Who can forget his radio confrontations with Premier Kennett and numerous articles in The Age and other journals. This book documents the recent history of the development of the Melbourne waterfront from early planning for Southbank, the development of Federation Square, Docklands, the battles over St Kilda’s foreshore, and the Beacon Cove developments in Port Melbourne. So much has been planned, and a good proportion has been built since the 1980’s. The analysis of these projects is part narrative, with anecdotes, cartoons, and illustrations of long-dead development schemes. It sets out a history of winners and losers, of considerable achievement, and of considerable wasted effort by the design and development community.
Kim and his co-authors also provide a plausible theoretical framework for this work – explained in terms of competition for international capital and new forms of business. They suggest that there has been a merging of traditional professional and political boundaries that has produced new ways of project facilitation that reduces community involvement in the making of design and development decisions. They pose the question: is this process of dynamic change and city image making ultimately in the public interest? The answer is not clear, and may vary for each development. It gives Australian urban designers food for thought as they evaluate their place in the world and set resolutions for the New Year.
Let’s have more accessible books like this that critically explore theory and practice of urban design in Australia. I’m sure there are many viewpoints and theories about the future of Australian cities out there. Books like this offer a good counterpoint to the endless glossy brochures, webs sites and coffee table publications of the development industry and design offices. There should be more of them.