Urban Designers and Engineers: Losing the plot

Melbourne City Council has lost the plot.  Our Urban designers (Headed by Rob “Bamboo” Adams) and Engineers (Headed by Geoffrey Robinson) are slowly yet consistently destroying Melbourne and the things that make Melbourne.

The rot started back in 1996 when the Council back-down and supported the shift of Melbourne’s Museum from the City Centre to the Carlton Gardens. A move that was widely opposed by the general community. (The Museum should have been built as part of an expanded Federation Square or on the ill-fated CUB Swanston Street site)

Residents and traders managed to save Lygon Street from the destructive designs of Rob Adams who wanted to build balconies over the top of Lygon Streets Victorian Street Verandahs. (The City of Melbourne may still revisit Rob Adams nightmare on Lygon Street as the adopted Verandah policy has been allowed to slip out of sight and was not listed or included in Melbourne recent heritage review).

They just spent $5Million engineering congestion and reducing the number of traffic lanes in LaTrobe Street and now they have their sight on destroying the Queen Victoria Market extending Franklin Street so that it carves through the market car park and connects up with Duddly Street, increasing traffic where it is most definitely not needed.  Franklin Street should have been the new bike path and the precinct  should be encouraged to accommodate more pedestrian traffic.  If they had of channeled the money spent on LatTrobe street into Franklin Street redevelopment it could have made a positive contribution to Melbourne.

Clearly Road Safety is not on the Council’s agenda.  The other end of Franklin Street at the corner of Victoria Street is one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in Melbourne and a major accident hotspot. Channeling vehicle traffic down from Duddly Street down Franklin linking up to Victoria Street will only make this intersection worst.  The Council need to close Franklin Street between Swanston and Victoria Street and hand it over to RMIT to allow it to flow into the area and link in with the City Baths.

It is as if Rob Adams and Geoff Robinson are hell bent on destroying Hoddle’s Grid in what ever way they can.  The have extended Collins Street, tried to extend Bourke Street (In name alone) and turned LatTrobe street into a lane with dangerous cross street intersections.

The proposed Queen Victoria Market Franklin Street extension is their “piece de resistance” of utter stupidity in urban design and planning.

Melbourne’s Wailing Wall: An accident waiting to happen

The collapse of the wall at the old CUB Swanston Street site was avoidable yet it was an accident just waiting to happen. The wall had remained in situate for over 20 years deteriorating as each year passed.  The City Council Engineering and Urban Design Departments knew that the wall was not stable and they failed to monitor it and ensure its safety.

The Swanston Street site was a significant site in Melbourne  the book end of Melbourne’s main street.  The shrine at one end and the CUB sign at the other.  It was one on five constructions sites that were left standing in a demolished state by the former Minister for Planning, Robert Maclellan .

The main heritage building was  the 1860’s bluestone building on Bouverie Street. Most of the original bluestone building  was demolished but the western wall was maintained, supported by solid structural bracing.

Of a lesser heritage value was the red brick wall along Swanston Street. With over twenty years of exposure to the elements the structural integrity of the wall was compromised. The Swanston Street wall had not been braced to the extent of other walls on the construction site. 

The CUB site was one of the alternative sites  put forward for the site of Melbourne’s Museum and the favorite site of Trevor Huggard, former Lord Mayor.  It was a site that required a signature development and the Museum, if located on the site, would have made a significant contribution and focus to what is the gateway to Melbourne’s “Knowledge precinct”.  It was one of three preferred sites for Melbourne’s Museum. The others being the Federation Square and the original site where the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings (Jeff’s Shed) now stands.

The site which was first demolished in 1989. Robert Maclellan who came to office in 1992 failed to ensure that construction and development of the site proceeded.  The Kennett Government was not prepared to commit public funds for the sites development

The site has remained a bomb site ever since

The Swanston Street Wall became a poster board and a blight on the City. A monument to the city’s failure in planning and development. The City of Melbourne, who had insisted in the walls retention , required that the wall be boarded up and the graffiti and posters removed.  Sadly this may have contributed to the walls collapse.

The wooden hoarding would have added to the dead load placed on the structure and when part of the wall began to collapse it would have brought down the rest of the wall with it. The hoarding  also hid the wall from the Street and restricted the ability to monitor the walls structural integrity. It may have even been the cause for the collapse as the poorly supported left hand section of the hoarding may have caught the wind and acted as a lever in pulling the masonry wall over.
Link: For more analysis on the wall’s history and its collapse by Butterpaper

This was not an accident that can be dismissed as being an act of god..  The winds, whilst high, were not that extreme and the wall should have been able to withstand a live wind load much greater than the force of wind recorded in the city on Thursday.

