Bits and pieces


Another windy day yesterday so council  closed Laman Street to save us from the possibility of a tree moving a centimetre /a tree looking as though it moved a centimetre because the soil between its roots and the footpath has been washed away in the rain fig falling on someone. I’m sure there’s a tree expert somewhere waking up disappointed every time this happens without a tree falling over. The human instinct to say ‘I told you so’ is almost as great as the instinct to fear insurance companies.

Anyway, what have I found out in the last day or so?

There’s an international conference about trees and wind that seems to happen every couple of years. How’s that! I just googled ‘trees and wind’ and voilà! (And do you know how hard it was to get that accent above the a? I had to contact my IT consultant to do that.) Sadly the website isn’t very accessible and the articles or headings I looked at weren’t exactly gripping fora lay person and it’s mostly about forests rather than urban forests.

This isn’t news but the building shown is one I drive past often. It’s about as inspired as buildings in Our Town get but what I thought last time I looked at it is that it’s probably a great deal more inspired than it would have been thanks to Arthur McGeoch.

He was a dermatologist who had a terrace house where the palms and fountain now stand. For what felt like years  he didn’t /wouldn’t sell his house to the building society when they wanted to put their head office building on the site. Consequently  they had to design the building around his house and this is the result. I wonder whether we would have seen a garden, public art and trees in the square in front if he hadn’t resisted selling for so long. I’m grateful. And I’m grateful to the Perm for the landscaping and the fountain.

There was a recent media release about some good news from Housing NSW and the state government: they have a programme to plant tens of thousands of trees as they recognise trees improve people’s quality of life, at the same time they reduce crime and domestic violence.

Graffiti’s always a hot topic with people and councils and my daughter found a great website which shows Banksy’s work. I’m so out of touch that the first I heard about him was when some council-appointed workers cleaned his work off an alley wall in Melbourne soon after one of his works was sold for something like $1 million on eBay. It was nice to know we’re not the only country that had done this – two years ago some British workers were guilty of the same crime. Every teenager you talk to seems to know about him.

I was reading about what makes a street or suburb walkable and the blog I was reading made the point that interesting shop fronts make people more likely to keep walking – this surely means that one needs to be careful about those gates and shutters on shop fronts that seem to be growing in popularity. Not much to see through those.

There’s a great website called Archetizer that has an e-newsletter on a regular basis. It makes one feel serious building envy.The most recent issue had some fantastic New York buildings from a book celebrating the last ten years there.

Look at the gorgeous Beekman Tower: it would satisfy the developer who just wants a high-rise building and would make the rest of us who envy big cities where innovation is encouraged – or even demanded – happy.

Newcastle needs to insist that new buildings be special, beautiful, out of the ordinary, imaginative.

In Newcastle the talk about a CBD development by a group called GPT goes on. I just had a look at the home page of their Newcastle website: gorgeous photos of Newcastle.

The GPT proposal to turn the CBD into a big shopping centre (my take on it)  divides us based on the left and right of politics, green and don’t-give-a-toss-about-sustainability, ride-or-public-transport vs drive-your-car-like-there’s-no-tomorrow etc – but I exaggerate. The green roof – if it were ever to eventuate – would be a great thing – there should be more of those. Why GPT  insist on getting rid of the rail line is beyond me.

There was a letter to the Herald a month or so ago pointing out that the rail line is the only land in the CBD that’s not undermined and so could tolerate high rises – so what a great place to build. But of course no one wants anything other than a ‘Connection’ between the city and the harbour…

There’s a CBD survey on GPT’s website in which 87yes, 87 – people responded to a series of questions. Here’s the question about the rail line:

‘Do you think that terminating the rail line at Wickham and replacing it with an efficient, modern, bus transit system, thereby allowing the connection of the CBD and harbour foreshore, would help the development of the city?’

Talk about spin.

Here’s another New York building from the AIA New York City book: the Standard Hotel above the High Line project: a disused rail line turned into a park.

This is a great example of how one doesn’t need to remove infrastructure.(Not that the infrastructure in the Highline project is still in use.)

I’d think light rail was great if I thought the funding to build a network in Newcastle would appear – but it never will. If you’re thinking about getting a new fridge or television or car, one of the things you should surely think about is how environmentally friendly your acquisition is going to be – and the greenest appliance you can get is the one you already have – and the greenest, most economical rail line is the one we already have.

I also had a look at the gallery on GPT’s website and felt blind because the images are so small and sick because the buildings are so high and chunky. That’s not a CBD, it’s a shopping centre.

Away from Newcastle but still on trees, I read recently that the council in Bacchus Marsh, to put in a roundabout, have voted to knock down some trees in the Avenue of Honour that was planted in 1918 to honour the war dead and returned men from WW1. In spite of community opposition. [Bye bye most of those councillors at the next election.] Sad.

And lastly, I recently looked up the Visit Newcastle site – and thought, ‘Is that where I live?’ I couldn’t believe there was so much to do.

Cheers.  10 6 2010     Home


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2 Responses to “Bits and pieces”

  1. Ali Says:

    Yes Laman st figs remain standing, despite prior root destabilsation attempts by utility providers! I had a look at the GPT homepage, nice pics. Is that really Newcastle in the virtual tour? I just love all the greenery used to sell the concept. I wonder if they have followed NCC tree policy? “They may plant them but NCC may cut them down!” I love how the virtual Trees are supported by virtual garden beds with what looks like virtual daisies.I hope they are the vandal & cigarette butt tolerant species.Actually I hope any trees planted are also vandal tolerant as sadly vanadlism seems to be the norm for any replantings done around the city. Hence another reason to keep our mature strong robust fig trees!

  2. sharon Says:

    Dear Newcastle City Council,
    If you’re thinking about getting a Civic Precinct “GRAND NEW VISION” one of the things you should surely think about is how environmentally friendly your acquisition is going to be – and the ‘greenest’ Heritage Tree Lined Street you can get is the one you already have – and the greenest, most economical Laman Street is the one we already love & have.

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