Communication & Social Relations RMIT University, 2010
1. Marcin Nagorski
2. Arthur McCarthy
3. Chung Wennie
4. Hui Peng
1. Video Billboard Recent architecture in Melbourne has been more adventurous than ever before in the past. Building designs in particular have begun to incorporate technology into their structures and facades. The APN Outdoors advertising billboard is as much an advertisers dream as it is a design marvel. It is an aesthetically pleasing LED screen mounted across the street from one of Australia’s busiest train stations. Appearing (from the left to the right) to be made of smaller LED blocks that build to make up the whole it is designed to be a technological marvel as well as a billboard. It’s image quality is almost unaffected by weather and viewing angle and it contrasts greatly against it’s host, the Young and Jackson hotel building. Although the billboard is mounted onto an older building, if one looks right at home, giving the entire building a more “modern” look. Krajina (2009) describes this effect on the façade of a building as “liquid”, the architectural surface of a city is now in a state of constant change. The incorporation of a screen such as the one on Flinders Street into the physical facade of a building creates the opportunity to breathe a new life into the whole of a city. “Light” has always been one of the main factors that gives any city life (Krajina, 2009). These screens offer a new form of light, adding movement to it, and creating a new constantly changing and shifting life within the city.
Federation Square is a prime example of where this has become a reality. Several LED screens advertising movie times have been designed into the building’s western face. The constant movement gives the area a feel of busyness, even when the area is deserted. This gives the feeling of community to people, the city is communicating with its publics and with itself (Struppek, 2006). The design of these screens is increasingly becoming more apparent throughout Melbourne and the world, where entire networks of these digital billboards are being created. Design is incorporating “evolving technology” to morph into something more consumable (Brill, 2002). The APN billboard is the first step to reaching the goal of an ever-‐ changing and morphing consumer environment. People have been enthralled by architecture for as long as they have been building things, and this is evident enough from the sheer diversity of our structures all over the world, and in Melbourne. Melbourne has been in the process of becoming a digitally liquid city for some time now. With the completion of Federations Square in 2002 (and the add-‐on in 2006) as well as with the mounting of the APN Outdoors billboard the first steps to reaching the ultimate goal of the eternally unique city. Standing out from the rest of the world is what Melbourne has tried to do for a long time with its design. By copying many of the world’s most celebrated buildings in it’s own CBD and surrounding areas, and adding the “liquid façade”, Melbourne will finally have its unique identity. 2. State Library of Victoria The State Library of Victoria, which represents the heart of the city of Melbourne, dates back to 1856 making it one of the oldest buildings in Victoria. Many famous people can be attributed to founding the library none more so notable and influential than Sir Redmond Barry and Lieutenant Joseph Charles La Trobe. Barry, the Chairman of the trustees of the library insisted that the library would provide etiquette and knowledge to a post gold rush society wanting to build a
‘great emporium of learning and philosophy, of literature, science and art’. (Redmond Barry 1856) By the year 1865 the State Library of Victoria housed in excess of 38,000 books and the need for expansion was soon becoming evident. This resulted in the construction of new buildings including the spectacular domed reading room which opened in 1913. This magnificent reading room was designed to seat 320 readers and to house 32,000 books on the shelves around its walls. The remainder of the Library’s ever-‐growing collection was stored in stacks, available to readers on request. Leslie Cannold labels The State Library of Victoria as Victorians major reference and research centre, saying describing the building itself as “beautiful” and “cleverly renovated”. It is a building that offers students, scholars and creators a “wealth of resources”. Her issue with the library surrounds “hordes” of secondary students that through “giggling”, “whispering”, “texting” and “flirtatious dashing from one table to the next” create a culmination of noise that abhorrently ignores the sign and tradition of libraries being “a quiet area for silent work and study”. (Leslie Cannold 2010) In light of 2004 being the 150th anniversary of The State Library of Victoria, Philip Goad wrote a blog to explain the origins of the building itself. The State Library which has also at times been home to the National Museum and National Gallery begun in 1853 and was designed by competition winner Joseph
