the bigger story here, the use and abuse of public space.
At heart, I think this is why people don’t like graffiti. We see it as someone trying to take control of a part of our public space. The problem is, our public spaces are being sold out from under us anyway. If we don’t collectively protect our public spaces, we will lose them.
Two types of graffiti
I would like to make a bold distinction here.
I want to draw out the difference between two kinds of graffiti: street art and vandalism.
We need something to be able to differentiate between Banksy and the kids who draw neon dicks on the back of a bus shelter. They are different, and the difference lies in their intention.
Tagging, the practice of writing your name or handle in prominent or impressive positions, is akin to a dog marking its territory; it’s a pissing contest. It is also an act of ownership. Genuine street art does not aim at ownership, but at capturing and sharing a concept. Street art adds to public discourse by putting something out into the world; it is the start of a conversation.
The ownership of a space that is ingrained in vandalism is not present in street art. In fact, street art has a way of opening up spaces as public. Street art has a way of inviting participation, something that too few public spaces are even capable of.
If vandalism is abhorrent because it attempts to own public space, then advertising is vandalism.
The billboards that line our streets, the banner ads on buses, the pop-ups on websites, the ads on our TVs and radios, buy and sell our public spaces. What longer lasting sex? A tasty beverage? To be young, beautiful, carefree, cutting edge, and happy? For only $24.95 (plus postage)!
Advertising privatises our public spaces. Ads are placed out in the public strategically. They are built to coerce, and manipulate. They affect us, whether we want them to or not. But this is not reciprocated.
We cannot in turn change or alter ads, nor can we communicate with the company who is doing the selling. If street art is the beginning of a conversation, advertising is the end. Stop talking, stop thinking – and buy these shoes!
Ads v graffiti
We are affronted by ads. They tell us we are not enough. Not good enough, not pretty enough, not wealthy enough.
At its worst, graffiti is mildly insulting and can be aesthetically immature. But at its best, it can be the opening of a communal space: a commentary, a conversation, a concept captured in an image on a wall. Genuine street art aims at this ideal.
Street art by Ghostpatrol in Brisbane. Paul Cunningham
At its best, advertising is an effective way of informing the public about products and services. At worst, advertising is a coercive, manipulative form of psychological warfare designed to trick us into buying crap we don’t need with money we don’t have.
What surprises me is that the people who find vandalism in the form of tagging and neon dicks highly offensive have no problem with the uncensored use of our public spaces for the purposes of selling stuff.
What art can do
If art is capable of anything in this world, it is cutting through the dross of everyday existence. Art holds up a mirror to the world so that we can see the absurdity of it. It shows us who we really are, both good and bad, as a community.
Street art has an amazing ability to do this because it exists in our real and everyday world, not vacuum-sealed and shuffled away in a privileged private space. Its very public nature that makes street art unique, powerful, and amazing.
If we as a community can recognise the value in street art, we can begin to address it as a legitimate expression. When we value street art as art, we can engage with it as a community and help to grow it into something beautiful.
When street art has value, our neon dicks stop being a petty and adolescent attempt at ownership, and become mere vandalism. When we value our public spaces as places where the we can share experiences, we will start to see the violence that is advertising as clearly as the dick on the back of a bus shelter.
On 5 February 2013 Melbourne City Council resolved to implement a 12 month project plan in Hosier and Rutledge Lanes in order to address the anti-social behaviour taking place in the lane.
The plan was enacted to trial an alternative approach to the installation of CCTV. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is the approach that has been used to inform the plan. The attached document is the final report for this initiative.
The steering committee was chaired by City of Melbourne and met from March 2013 – March 2014 to oversee the project. Members included City of Melbourne branches (Arts & Culture and Community Safety and Wellbeing), Hosier Inc, Salvation Army Street Teams, Youth Projects, RMIT School of Art and Victoria Police.
Following a media announcement last week featuring the Minister and the owner of the site, most who communicated with the Minister regarding the proposed hotel development in Hosier Lane will have received a letter or email from the Minister’s Dept that indicates it has been approved.
Despite the lack of cover letter, we assume these copies of a notification dated September 1st, are to be considered our formal notification of the approval by the Minister… despite being personally addressed to “Bill”.
There are certain conditions to the approval, none of which adequately address the core concerns we have about the way the building will interface with Hosier Lane and that impact on this busy pedestrian zone. In particular the loading and unloading arrangements, and the shadowing that will be imposed by such a large tower. Please be sure to read the document clearly and let us know of any other issues you see or concerns raised.
Within the letter is the note that any objections to the approval must be received within 21 days. Unfortunately (if you wish to object) the letters were distributed only after that deadline had passed so questions need to be asked about the process that has been followed. Please do so. Call or write to the department and ask those questions! We ask you to communicate with the group about your questions and any answers you receive.
