What are some interesting facts about Federation Square, Melbourne?

By: | Post date: October 16, 2016 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Australia

Federation Square. Opened at the centenary of Australian Federation, in 2001. Strange, po-mo, mixed-use space in the very navel of the world, as far as any Melburnian is concerned: the four corners of the intersection of Swanston and Flinders St—

  1. Flinders Street railway station,
  2. Fed Square,
  3. St Paul’s Cathedral,
  4. Young and Jackson Hotel.

As Melbourne a navel of the earth as you can get:

  • Public transport
  • A social hangout
  • A monument to Anglicanism
  • A pub

Fed Square is a locale with eateries, uneven walkways, open spaces, museums, and a performance area.

And very very big screens, which help make it a default destination for people during major sporting events. Particularly World Cup soccer, but as depicted below, more genteel watching of tennis, too.

When it was built, I was a young lecturer, and Fed Square had opened up. It’s where my students would disappear to at lunchtime. I sneered, like many a Melburnian sneered, at its po-mo unevenness and ramps, and its Meccano buildings. I’m not convinced to this day that people love the architecture. But they do love hanging out around it.

Before there was Fed Square, those were dark days, when Swanston St was open to traffic, and there was a Hook turn for motorists onto Flinders St—a manoeuvre commemorated in the TISM song Get thee in my behind, Satan:

In those dark days, the site of this Square was occupied by the utterly unlamented Princes Gate Towers, headquarters of the Gas & Fuel Corporation of Victoria.

The site is at the navel of Melbourne, flanked by the gothic loveliness of the Cathedral, the rotund majesty of Flinders St Station, and the shabby comeliness of Young & Jacksons. And what did Melbourne put there in 1967?

Well, what was in fashion architecturally in 1967?

The monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey was filmed in ’68. Coincidence? I think not!

Wikipedia, what say you?

The towers were appreciated by some as modernist architectural icons.

Yeah. Screw those guys.

However, many Melbourne residents regarded the towers as eyesores and criticised their size and placement.

Ya think?

The towers were considered to have cut the city off from the river and also detracted from Saint Paul’s Cathedral and the heritage facades along Flinders Street. The towers were much larger than any of the surrounding buildings and were said to have dominated the surrounding context.

Were said?!

What part of

do you not understand, Wikipedia?!

An Australian Women’s Weekly article from 1969 expresses the general public sentiment towards the towers at the time:

“Once the Graceful spires of St. Paul’s Cathedral dominated the southern entry to Melbourne. In 1967, the ultra modern twin towers of the Princes Gate complex raised their lean, unornamented 17 storeys to rob strollers on the banks of the Yarra of their traditional view.”

Well, suffice it to say that when the Gas & Fuel Corp was privatised in 1996, those twin towers did not look ultra-modern or lean. They looked like bulldozer bait. And that’s what they were.

modernist architectural icons

F*ck you too.

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