THE CITY: Now Open, Winter

I spent a few days searching out the 40 laneway artworks from ‘Flash Forward’, a City of Melbourne project designed to … who knows really. Tart up the laneways? Support local artists? Make the City a more interesting place?

I ambled; and ambling round the city is a different experience from being on a mission to buy something in Bourke Street ranging as far as Little Bourke before getting on the tram to come home. And with the specific purpose of looking, looking around, things change. Puzzles abound.

One of the first of these is just what is going on in all that space above eye level. Like in here. What’s that all about? Is there even anyone, or anything for that matter, in there?

Here is a possible face for those rooms, hidden and immersed in his phone. Although he would meet people in the lobby.

At least he’s not on his electric bike weaving his way along the footpath terrorising the pedestrians.

And of course there are scores of such buildings and a dozen or more under construction. Below, 1954 and a few years ago from almost the same aerial vantage point. Don’t glance. Look at least twice. Use the Exhibition Buildings as a key.

In time I suppose people will be living (and possibly WFH) in those high rises, but what about the old three- to five-storey buildings that belong to 50 or 150 years ago. They can’t all be full of people replacing watch batteries or manning the headquarters of the Sleep Appreciation Society. There is just so much real estate there … and now, apparently, so many fewer people — except construction workers, tradies and maintenance men — to enliven it.

This is what a hi-vis worksite looks like when the workers with collars have gone home. Safe. Really safe. And below on the worksite, which was proceeding regardless, is what 2.8 tonnes of concrete dangling above your head looks like. Massively unsafe. I was leaning up against the first piece of Flash Forward art I found and not wearing a hi-vis jacket.

Quite nicely related, a second thing I was conscious of is that the city looms, especially if you are inclined to look up. Or if you are wandering around the lanes.

Sometimes, as on the right above, the ‘looming’ stacks up; and sometimes with chronological messages. If we start with St Augustine’s, the three generations below represent 164 years of building.

More chronology. Once the site of the Princess Mary Club, accommodation for young women workers in the city away from home, especially if that home was in the country. So much no longer; could the foreground building, once a parsonage or a manse as it is called on the nearby plan, be considered a vestigial remnant? I think no.

And John Wesley … what would he think about all this? Too much? Take it down a notch?

In another part of the city … one to which I never go. I don’t know who spends time in those lanes down in the south-west corner near Spencer St … a new world for me. I had never seen or heard of the Holey-Moley Golf Club for example on Little Bourke west of King. ‘This large family facility offers 27 holes of pop-culture themed golf for all ages.’ Who knew? Who actually could comprehend? But it was jumping — JAM-packed — In an otherwise fairly deserted streetscape.

Near here people were making private use of that sort of solitude.

Speaking as we were some time ago of old multiple storey buildings …

The celebration of the Relief of Mafeking in 1900 from the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets, with hats de rigueur. The banner says ‘WELCOME COMRADE’. (This must be, and was of course, before the endearment ‘comrade’ developed new overtones.) Coles Book Arcade is visible at the left. In those days there appears to have been a much more relaxed approach to men and windows. The roof of the Royal Arcade’s veranda seems to have been adopted as the main viewing platform.

In Royal Arcade this time I found a queue at Spellbox waiting for psychic readings (via ’21st Century witchcraft’) …

… and out the front something else to catch the eye.

What is that? What is he holding, a fire? And why is he wearing a mask?

Looking more closely there are three of them.



Down in The Causeway we find people at work with, on the right, just enough room to turn around. No wonder he was so grumpy.

Despite its formidable decoration it was too early for the Chuckle Park Bar.

Stalactites, with the best souvlaki, the absolute best, over time, never other than tempting … was resisted.

I re-discovered the Wunderkammer, literally something like ‘room of miracles’, ‘cabinet of curiosities’ in some renderings, self-advertised as ‘Scientific Curiosities Artefacts and Ephemera’ which this day included dishes one coin or key thick, dippy birds and a phrenological head.

And this cat must appear. He was hammering heavy metal riffs outside two sign-free shops, but far more importantly outside Maniax Axe Throwing, a tram, and Officeworks.

Sun glare on the way home. Just here at 5pm it was blinding. The ‘trousers’ building at the corner of William and Collins has signs up warning pedestrians about the dangers of sun glare off its walls.

Finally there is knowledge to be gleaned, if not necessarily at the Wunderkammer, then in China town.

‘It is the Thunderbolt that steers the course of all things.’ Remember that.

* * * * * *

Just a small addendum. Nothing to do with the preceding. Out of town. The merest whiff of Canberra.

So that’s how Jackson did it! With a magnifying glass and a brush the width of an ant. Can I avoid referring to irony? Yes I will.
A small sample of implements in a shed every one of which (including the spilt nails) was made entirely of glass. Startlingly good.

And now, of course, you’d like a look at the new and rather zippy lane art. CLICK>

3 thoughts on “THE CITY: Now Open, Winter

  1. Loved all the photos in your last two posts David. Thank you once again. It has whet my appetite for a closer exploration of our soon-to-be new home city of Brisbane. What with COVID, floods and construction supply issues, our new home does not look set to be finished until February 2023. Oh well – patience!!! Best wishes to you both. x

  2. Very interesting project. Well done. Really enjoyed the chance for a tour I might never make!. Many thanks. Cheers Bax

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