It is clear there was a collective failure of  responsibility to ensure the public safety of this site.  The developer, the construction engineer, site manager, building inspectors (past and present) all share liability along with State Government and the City of Melbourne Engineering and Urban Design Departments.

This was an accident that should not have happened. An accident that should have been avoided.  The lives of two innocent pedestrians lost and a third person suffering serious injury.

The Coroner will need to investigate the deaths of the two pedestrians and work safety will prepare a report of the engineering and structural design elements that contributed to the walls collapse.

The Coroner must go beyond the engineering science and look closely at the administration and successive failures of the City of Melbourne and other authorities who should have been on top of this issue long before the walls collapse. It must look at administration, planning, reports and events in the lead-up to the sites demolition and up to when the wall collapsed.

It needs an investigation equivalent to an Air-crash investigation but without a black box.  A photograph taken on Google street view in 2009 indicates that a CCTV camera is installed above the real estate agency opposite at Grocon site at 488 Swanston Street and there is a CCTV camera hanging off the adjoining RMIT Hub building looking along the Swanston Street footpath

The last thing we want to see is a protracted legal case with those responsible for this tragic event denying liability or responsibility in order to avoid or limit claims for compensation.  Excessive delay in reporting and proportioning responsibility for the accident would only add further injury to those whose lives where effected 

Melbourne’s Hidden Verandah Policy

Melbourne City Council Veranda Policy – 
click to view pdf scans

In 1995 the City of Melbourne commissioned Meridith Gould Architects to write a report on Lygon Street’s Verandahs.

The report was later adopted by the City of Melbourne as policy but soon forgotten.  Copies of the report can not be found on the Council web site and is not mentioned in Melbourne Strategic Planning scheme. (Scanned copy available here)

The report was written following efforts by Rob Adams’s urban design team to build above footpath balconies in Lygon Street – a move that would have seen Carlton’s heritage destroyed.   Two above footpath verandah’s were approved before the policy could be implemented.

The space above the footpath is public property and if owners or traders wanted to out door alfresco dining they need to build them within their building envelope and not expand over the footpath.

Meridith Gould in her research uncovered some interesting historical facts about Lygon Street verandahs and provided some good design options that could be considered. Her report is well worth reading and should be the model for ongoing heritage preservation and restoration of Melbourne’s Victorian Street-scapes. Thankfully Rob Adams’s urban design team did not get their way and the damage inflicted on Lygon Street was halted in time before the rot set in.

Following the publication and launch of the Gould report the City of Melbourne at the bequest of Kevin Gosper made available low interest loans to encourage Lygon Street owners and traders to repair or reinstate Victorian heritage verandahs. A policy that had wide community support but has since been forgotten or overlooked by the City Council and Town Planners. 

Stolen power – Bid to place power lines underground fallen by the wayside

Melbourne City Council has failed to enforce an agreement that was signed between the City Council and the State Power companies that required them to underground Melbourne’s Power supply within 20 years. The agreement was signed at the time the City Power company was being acquired by the state to pave the way for Victoria’s private power regime.

The City Council has conveniently forgotten the agreement and has taken no steps to seek its enforcement leaving power company City Power to benefit from the forgotten policy and the city wondering when if at all Melbourne’s power will ever be underground. Similarly there was an agreement also struck with Optus to underground its cables that were allowed to be strung on the cities power polls adding to the visual blight that dominates Melbourne streetscape.

City Council Urban Planner Rob (Bamboo) Adams has bowed down to state power once again compromising his standing by not enforcing or monitoring Council policy and the agreement.

Stolen power – Bid to place power lines underground fallen by the wayside

Melbourne City Council has failed to enforce an agreement that was signed between the City Council and the State Power companies that required them to underground Melbourne’s Power supply within 20 years. The agreement was signed at the time the City Power company was being acquired by the state to pave the way for Victoria’s private power regime.

The City Council has conveniently forgotten the agreement and has taken no steps to seek its enforcement leaving power company City Power to benefit from the forgotten policy and the city wondering when if at all Melbourne’s power will ever be underground. Similarly there was an agreement also struck with Optus to underground its cables that were allowed to be strung on the cities power polls adding to the visual blight that dominates Melbourne streetscape.