Reed. Goad revealed that Reed chose to design the library with ‘Roman Revival’ design, however it must be noted that the building has been added to a few times. (Phillip Goad 2004) Over its 150 year heritage it has been renovated 4 times and overall has had 11 architects. Between 19061911, Bates, Peebles and Smart designed what for a small time would be the world’s largest re-‐enforced dome. The polygonal dome which rises over 4 levels is now iconic to the city of Melbourne and now stands proudly as one of Melbourne’s most loved institutions. The State Library of Victoria whilst renowned for its literature and research is also one other significant thing; a meeting point and often the centre of rallies and protests. On January 9th 2009, about 100 Israel supporters gathered on the steps of State Parliament chanting "no more terror" only to be outnumbered by around 1000 pro Palestinian supporters. Due to the iconic status of the library it is often a representation of society and thus these protesters gathered their not only because it is in the heart of Melbourne but because they were making a social and political stand. (Mitchell 2009) The library’s founder Sir Redmond Barry envisioned Melbourne to be the Rome of the south and whilst the State Library of Victoria resembles aspects of Roman architecture the core essence of the library is Australian, holding social and cultural artefacts significant to Victoria. It would be fair to say that whilst Melbourne as entity hardly resembles Rome, it has created a unique city of which the iconic library stands proudly at the heart of. 3. Hosier Lane Hosier Lane is a part of Andy Mac’s City Lights project – ‘an independent public art project utilising permanent light box exhibition sites and produces ephemeral events focusing on collaboration, street art, and emerging artists’ (Mac, 2009). It is located on the Southern part of Melbourne CBD, opposite Federation Square on Flinders Street. It is well known for its ever-‐changing graffiti and street art.
Graffiti is not only an art displayed on public space, it forms a lifestyle that is concealed from the public. Most importantly, Graffiti acts as a social and political medium. It can offer important information on the motivations and ideologies of the artists, and is continuously changing according to current issues. Also, graffiti can be seen as a new form of visual cultural production that is able to enhance the everyday urban life (Austin, 2010).
Evidence to this is that graffiti can even be linked back to the Pluralist Decade (Austin, p 37) – how graffiti was created in a direct dialogue and used to communicate with the society. During that period of time, new ideas of finding civil rights and social identity were passed on through graffiti. It can be said that the people used graffiti when their freedom of speech was taken. This shows that graffiti can be influenced by social changes and ethnic communities. Graffiti changes with the city – ‘New contexts reflect and shape new meaning (Austin, p 42).’ Graffiti provided a way of seeing something new; offers another public site for discussion, information sharing and creation. Graffiti can be used as an advertising (communication) tool. This is because graffiti artists have just as much right to use public spaces for advertisement as corporation uses large billboards (Farmer, p 20). There are also a number of similarities between graffiti and billboards advertisement. They both communicate with the public – billboards persuade and attract the public whereas graffiti can change the public.
Graffiti can be influenced by its surroundings and how people convey their ideas through them. It contains the artist’s ideologies politically and socially. Artists express their angst towards the country’s political affair through graffiti and how the message is passed on (Farmer, 2007). Artists place their ideologies not in words, but pictures where only some people may understand them. Through graffiti, they spread their ideologies, and when the public adopts these ideas, it may create a strong political or social response. The aesthetic criteria and motives behind the artist’s work far outweigh arguments on legality or unconventional presentation (Werwath, para. 2). In conclusion, graffiti not only act as a medium for expressing political and social messages, but it changes with the environment. People who cannot express their dissatisfactory through words, regardless of who they are, can express them through graffiti. Although graffiti is always associated with negative issues such as vandalism and crime in the past, it now acts as a common communication tool for the public. It is definitely a very strong tool to express political and social messages. 4. Chinatown’s Archway: “Paifang” The main cities of the Western countries have their Chinatowns. In Melbourne, Chinatown was established in the city CBD, and located in Little Bourke Street and its lanes between Swanston and Russell streets. Chinatown began as a staging post for the greater quantity of Chinese people passing through Melbourne on their way to the goldfields. The Chinese set up their shops alongside brothels, houses, herbalists and opium dens (Armstrong, M 1997, p.17), but nowadays, Melbourne’s chinatown is made up f stalls, restaurants and is an iconic streetscape in Melbourne’s inner city. And the Chinatown gate is one of it’s communication features. ‘Paifang’, also called ‘Pailou’ or arch in English, is a wooden or stone archway built mainly to commemorate a great achievement or loftiness of a family’s ancestors. Each ‘Paifang’ has its own cultural connotations and symbolisms, which are expressed in the gorgeously colourful painting and patterns (Travel China Guide, 2009).
