But somehow Melbourne people just don't notice when an insultingly ridiculous and expensive public engineering cock-up is stuck in front of them. Take the Southern Star Observation Wheel. onlymelbourne.com.au says:
The Observation Wheel is a stunning addition to the Melbourne landscape that boasts some of the most spectacular views over Melbourne and beyond.
The $40 million ferris wheel based on the London Eye is almost 120m, around 38 storeys into the air featuring 21 airconditioned glass cabins that showcase views stretching as far as Geelong.
No trip to Melbourne is complete until you have seen the views from the Southern Star Observation Wheel.
There must be a lot of unfulfilled tourists because it doesn't work. Currently it looks a bit like this:
|Southern Star Observation Wheel... sans observation wheel|
After being built up and launched at the beginning of 2009, it failed the first test a month later: the (admittedly record-breaking) heatwave that preceded Black Saturday caused the metal to warp. Now it has been taken down and although it is supposedly going to be rebuilt, there is no sign yet.
$40 million dollars. As I was saying, we have serious problems with our public transport. $40 million would help fix some of that. Or any other number of problems like homelessness and public housing waiting lists, hospital bed shortages, the list goes on...
And another big fat white elephant: Southern Cross station. Not the station, the new(ish) roof. Confessions of a Graphic Designer has a handy couple of pictures of it and some commentary which I'll borrow:
"On the 22nd of June, Grimshaw architects won the 2007 Lubetkin Prize for the most outstanding building outside of the European Union. The undulating wave-like roof to me is its most interesting creative point because it creates the impression of movement and continuance that relates to the usage of the building. As well as being striking it is also functional, Keith Brews of the Grimshaw team explains: "It's difficult to extract diesel fumes, but if you create a dome, they can move laterally. As the wind speen increases across the roof, the wind goes up the side of the domes and across the Venturi caps, which either allow some air through, or suck it (and the diesel fumes) up." (2007)."
I don't know if Grimshaw got to keep that prestigious prize, because they clearly forgot to model what would happen when it rains:
|Southern Cross Station in downpour (image linked from The Age)|
Not to mention that the supposedly self-ventilating roof didn't work and they had to put fans in. And the whole enclosed station area echoes with diesel locomotive engine noises and incomprehensible (or inaudible) announcements. The old Spencer St Station (which became Southern Cross) was not real flash, but you didn't cop diesel fumes and noise pollution. And the roofs, modest though they were, worked!
What else? We could talk roads, freeways, the Domain Tunnel (try using it on an afternoon... traffic banked up to Toorak Rd). I could mention the channel deepening: to let in a handful of superlarge container ships, the bay was dredged and the heads blown open. Now beaches around the bay are getting washed away by the increased currents. I could mention the ecological disasters of our carbon-intensive water factory (desalination plant) at Wonthaggi and the pipeline that brings water from the drought-stricken north to wash driveways in Melbourne.
But those are more political and ecological concerns (although if you ask anyone directly affected, you'll get an answer as brisk as asking a stranded commuter at the station what they think of the train operators!).
The waste of public money on these big public show-off projects is insulting. Melbourne was already pretty without big shiny toy buildings and meccano toys scattered across the cityscape. What is needed is more public infrastructure, not the answer to the London Eye. If they could at least get these things right it might be bearable but I'm not holding my breath. And what will be their next bright idea for a big monument? I dare not speculate. If everyone thought like me, it might be a giant guillotine.