City Council Urban Planner Rob (Bamboo) Adams has bowed down to state power once again compromising his standing by not enforcing or monitoring Council policy and the agreement.

Stolen power – Bid to place power lines underground fallen by the wayside

Melbourne City Council has failed to enforce an agreement that was signed between the City Council and the State Power companies that required them to underground Melbourne’s Power supply within 20 years. The agreement was signed at the time the City Power company was being acquired by the state to pave the way for Victoria’s private power regime.

The City Council has conveniently forgotten the agreement and has taken no steps to seek its enforcement leaving power company City Power to benefit from the forgotten policy and the city wondering when if at all Melbourne’s power will ever be underground. Similarly there was an agreement also struck with Optus to underground its cables that were allowed to be strung on the cities power polls adding to the visual blight that dominates Melbourne streetscape.

City Council Urban Planner Rob (Bamboo) Adams has bowed down to state power once again compromising his standing by not enforcing or monitoring Council policy and the agreement.

Rob honoured by the Crown A Right Royal Stuff Up

The theft and destruction of Melbourne’s Crown Jewel at the hands of Rob Adams

If ever there was a excuse (As if we need anther excuse) for Australia to become a Republic it is the news that Melbourne City Council extravagant “Design Me a Job” Rob Adams is included in the Queens Birthday Honours list.

The Age’s Clay Lucas reports that Rob Adams has “Turned the City Around“.

Cow tailing Rob

In 1996 Rob Adams sat back and watched the City decline and go through one of its major planning mistakes in its limited history. Rather then fight for his beliefs Rob Adams soon cow towed to the destructive wishes of the Kennett Government and Mark Birrell in particular when the then state Government decided to hand over prime river frontage to Crown Casino that now dominates much of Melbourne’s cultural precinct.

Along with the Casino land grab Melbourne’s Museum was shifted from “Center Stage” to the Carlton Gardens. Instead of the Museum making a positive contribution to the City of Melbourne it has become a burden to the City and continues to compromise Melbourne’s World World Heritage Site. Both the Museum and the Royal Exhibition Buildings have languished and suffered ever since thanks in part to Rob Adams who was very much at the forefront of this major planning disaster.

Planners, politicians and Architects at the time all criticised the relocation of the museum stating that the Museum need to be part of Melbourne Arts precinct and that the relation to the Carlton Gardens would be a mistake. Rob Adams at the time also agreed and argued that the museum should be incorporated into an expanded Federation Square Development.

As soon as push came to shove – Rob Adams, threatened with exclusion from involvement in major projects, soon capitulated to the demands of the State Government and in the process compromised his own professional standing . Rob Adams and the then City Council under the leadership of Lord Mayor, Ivan Deveson and Deputy Lord Mayor, Peter McMullin, refused to even call on the State Government to subject the Museum development to a proper planning review.

The Museum and the Federation Square project suffered as a result of Adams and the Council’s capitulation. The outcome for Melbourne could have and should have been better for Melbourne. An Opportunity lost forever.

You either believe in a proper planning process or you don’t.

The Federation Square Project, in which Rob Adams played a major role, went though a shame a planning review. A classic case of pulling the cart before the horse with the review being held after the project design was decided. Once again compromising Rob Adams professional reputation.

The Queens Birthday honours could single Rob Adams departure as the City undergoes major restructure and reorganisation.

Whilst Adams has done some good work, and Melbourne paid top dollar for the work and designs he oversaw, he will always be remembered for the day he bent over and sold out the City of Melbourne in the process.

Rob honoured by the Crown A Right Royal Stuff Up

The theft and destruction of Melbourne’s Crown Jewel at the hands of Rob Adams

If ever there was a excuse (As if we need anther excuse) for Australia to become a Republic it is the news that Melbourne City Council extravagant “Design Me a Job” Rob Adams is included in the Queens Birthday Honours list.

The Age’s Clay Lucas reports that Rob Adams has “Turned the City Around“.

Cow tailing Rob

In 1996 Rob Adams sat back and watched the City decline and go through one of its major planning mistakes in its limited history. Rather then fight for his beliefs Rob Adams soon cow towed to the destructive wishes of the Kennett Government and Mark Birrell in particular when the then state Government decided to hand over prime river frontage to Crown Casino that now dominates much of Melbourne’s cultural precinct.

