Minggu, 25 Agustus 2013

Millers Point/Barangaroo

Millers Point is in the news again, with an excellent article by Tim Barlass in the Sun-Herald that focuses on the residents of Millers Point, and some political and historical context by Evan Jones at New Matilda.

(Millers Point resident Robert Goodsell, 94. You'd like to think that he shouldn't have to worry about being evicted. Photo from the Sun-Herald.)

Not yet in the news is the outcome of the social impact assessment that was conducted recently for NSW Land and Housing Corporation, as part of the NSW State Government's review, announced in October last year, of its continuing ownership of the Millers Point properties. 
We understand that a draft report is with LAHC. The stated intention of the SIA consultant was that the drafted report should be made public, for discussion and feedback, before the final report goes in to LAHC. We look forward with interest to seeing the draft.

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In the meantime, we might look over the boundary of Millers Point to Barangaroo, previously the wharves of east Darling Harbour, now being redeveloped into a glittering citadel of various land uses: commercial, cultural, residential, open space, and gambling.
There's no necessary connection between the development of Barangaroo and the review of properties at Millers Point: they're separate sites, and nothing needs to happen at Millers Point in order for any part of the development of Barangaroo to proceed (equally, if nothing was happening at Barangaroo, the Government might still be reviewing Millers Point).
But when people think about one, they often think about the other. So do we – in a critical way.

We're thinking particularly about the monumental, billion-dollar, international higher-roller casino proposed by James Packer's Crown Group for the middle section of Barangaroo, on land originally intended to be open space. You can see it, in the form that won Crown's design competition, below; it's the tallest of the towers in the image.


In design terms, the Brown Couch prefers one of the runners-up:


The runner-up is at least honest: it looks like nothing so much as a mugger's knife. What to make of the subtly turning forms of the winner? The twisting of a forearm?

But it's not the way the casino is to look that bugs us most. Rather, it's the depressing thought that we, as a society, have arranged our affairs such that we can marshal the huge resources – the machines, the labour, the steel, glass, concrete, electronics and myriad other elements – to build such a thing, for the purpose of attracting, from half a world away and conveyed here by yet more steel and glass and electronics and the combustion of thousands of tonnes of fossil fuels, a select few persons who will do nothing more than sit at tables and flip over little bits of cardboard and push around little pieces of plastic.  

But we can't organise things so that some marvelous old buildings can be properly repaired and maintained, and kept available for the community that has lived in them for years and, into the future, for newcomers – perhaps including in the mix working people who service the buildings and businesses of the city.

Or can we?