I recently watched cartoonist Oslo Davis’s Melbhattan. I wondered, from the awkward Anglo-Unami title, whether this might be a reflection of Melbourne’s spruikers’ predilection for magnifying the tiniest evocations of foreign places found in our midst. Come to Melbourne and imagine you’re in New York, Paris… anywhere but Australia. But Davis says he was trying to ridicule this mindset in his film, “to both charm and roast without being mean”. It is a charming piece of work. The roasting doesn’t quite eventuate, probably because Davis was recreating in Melbourne each shot of the brilliant opening sequence to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”, using locations here, so didn’t have a lot of room to move.
Not that New York hasn’t ever borrowed from the cachet of another place. In 1962 urban planner Chester Rankin christened the area south of Houston St “SoHo”. The reason for the name sticking is probably to do with its close resemblance to Soho in London, which in the ’60s became the swinging place to be thanks to Carnaby Street. Melbourne developers like naming after New York. It’s easy to find blocks of flats with names like ‘Madison’ and ‘Manhattan’. There’s even a ‘Tribeca’ even though it is not in a TRIangle BElow CAnal Street.
South Jersey (NJ) borrowed and transformed SoHo into SoJo. Now areas in Collingwood are becoming known as SoJo (South of Johnston), and NoJo (I’ll leave you to guess that).
The Eastern end of Collins Street has long been nicknamed “Paris End” since the establishment of a small clothes shop with a french name. Now we have a real estate-sponsored “New York End” of Collins Street too. Age contributor Julie Szego rightly thought “Bucharest End” might have been more appropriate.
Melbourne isn’t alone in selling itself as an “almost New York”. Canberrans can soon “wake up in Manhattan” at Manhattan on the Park. They might get slightly less of a surprise when they look out of the window at Penthouse Manhattan in Sydney, or at Manhattan Hill in Hong Kong.
I went looking for an apartment building named after Melbourne, but not in Melbourne. Google couldn’t really understand what I was talking about, but did reveal that a small wedge of Antarctica is named after a long dead Melbourne confectioner know for his white suits.
Well, it’s not an apartment building, but in Seattle’s downtown, we have this: http://www.melbournetower.com/
I stare at it often as I wait for the bus.
Thanks for Melbhattan, it’s beautifully rendered. Each new corner was a memory test and a reminder of home.
This man is making a clever and logical response
to a question that is naive to the point of triviality.
The proposition that the world’s bankers should
in effect buy a massive “world park” from a sovereign
nation for the safeguarding against environmental
degradation (which is the result of chasing profits first)
sounds like a similar idea from the R.C.L. classic
“Corporate Whores Design Utopia”.
by lipsiusr on 13.04.05, 11:06 am ·#
Commenting is closed for this article.