It is extraordinary that any government would even remotely entertain a bid to demolish part of Melbourne’s most successful urban public space and most iconic piece of contemporary architecture in order to facilitate a glorified retail premises.
Architecturally, Federation Square's strength is in the composition of the collection to create a coherent whole. The proposal to demolish part of this collection, which has contributed so much in a short time to the identity of the City of Melbourne to make way for a generic glass shop is cultural vandalism.
A technology store is a very poor fit for a permanent landmark of national significance. Apple’s resurgence as a company was due to the invention of the IPod in 2001. In less than a decade it was virtually obsolete, with the emergence of the IPhone and other smart phone technologies. There is nothing that suggests that Apple will be at the cutting edge of technology in ten years’ time, or that the ‘flagship’ store that is built on this land mark site will still meet the needs of a technology company by 2030.
Imagine for a moment that this technology store proposal had occurred in 2007 and that one of the leading international brands had built their concept store at the peak of their relevance. Today, just a decade on, we would be wondering why we were so stupid as to demolish part of our architectural masterpiece for the ‘Nokia discovery centre’. It should be entirely expected that if the Apple version goes ahead we will be looking at a third iteration of the site before 2030.
As rightly pointed out by former Premier Ted Baillieu, this Apple proposal is nothing more than an architectural response to a finance issue. In other words it is about money and turning a government investment in culture into a profit center.
Federation Square currently hosts over 10 million visitors a year which includes over 1 million international tourists. It is costing the taxpayer approximately $6 Million per year. By comparison the Melbourne Grand Prix hosts approximately 300,000 visitors per year at an annual cost of approximately $60.9 Million to the taxpayer. Looking at the cost per visitor, Federation Square costs 60 cents, per person. Whilst the Grand prix costs $203 per person.
If we cannot as a society afford to properly operate Victoria’s most important civic space and second most visited tourist attraction, then we have absolutely no business in funding the Melbourne Grand Prix.
This proposal is a disgrace regardless of which way you look at it, and the citizens of Melbourne will fight tooth and nail for the protection of their public space.