What next? We are currently seeking advice about our options so please be in touch if you are concerned about the approved development and we will keep you posted via this page. Post on the page, comment, like and share your concerns about the proposal, and about the process followed!
In case you have not received this notice, like some in the group you can read ithere: L to app NOD 1.9.14.
The full notice that includes detailed information about restrictions and requirements regarding the Urban Art Strategy, Waste Management and Loading provisions required is available here: NOD signed 1.9.14.
We’re hoping fill Hosier Lane with people at 2pm on Sunday the 4th of May.
The proposed hotel development on the old MTC site directly behind the Forum will affect Hosier Lane – to the detriment of Melbourne’s world-famous street art and cultural precinct.
The development proposes to transform Hosier Lane into a loading area for a 32 level hotel/commercial venture. This would put pedestrians at constant risk, compromise other businesses and emergency vehicle access and will drive away the artists. There must be a better way to develop this site.
We’re asking for community consultation before any decision is made. Join in and help put a stop to any proposal involving the Forum and Hosier Lane, pending an extensive and open discussion among all interested parties.
Speakers attending the rally will be representing planning, tourism, theatre, live music, heritage and hospitality industries. If you want to speak please let us know – contact us via Facebook.
A community meeting was held last night (Tuesday 11th March) at Misty Bar which gave forum to the heritage objections that are available for all those interested in objecting to the proposed planning permit – 2013/009973 covering the Forum Theatre and the site immediately behind it. The following items were discussed to inform those who wish to proceed with submissions & objections. Members of Hosier Inc were present among the wider community.
Those of you who choose to submit an objection are urged to include as many of the points outlined below as you feel are of concern, but also include any additional personal, public or location-based objections that we all may have – just remember to use a heritage objection in our objection so that it is relative to the objection requested by the planning permit.
Lack of community consultation by the developers and the proposal in its current form fails to address a range of community concerns. The DA application documents (download the 11Mb pdf of the concept) demonstrate that the scheme up for approval is not to the benefit of anyone who currently works, lives or plays in the lane way. We’d even go further and say that the scheme is not beneficial to the developer – it has the potential to harm their brand, and may in fact under value the property by proposing a scheme which is clearly under cooked. In its current form the scheme fails to consider a number of key issues, particularly in respect of the Hosier Lane interface, community & history.
The following points are discussed in more detail below:
The Heritage overlay that encompasses the area has a discretionary height limit of 40m, but the proposed development proposes to reach 106m.
1. a) The proposed demolition of the historic Russell St theatre will remove the last remaining Robin Boyd structure in the CBD.
This proposal will deliver sheer faces on all four sides, breaking the longstanding convention of ‘podium and tower’ style buildings and setting a very bad precedent for future developments.
The traffic report within the proposal does not adequately explain how pedestrian & emergency services access and ingress will be managed in Hosier Lane, and proposes all loading for the hotel, commercial and residential activities will take place from a loading ‘dock’ adjacent to the new building in Hosier Lane.
Hosier Lane has an internationally respected art culture — using the current lane way for marketing for the new hotel is not going to be sustainable and it is anticipated that the new hotel will impact adversely on the nature and vibrancy of the culture of the area.
Combining the proposals for the purpose of side-lining the council is not acceptable.
The proposed hotel development has the potential to change the amenity of the area and will influence the activities that will be possible in adjoining properties.
The proposed development will significantly impact the surrounding heritage properties, vibration from plant, overwhelming visual impact and encroaching on airspace.
The interface between the new building and Hosier Lane is not consistent with or sympathetic with the current conditions and use of the space.
The space would be better suited to a development that addresses the real needs of the local area.
What is this development creating as precedent for the future of Melbourne and are we selling our heritage out by allowing such ordinary purpose for this unique area
The complete overshadowing of the Atrium will impact significantly on this ‘Winter Garden’ that is integral to the design of Fed Square.
Talk to everyone if you want your opinion on this application to be heard.
1. Heritage Overlay
The heritage height limit which is discretionary for this zone is ; 40m, the proposed hotel building is 106m – no brainer.
– the postage stamp site has been pushed through the boundaries of the heritage limit. Nothing about this site matches or relates on an aesthetic level to the neighbourhood.
1.a Robin Boyd design
We have discovered that the Russell St Theatre, the site of the new building, is actually a Robin Boyd redesign (from an original church, so a major redesign). This makes it of great architectural significance, it would be the only Robin Boyd building left in the CBD.
Although we are unsure of the current condition of the interior, it is of significant importance and should at the very least warrant scientific investigation and potentially preservation. It is also of very real significance to the Melbourne community as the home of Australia’s first professional repertory theatre. This may be a reason NOT to demolish it and to use the building as a point of history for Boyd and his influence on other architects – notably Roy Grounds who is of particular significance to Melbourne.
We could ask the Planning Dept to request a full investigation of the site prior to considering the application to demolish.