Along with the Casino land grab Melbourne’s Museum was shifted from “Center Stage” to the Carlton Gardens. Instead of the Museum making a positive contribution to the City of Melbourne it has become a burden to the City and continues to compromise Melbourne’s World World Heritage Site. Both the Museum and the Royal Exhibition Buildings have languished and suffered ever since thanks in part to Rob Adams who was very much at the forefront of this major planning disaster.

Planners, politicians and Architects at the time all criticised the relocation of the museum stating that the Museum need to be part of Melbourne Arts precinct and that the relation to the Carlton Gardens would be a mistake. Rob Adams at the time also agreed and argued that the museum should be incorporated into an expanded Federation Square Development.

As soon as push came to shove – Rob Adams, threatened with exclusion from involvement in major projects, soon capitulated to the demands of the State Government and in the process compromised his own professional standing . Rob Adams and the then City Council under the leadership of Lord Mayor, Ivan Deveson and Deputy Lord Mayor, Peter McMullin, refused to even call on the State Government to subject the Museum development to a proper planning review.

The Museum and the Federation Square project suffered as a result of Adams and the Council’s capitulation. The outcome for Melbourne could have and should have been better for Melbourne. An Opportunity lost forever.

You either believe in a proper planning process or you don’t.

The Federation Square Project, in which Rob Adams played a major role, went though a shame a planning review. A classic case of pulling the cart before the horse with the review being held after the project design was decided. Once again compromising Rob Adams professional reputation.

The Queens Birthday honours could single Rob Adams departure as the City undergoes major restructure and reorganisation.

Whilst Adams has done some good work, and Melbourne paid top dollar for the work and designs he oversaw, he will always be remembered for the day he bent over and sold out the City of Melbourne in the process.

Rob honoured by the Crown A Right Royal Stuff Up

The theft and destruction of Melbourne’s Crown Jewel at the hands of Rob Adams

If ever there was a excuse (As if we need anther excuse) for Australia to become a Republic it is the news that Melbourne City Council extravagant “Design Me a Job” Rob Adams is included in the Queens Birthday Honours list.

The Age’s Clay Lucas reports that Rob Adams has “Turned the City Around“.

Cow tailing Rob

In 1996 Rob Adams sat back and watched the City decline and go through one of its major planning mistakes in its limited history. Rather then fight for his beliefs Rob Adams soon cow towed to the destructive wishes of the Kennett Government and Mark Birrell in particular when the then state Government decided to hand over prime river frontage to Crown Casino that now dominates much of Melbourne’s cultural precinct.

Along with the Casino land grab Melbourne’s Museum was shifted from “Center Stage” to the Carlton Gardens. Instead of the Museum making a positive contribution to the City of Melbourne it has become a burden to the City and continues to compromise Melbourne’s World World Heritage Site. Both the Museum and the Royal Exhibition Buildings have languished and suffered ever since thanks in part to Rob Adams who was very much at the forefront of this major planning disaster.

Planners, politicians and Architects at the time all criticised the relocation of the museum stating that the Museum need to be part of Melbourne Arts precinct and that the relation to the Carlton Gardens would be a mistake. Rob Adams at the time also agreed and argued that the museum should be incorporated into an expanded Federation Square Development.

As soon as push came to shove – Rob Adams, threatened with exclusion from involvement in major projects, soon capitulated to the demands of the State Government and in the process compromised his own professional standing . Rob Adams and the then City Council under the leadership of Lord Mayor, Ivan Deveson and Deputy Lord Mayor, Peter McMullin, refused to even call on the State Government to subject the Museum development to a proper planning review.

The Museum and the Federation Square project suffered as a result of Adams and the Council’s capitulation. The outcome for Melbourne could have and should have been better for Melbourne. An Opportunity lost forever.

You either believe in a proper planning process or you don’t.

The Federation Square Project, in which Rob Adams played a major role, went though a shame a planning review. A classic case of pulling the cart before the horse with the review being held after the project design was decided. Once again compromising Rob Adams professional reputation.

The Queens Birthday honours could single Rob Adams departure as the City undergoes major restructure and reorganisation.

Whilst Adams has done some good work, and Melbourne paid top dollar for the work and designs he oversaw, he will always be remembered for the day he bent over and sold out the City of Melbourne in the process.