Urban furniture has a useful life of 25 to 30 years, so it requires a timeless design. It’s also a significant investment, with City of Melbourne benches costing between $2,000 and $5,000, rubbish bins around $6,000 and lighting poles up to $10,000.
University of Melbourne associate professor of architecture and former adviser to the mayor of London, Rory Hyde, said the way street furniture could shape a city was highlighted in a Copenhagen project by Danish architecture firm BIG, which scattered street furniture from 60 different countries in one area. .
The objects, which included exercise equipment from Los Angeles, neon signs from Russia and a climbing frame from India, reflected the ethnic diversity of residents and encouraged community use of the area through “urban rooms” and play.
Hyde said that Melbourne had some really iconic design elements, like its curly bike racks.
But he said problems could be created by a lack of cohesion in elements that were added later, such as the fencing at the super streetcar stop in front of Federation Square.
“You have this beautiful streetcar stop and then someone just went and got a yellow fence from Bunnings to put down the center of the tracks so people don’t cross. It’s like, ‘Come on guys, we can do better than that.'”
Hyde said that street furniture was important because it offered a prism for understanding how different people in the city were treated and how their values were communicated.
“Do we welcome skateboarders or exclude them? Do we welcome homeless people or exclude them? Do we offer people a place to sit at a tram stop or deck or do we leave them in the middle of the road?
James Legge of Six Degree Architects said good design could help determine what public space was, pointing to iconic international designs like art deco tube station entrances in Paris and red telephone boxes in London.
“I’m sure a lot of people don’t think twice about the bins they go through or the seats they go through, but it’s important someone does think about it because it will work well or it will work. wrong,” she said.
“People know when they visit a city that works and they enjoy and Melbourne is one of those cities, but you can’t take your hands off the wheel.”
Legge said it was important to recognize the materials and spaces that made Melbourne memorable.
“If we started getting rid of the bluestone and put concrete everywhere, people would eventually start noticing it,” he said.
“It would take a while, but they would figure it out and then it wouldn’t be Melbourne anymore. I think a lot of these things go unnoticed. But it is important for a good city.”
The consultation on the City of Melbourne’s design and construction standards is open until June 15.