Idle thoughts for a beautiful autumn Saturday afternoon


Anyone can start a blog. It costs nothing but your time and potentially peace of mind. It helps if you have a technophilic child in the house. (Who knew what a hyperlink was? Who knew hyperlinks even existed? Who knew you had to resize a photo? Who knew what ‘Paint’ could be useful for?) It helps if you like taking photos and it helps if you can’t keep your mouth shut.

If you want the council’s version of events in Laman Street there’s lots of information on their website. You’ll only find a critique of it here.

The Laman Street-Civic Precinct workshop is not the only place in the world to rely on sticky notes. You may not have read the blog about how the charade/charette was run and so you may not know that they way we shared our ideas were by writing them on sticky notes. These were stuck onto (and presumably then fell off) pieces of new-millenium  butcher’s paper.

It was very Big Brother in the ‘1984’ sense in that the first ten pieces of sticky notepaper had our names on them. It was almost enough to make you think that made it easier to decide whose ideas were to be discarded.

Well – the Oakland Museum of California (bet you didn’t know that existed) is about to reopen after a $58 million renovation and one of the things the museum will be doing is asking visitors to write on ‘post-its’ what they think are the most significant events in recent history.

How did I come to read about this museum? Because of the bizarre discussion at the recent charette about digging up Laman Street because it’s the easiest way to get people to agree to take out the fig trees to extend the basement of the library out into the park I started to read about underground buildings, and the Californian museum is an example of one.

I wanted to try to learn about the cost of this method of building because I assumed it would be astronomical and therefore extremely unlikely to get off the ground (as it were) in Newcastle. Of course, there’s so much to read about and so many gorgeous projects that I became distracted before I reached anything about cost comparisons.

This picture of Oakland Museum of California is from the website , on the page ‘Digging for the green’. This museum was originally built in 1969 but closed its doors a few years ago, due to cost constraints according to one website, and it’s just about to re-open.

There’s another example of a subterranean building with a gorgeous picture of Fort Mill, South Carolina Museum of Life and Environment on the architects’ website: William McDonough and Partners and there’s a quietly beautiful slideshow of an addition called Stone Hill Centre to what looks like a lovely museum,  the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. (Stone Hill Centre is on, not in, a hillside, but it looks so stunning and simple that I couldn’t leave it out.)

One of the priciest underground buildings is the new Museum of Natural History in Utah. What interested me was the funding mix: the state contributed $25 million of the projected cost and Rio Tinto contributed $15 million. The museum is to be named after the company.

Rio Tinto contribute to the Knights, the Hunter Medical Research Institute, the Hunter Valley Research Foundation and the Upper Hunter Conservatorium. Can you picture a Rio Tinto public building in Newcastle? Imagine if they bought the old Post Office building and gave it to the council?

Laman Street is a popular topic for high school students to do projects on. It has everything: it’s an environmental issue, it’s controversial, it’s about community,  it’s about people having a say in what happens to their town, it’s about threatened wildlife, it’s about our heritage and lastly you couldn’t take a bad photo in the street.

This is a Hill’s fig on Ravenshaw Street in Newcastle. It was spared from removal in the face of development because Newcastle City Council insisted that it not be removed. There were three mature figs at the southern end of the street which were declared by external arborists to be unhealthy and they were taken out. I for one am very grateful that they weren’t allowed to remove all the figs from the street. This and one other remain. It’s worth a walk around there to have a look at them.

More next time.               Home


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