Are there any actors ready to take the challenge of championing this cause who have worked in this site?
2. Proposal disrupts ‘podium and tower’ design conventions
This is a small boutique site with interfaces on all four sides that will be affected by all provisions in the scheme – In your objection, please try to relate this to the Hosier Lane interface. Development in Melbourne’s lane ways has been encouraged to utilise setbacks and a podium style approach to retain the unique character and scale that makes these places so important to the fabric of the city. This proposal will deliver sheer faces on all four sides, breaking that convention and setting a very bad precedent for future development to follow. The podium tower type does not lend itself structurally to the lane way interface and lacks human scale especially on the eastern boundary that faces Hosier Lane.
Tall sheer walls are juxtaposing all the current surfaces of the lane way and it is about what would happen in the future as to what should be accepted now – what would this zone look like if several buildings decided to do this type of proposal – it would totally remove the feeling and amenity of the lane way – this is important.
There are no set backs, so we will have a sheer wall ; what is this going to be like imposing upon a brick lane way facade and our lives?
Please also comment of your thoughts about the nature of the architecture itself. Is this design by a Sydney team ‘right’ in the context of this area?
3. Incomplete Traffic Report
The traffic report in its current form does not adequately explain how pedestrian access and ingress will be managed with the proposed loading dock having trucks ( of what size and load)? pulling up in the lane way to deliver to the new establishment.
No specification of vehicle types and what the number of vehicles will be expected to service the new proposed hotel block and no consideration of turning circles and flow on effects in Flinders Lane and Flinders Street due to additional heavy traffic entering and exiting the lane way.
The traffic report does not show how these trucks will enter or down load, nor does it confirm the current traffic volume that services the lane way – the existing businesses of The Living Room, Misty and Movida are not mentioned nor is their current schedule of deliveries or pick ups including ambulance 24/7 requirements in the case of the Living Room?
Vehicular traffic in Hosier Lane is already very restricted due to the considerable amount of foot traffic that uses the lane way at all hours. Approx 1000 pedestrians each day would be in danger if additional loading and delivery vehicles were imposed on the space. Due to the lack of footpaths and genuine attraction for sightseers, consideration should be made to making this a pedestrian zone… this is an avenue to explore with Council engineering.
Not all hotels have a lane way entrance at the back of their facility – hence, the loading dock could be supported from the front of the new facade on Russell Street and not use the Hosier Lane side of the property
The 5 car drop off area in Russell needs to be reconsidered for dual purpose loading zone.
If the weight of the trucks using the lane way for delivery is not listed, we cannot be sure that the bluestone blocks that currently make the cobblestones of the heritage lane way will not be dilapidated with the constant wear and tear from all of the new use of the lane way.
4. Adverse impact on the culture of the area
Hosier Lane has an internationally respected art culture — fundamentally the development proposal in its current form will adversely affect the social & organic processes developing in the precinct.
The art included in the proposal is commercial and privately driven. This type of installation bears little resemblance to the character of the lane way. The proposed streetscape clearly compromises the current street culture & fabric. The notoriety of this area with its current tourist trade & affiliated businesses will surely be adversely affected.
Using the current lane way for marketing for the new hotel is unlikely to be sustainable. It is likely that the new hotel will soon cause the lane way to change for the benefit of the new tenants.
The lane way may lose its organic nature, and therefore losing it’s street art following and consequently risking a huge tourism draw-card.
5. Tricky application combines two sites
The Forum is not being renovated, only maintained and we are expected to accept this as the pay off for the owner actually doing their civic duty as owners of a heritage building. Utilising the floor space to combine the proposals for the purpose of over reaching the council is not acceptable and the State Government need to have a survey done of the area so that they understand all the items that have not been addressed in the proposal — from waste management, delivery, culture and amenity not to mention the current social consciousness of the lane way and its recreational users.
The community benefit is a superficial restoration of the exterior of the Forum, and will pay a huge cost. The trade-off for very little is that the lane way will have to cope with an incredible change to what is currently accepted as being REAL.
All of the community want the lane way to be lively, active and safe. However, it needs to work for all involved. At present we are all owners and custodians of the place at this time and need to be involved with the process of transformation for any new purpose that the lane way is asked to be part of. The development proposes to ‘activate the lane way. The current numbers of visitors to the area really makes this point moot. Any additional visitors that the development brings will add nothing to the amenity of the area, but may actually detract.
6. Impact on live music scene
The proposed hotel development has the potential to change the amenity of the area and will influence the activities that will be possible in adjoining properties.
The architecture does not act with responsibility being built at the back of building where the base levels from the live music will cause intense vibration to the whole front surface. This again imposes on the already operational and accepted living standard in the lane way. It is anticipated that this may cause the live music of the Forum to cease (or be compromised) and the interior of the theatre to be used for a different purpose — closing one of the last real live music venues in the city.
