The Role of a Public Square in Contemporary Melbourne

March 31, 2011

Through my essay I wish to explore notions of power and identity construed through the built form in relation to public squares, in particular Federation Square in Melbourne (LAB Architecture Studio, 2002). Using an examination of historical models as a base, I will aim to define what role a civic square has in a contemporary Australian society. Through spatial investigations I will discuss how the plaza of Federation Square fits into the public square ‘type’, and discuss instances where it deviates from this. I will investigate how the built environment begins to shape and inform the users of a public space and their behaviour, and the restrictions of this use which are embodied within the design, both explicit and implicit. I will do this through an exploration of the permanent structures and urban context which frames the plaza, along with more temporal events that occur within the space itself.

The use of Federation Square as a politically charged space will be investigated, using the design changes of ‘the Shard’ buildings as an example to examine the role and extent of the State and their input on the final spatial qualities. I will be testing my hypothesis on the behaviour of users of Federation Square on key thinkers of the twentieth century, not limited solely to architectural discourse, but inclusive of urban theorists, social commentaries and philosophers. Through this I wish to test the relevancy of these theories to contemporary urban practices, and attempt to ascertain the role a public square can still play in society, specifically in relation to Melbourne.

Preliminary Bibliography:

Bates, D. (2003) “Federation Square the P’s and Q’s of a Major Project”, Architecture Australia, Jan/Feb2003, Vol. 92 Issue 1, p14.

Canetti, E. (1962) Crowds and power, London : Gollancz, translated from the German by C.Stewart.

Carter, P. (2006) “Writing Public Space: Design, Philosophy, Art”, New Zealand Sociology, 2003 Vol. 21, No. 1.

Crist, G. (2003) “Urbanity and Federation”, Architecture Australia, Mar/Apr2003, Vol. 92 Issue 2, p48.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1988) “The Smooth and the Striated”, from A Thousand Plateaus, London: Athlone, pp. 474-500.

Deutsche, R. (2000) “Agoraphobia,” from Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Dovey, K. (2008) Framing Places, 2nd ed. London:Routledge.

Foucault, M (1975) “Panopticism”, from Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York: Vintage Books, pp. 195-228 translated from the French by A. Sheridan.

Goad, P. (2000) “Radar: Urbanity”, Architecture Australia; May/Jun2000, Vol. 89 Issue 3, p20.

Jencks, C. (2003) “The undulating Federation Square, designed by Lab Architecture, mirrors the city and country through dissonance and harmony”, Architectural Record, Jun2003, Vol. 191 Issue 6, p108.

Krier, R. (2003) “Typological and Morphological elements of the Concept of Urban Space”, from Cuthbert, A. (Ed.) Designing Cities: Critical Readings in Urban Design, Oxford:Blackwell, pp 323-339.

Lynch, K. (1981) “Control”, from Good City Form, London: The MIT Press, pp. 205-220.

Macarthur, J. (2003) “The Aesthetics of Public Space”, Architecture Australia, Mar/Apr2003, Vol. 92 Issue 2, p46.

Rice, C. (2005) “Experience and Criticality: Returning to Federation Square”, The Journal of Architecture, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp 323-333.

Stevens, Q. (2007) “The Social Dimensions of Urban Space”, from The Lucid City, London:Routledge, pp 54-66.

-Tim Brooks

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