Variegated Narratives in the Public Architecture of Postcolonial Cities: The Case of Melbourne, Australia

Putra, Yvette ORCID: 0000-0001-8219-1872 (2022) Variegated Narratives in the Public Architecture of Postcolonial Cities: The Case of Melbourne, Australia. In: Architecture and Its Stories, All-Ireland Architecture Research Group conference, 24th-25th March, 2022, Dublin, Ireland.

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I use Melbourne as a case study to interrogate the variegated narratives simultaneously informing and embodied by the public architecture of postcolonial cities. Like other postcolonial contexts, Melbourne’s public architecture is trammelled by complex, diverse, and frequently oppositional narratives, such as Indigenous and non-Indigenous, colonial and national, and elitist and democratic. I classify three intersections of narrative and space in postcolonial cities – genocide, which erases Indigenous sites; reconciliation, which attempts to compensate for past transgressions; and mythmaking, which eulogises settler cultures. My point of departure is the Falls in Melbourne, which was a natural, rocky barrier across the Yarra River and a place for the local Indigenous community to traverse by foot and to gather. In 1883, the Falls was dynamited out of existence in a twofold act of narrative genocide and colonial imprinting. I examine the Falls and its literal erasure from the landscape (relatively little-known chapters in the city’s history), which I then read in relation to twenty-first-century, Indigenous-themed projects linked to the Yarra – Birrarung Marr (Jones and Piha, 2002) and Gayip (Karam and Nicholson, 2006). Next, I critique two postmodern projects in the city, which hypostatise reparatory and celebratory narratives from settler perspectives – RMIT University’s Building 8 (Edmond & Corrigan, 1993), which is a pastiche of popular and high cultures, and the Shrine of Remembrance, which opened in 1934 as the state’s war memorial and whose latest redevelopment (ARM and Rush\Wright, 2014) is positioned as an ideological and stylistic shift from its prior schemes. While reconciliatory and mythmaking narratives may be laudable in themselves, their three-dimensional interventions walk the line between authenticity, and parochial tropes and sentimentality. To conclude, I reflect on the future of narratives in the public architecture of our cities, in which increasingly diverse and historically marginalised voices seek greater representation.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Depositing User: Yvette Putra
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2023 09:59
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 09:21

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