The sound engineers report (as part of the development documentation) suggests that sounds from the Forum Theatre will exceed the maximum levels for the hotel unless special glass is specified as well as background sound masking. It is noted in the report that the noise impact testing was taken on January 29th 2014 and the testers were advised that the band playing was typical for operation of the Forum Theatre. The band playing that night were the ‘Chvrches’, a synth pop band with little to no base and synthesised drums. Hardly a typical band for sound testing. (see here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96oINaQ0T7k) It’s the base sounds that are the long-range sounds that cause issues as shown in the report. The hotel is +17 decibels over the maximum limit for base sounds on the exterior, a huge amount. It is our opinion that even if the construction manages to reduce the base sounds to the maximum level allowed it will still cause complaints from the hotel.
7. Plant room impact
The plant room in the proposed building will be on level 9 which is directly opposite all the buildings on Flinders Lane and will cause vibrational impact on the heritage surfaces of these buildings — no reference to this type of noise or vibration issues are given in the proposal, so it has not been thought about with reference to impact upon existing buildings. No consideration has been made for possible future developments on the adjoining property known as Cavendish House. Boundary walls include windows on all floors looking north. Consideration should be made to ensure these windows do not remove their rights to develop above the existing level in future.
8. Unsympathetic design
What is happening at ground level in the “cafe” zone is not available in the proposal in detail, so we will not know what is being planned until it is built — but it appears to be inconsistent with the existing use of the lane way. The few drawings that have been included indicate a misunderstanding of the profile of businesses that live & work in the lane way. We have a homeless medical centre that has been part of this lane way for over 10 years. It is of great concern to the community that this would be “homogenized” to accommodate a ‘cafe culture’ aspect to modify the community services provided. We cannot afford to compromise this important community service.
9. Address the real needs of the local area
While there is a real need for more hotel rooms in the CBD, there are 15 other hotels with planning permits in permission phase as this goes live — this hotel does not NEED to be built-in this lane way. This site could be used for a better purpose that adds to the area rather than imposing on it. There is opportunity to use this space to address the many issues that had plagued the area for years, such as waste management, providing space for artists to work and exhibit and educate visitors and young people etc. This is something that the community have requested for a while due to the poor waste management that is currently in place in this lane way.
There is no mention of a waste management plan for such a huge building in the lane way
No idea of what this building will provide in the order of tonnes of waste and how it will be collected and who will be collecting it — and when?
What sort of imposition on the community will this collection put on the neighbourhood and the council?
What is this development creating as precedent for the future of Melbourne and are we selling our heritage out by allowing such ordinary purpose for this unique area — if there were several developments like this to occur in the lane way would it hold is unique organic feel or would it be lost to commercial plagiarism? There is an extreme duty of care in the hands of the planning department and this is not something to be taken lightly.
11. Impact of additional shading
Shadowing on Fed Square – this is distinct disregard for the current laws on shadowing of Fed Square and needs to be addressed in the height issue. In particular, the complete overshadowing of the Atrium will impact significantly on this ‘Winter Garden’ that is integral to the design of Fed Square.
12. Who to talk to
We recommend individuals approach councillors to encourage them to address individual concerns about this development application;
Councillor Ong – Planning
Lord Mayor – Robert Doyle
Councillor Wood – Environment
Councillor Foster – The people
All other objections can be personal, subjective or a segue to any of the above, but please mention Heritage overlay, Heritage height or Heritage sympathy and you are on the right path.
The opinions stated in the above outline are a reflection of the topics discussed at the meeting held last night. Thank you for coming to the meeting or being interested in Hosier & Rutledge Lanes & this community.
We urge you to find out more about this development at a public meeting to be held 6.30pm at Misty this Tuesday night, the 11th of March. Please like and share to get the word out – come to the meeting and have a say.
Owners of the Forum Theatre, Mariner Group have submitted another proposal for the redevelopment of the MTC site between Russell Street and Hosier Lane. The plans will see a 32-storey boutique hotel and office complex built behind the Forum on the derelict old MTC site.
Artist’s impression, as published in The Sunday Age 22.12.13
You can read about it in this article in the Age today. This will obviously have a huge impact on Hosier and Rutledge Lanes, both during construction and (more significantly) when it is complete. At this early stage it’s difficult to proffer an informed opinion about the design. It has been developed with little or no consultation or conversation with those who actually know and understand the community in which it sits.
On the surface it seems a fairly typical and uninspired developer approach to this important site. The application centres around this being essential to facilitate the much needed refurbishment of the Forum Theatre, which has (conveniently) been left to fall into disrepair. The application was filed with the Victorian Department of Planning on Friday and the decision about the proposal will ultimately rest with Planning Minister Matthew Guy.
Share your thoughts here. Hosier Inc would hope to be included in any future consultations.