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August 09 Edition Cover

The first big idea for Docklands

31 May 2016

The first big idea for Docklands Image

We’ve seen plenty of them – those weird and wacky ideas for Docklands.  But this one from 160 years ago is surely the most futuristic?

Paul Little must be green with envy.  Under this 1860 proposal, ferry commuters can be dropped on the doorstep at Southern Cross Station.

Victoria Harbour was 20 years into the future when this plan was dreamed and documented by civil, sanitary and hydraulic engineer John Millar.  Millar presented his idea to a royal commission and entitled it “Proposed Extension of the City Westward”.

The river can be seen diverting away to the west.  But the vision of the day was to excavate a “tidal harbour” straight through to the bay at Port Melbourne.  Various harbours can be seen along the route, but it is a virtual maritime freeway.

Not so utilitarian is the crescent lake and replica British Isles to the north of LaTrobe “Avenue”. In keeping with the imperial theme is Britannia Crescent and marking the point where the city meets the bush is “Periphery Avenue”.

The north-south streets running through current-day Docklands are the not so imaginatively-named Tenth, Eleventh, Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth streets.

The map is one of many exhibits on display as part of the A History of the Future: Imagining Melbourne exhibition at the City Gallery at the front of Melbourne Town Hall in Swanston St.

Curator Clare Williamson has compiled an exhibition of building plans, underground roads and public art projects proposed by city planners, architects, artists and writers over the last 180 years that would have changed the face of the city and how we engage with it.

The exhibition also features a 14-metre long panoramic wall drawing by artist Lewis Brownlie whose imagined Melbourne’s cityscape brings some of these dreams and schemes to life.

Ms Williamson said the exhibition contained food for thought for anyone interested in Melbourne’s past, present and future.

“In recent years, Melbourne has been transformed, not by towering landmarks, dramatic demolitions or elevated walkways, but by subtle adjustments to the fine grain of its urban fabric,” Clare said.

The exhibition is open until Friday, August 12. For more information see www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/citygallery

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