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Geelong notices Deakin

Geelong Advertiser’s lead editorial today toasts the Committee for Geelong’s Vision II, which will engage with Deakin architecture students to bring about architecture with a ‘wow-factor’. The editorial states: “Geelong has been slow to utilise the grey matter of its built-environment experts.”

The Committee is keep to reinvigorate the design within its city, which is good. A posse of Deakin students told me on the weekend that Geelong is nothing but a big suburb. I ignorantly protested that it had a couple of blocks of city, “around that big carpark building.”

Anyway good luck to Deakin. As The Advertiser says, “It’s been a long time in coming but more than 30 years after Deakin University set up its school of architecture we have locals thinking of the input it might offer to Geelong’s public image.”

Not sure about that “wow-factor” imperative (or the compounding of the words). Geelong is seeking to emulate simlar wowness in Newcastle-Gateshead in the UK. Thank the big Guy upstairs they have shifted focus from Bilbao. Unfortunately, the only recent murmurs from Gateshead on my radar concern the as-we-speak demolition of the famous ’60s carpark featured so well in the original Get Carter film starring Michael Caine. I wrote half a post on that the other week then lost it – look here instead. Or click play then enlarge for best effect:

As the Channel 4 article states, this film icon is to be demolished to make way for the Gateshead Regeneration Project, a 150M GBP project to revitalise the central area. This is part of an even larger 1B GBP project for the greater Gateshead area. This is, unsurprisingly being called BIG . The Gateshead council’s changing attitudes to regeneration and the place of arts and culture within it have been instrumental in allowing the redevelopment. Architect John Devlin was for 12 years the Director of Development & Enterprise at the Gateshead Council and got the ball rolling with the “arts-led regeneration of Gateshead Quays”, a 1B GBP development. Devlin says, “We wanted to give people a reason to invest in the area.”

The Committe for Geelong is hoping to attract Mr Devlin to fix its own waterside quandry, with input from the Deakin students. Executive Director Peter Dowling says, “We need the vision first to excite people, and then investment and money will follow.”

There are inevitable echoes here of Geelong’s attempt in 2002 to snare a Guggenheim gallery, which would have displaced the architecure students from the Woolsheds. After a $3M feasibility study, Council called it a day.

Maybe this time they will think smaller – arts-led regeneration should require cheap space and a willing audience, slowly stimulating a greater interest in the area, not instant “wow-factor” buildings. But Geelong are not after artists and their poverty. As in 2002, they are after visitors and investment (the same rationale behind the Melbourne Arts Precinct spend). Hope this doesn’t lead to just as sterile an environment.

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Posted by Peter on 10.08.10 in 

 

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