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Docklands Melbourne ... took all the trees and put them in a tree museum ...

27 Sep 2011

Docklands Melbourne ... took all the trees and put them in a tree museum ... Image

By George Savvides, managing director, Medibank

I don’t get it. Seven years ago I consolidated four Collins St offices into a single Docklands address and have since observed the district become a highly-concentrated commercial hub for business, sport and high-rise residents.

But I just don’t get the lack of design and creativity in the Docklands streetscape, where 50,000 people walk, exercise, commute, eat and socialise ... or try to!

It’s hard to tell spring has sprung because you’ll probably never hear a bird – birds need trees and these are hard to find.  Nor are you likely to hear a lawn mower because green grass is scarce ... but nice to see and sit on when the sun is shining.

Yes, there is a park, it’s actually a cone-shaped hill with a few trees clustered on the top, (really creative!) surrounded by tall buildings.

The Docklands is a precinct of knowledge workers.  Knowledge is dependent on creativity and innovation which needs the nurturing of outdoor spaces to rest, reflect, be inspired or be invigorated.  

Work precincts need to be more than efficient. We should not put life on hold when we ask our people to come to work.

The Docklands should be a stimulating, open and green space, with walk ways and cycle ways. These facilities encourage a healthy lifestyle and should not be pushed to the unreachable periphery of the surrounding dockyards.

The physical and mental health benefits linked to green spaces are not just good for the individual – they contribute to greater productivity.

No trees, no birds, no grass, a lack of community but a plethora of structures.  What happened to the designers at VicUrban?

Where did the creative people go? Did they get locked up in that tree museum that Joni Mitchell sang about referring to the 1960s LA concrete jungle?

Employers are interested in hiring talented people, engaging them in the challenges of work but people need stimulation and socialisation.

I believe community engagement is important for personal energy and health.

Investing in a creative, stimulating urban design is a good investment, it makes tenants like me want to renew our lease, or brings more employees into the precinct through expanding our presence here.

So ... who told you we wanted only concrete and glass to keep the costs low? What about the total cost of employing staff, their health and retention – not just accommodation.

I want to see soul in the Docklands. Where is the amphi-theatre and free music concerts at lunch time and after work?

On any measure the Docklands fails the test of balance and harmony between office and open green space.

I am happy to pay a bit more because it’s worth it as we get happier and healthier employees, who are fully engaged in their day to day work.

I’m sure our local corporate neighbours want the same thing and we should all sign up as corporate sponsors.  We could argue we already have!

Yet regrettably, all I see are more cranes building more offices blocks, encroaching on footpaths and over roads. Is removing the sky on the agenda? Where are the landscape gardeners? Or the bike paths for the next 20,000 employees?

While Melbourne has again been voted the most liveable city, maybe this doesn’t apply to Docklands in its current format?

VicUrban and Melbourne City Council, I urge you, let’s make the Docklands something we can be proud of with soul and creativity ... it’s what human beings thrive on.

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  • Guillaume at 4:46pm on 30/09/11

    This article may be negative about Docklands, it has generated strong debate with excellent comments. When this item was re-published in the Age it attracted 188 comments. They are worth reading and are a source of good public opinion. I see a positive future for Docklands because people care enough to comment! If only those in a position to make a difference, took the time to read these comments.
  • Anne Patch at 6:55am on 01/10/11

    I could not agree more with George. The Docklands has been destroyed by overdevelopment. A great opportunity lost. And yet the few reaming open spaces are being developed with high rise, greed, unbeleivable. It could have been so much more.
  • Karin Long at 10:06pm on 03/10/11

    High Rise taking over what small amount of green space there is ...Empty ground floor commercial spaces. Repetitive retail. If you live there nothing is on offer for the community to do. Where is the library, the swimming pool and the theatre? On the City Circle tram Docklands claim to fame is ACE and the NAB Bank. Docklands is never going to be anything but an opportunity wasted.

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