A recent visit to Sydney revealed how lucky Melbourne is to have so much anti-landmark heritage in our CBD.
Both cities sadly demolished many incredible heritage buildings in the 60s and 70s, but it can be argued Sydney came out worse off not for what was considered heritage at the time, but all the things dismissed entirely, such as laneways and small industrial buildings, the kind that now make up some of Melbourne’s most vibrant precincts.
Melbourne really hit an accidental gold mine when it retained its retail core and then ignored precincts such as Hardware and Flinders Lane by virtue of height limits and economic downturn, leaving space in the future for a CBD made up of so many uses and types of people, as opposed to Sydney’s generally more monocultural corporate city.
As impressive as many of Sydney’s heritage buildings are, from the grand banks and post office of Martin Place to opulent government buildings on Bridge St, the iconic bridge itself, and impressive Queen Victoria Building, the harbour city’s landmark heritage building lacks anchorage in human scale character, leaving visitor craning the neck up for want of anything interesting to see at the street level between corporate lobbies and grand columns.
While Sydney re-activates the few laneways it has with bland commissioned art and upscale restaurants, Melbourne is so lucky to have a wealth of historic lanes and little buildings right in its heart where street art and venues for all kinds of people could spring up organically over the past three decades.
It’s important to remember that heritage protection isn’t just about retaining impressive landmarks of wealth, but also the little “mundane” places that collectively give our city spaces for diversity and creativity.