As the ‘Paifang’ symbolizes Chinese culture and long history, one is able to comment on the definitions of the patterns and items on the ‘Paifeng’ from a design perspective. Although the ‘Paifang’ of Melbourne’s Chinatown is not pretty large, like the royal family’s, it is not difficult to see its painting, colours and engravings and embossing on the top are exquisite. The gold Chinese unicorns on the top of archway roof, and some gold decorations under the roof, some blue and green paintings on the ‘Paifang’s’ surface are great examples of this. The ‘Paifang’ wpuld be decorated with lanterns and festoons during Chinese festivals, and would play an active role in traditional lion dances and the lighting of firecrackers. Becoming a living addition to the streetscape of Chinatown. Archways generally built of wood, brick or stone and display inscriptions. ‘Paifang’ does not ‘live’, does not keep out wind and rain, but has a religious connotation aiding in prayer to Buddha for help. Nevertheless, depending on its decorative forms and various social functions, its “inner secret” is very varied and ancient. Thus ‘Paifang’ has profound historical significance and special status in the traditional Chinese culture (Der, 1929). Melbourne is one multicultural city, like a big family, different nationalities live, work, study and communicate in Melbourne. Chinatown is representative of Chinese culture, and the archway directly illustrates a marked symbol of Chinese culture. Nowadays, the arch in Chinatown is one of Melbourne’s landmarks. That is why people, whether Chinese or others see the ‘Paifang’ easily recognize this area as Chinatown. In an influential book called A Primer of Visual Library, author Donis Dondis (1973) proposed that visual information is processed on three levels:
representational, abstract and symbolic. Symbolic information also includes geometry, line, icons and colour and considers the image’s effect on the viewer. Six possible uses for icons in contemporary society are; to make a mark on the word, as in a signature. To communicate when alphabetic or numeric systems fail. To converse with those who do not understand our language. To initiate a story. To project out image onto others and to offer information that needs to be quickly understood (Helmers, M 2006). In Melbourne city, I believe that you would not find another Chinese archway so full of culturally unique characteristics of art as in Chinatown. Chinatown’s ‘Paifang’ is not only a gate, but also a Chinese symbol in Melbourne and even in the world. REFERENCES: Brill, L, M 2002, LED Billboards: Outdoor Advertising in the Video Age, Sign Industry, viewed 15 April 2010, <http://www.signindustry.com/led/articles/2002-‐07-‐30-‐ LBledBillboards.php3> Krajina, Z 2009 “Exploring Urban Screens”, Culture Unbound, Vol. 1, pp. 401-‐430 Struppek, M 2006, “Urban Screens – The urbane Potential of Public Screens for Interaction”, Intelligent Agent, Vol. 6, No. 2 Leslie Cannold, The Age Newspaper, (February 23, 2010), Society & Culture, ‘Chattering classes invade library quiet’, <http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-‐and-‐culture/chattering-‐classes-‐ invade-‐library-‐quiet-‐20100222-‐oro0.html > Philip Goad, (1 March 2004) Walking Melbourne, ‘The State Library of Victoria’ <http://www.walkingmelbourne.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=469> Geraldine Mitchell , Herald Sun (January 4 2009), “Gaza protests spill onto Melbourne Streets”. <http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/gaza-‐ protesters-‐hit-‐city-‐streets/story-‐e6frf7kx-‐1111118473662> 2009, Headaches due to wind cold, Memorial Arch (Paifang), viewed 17 April 2010, <http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/architecture/culture/paifang.htm>. Der, L 1929, Two Years in the Forbidden City , Dodd, Mead and Company, viewed 17 April 2010, University of Virginia Library.
Dondis, D, A 1973, A Primer of visual Literacy, 1st edn, The Mit Press, Cumberland, USA Helmers, M 2006, ‘The elements of critical viewing’, The elements of visual analysis, 1st edn, Pearson Education, Inc, pp. 26-‐57. Austin, J. 2010, ‘More to see than a canvas in a white cube: For an art in the streets’, City, Edn 14: 1, Routledge, London, pp. 33 – 17. Farmer, S.L. 2007, ‘An Evaluation of Graffiti as a Tool for Conveying Political and Social Messages’, BSc Digital Arts and Technology, University of Plymouth. Mac, A. <n.p.> 2009, ‘About City Lights Project’, blog, n.d., City Lights Projects, viewed 13 April 2010, < http://citylights-‐projects.blogspot.com/ >. Werwath, T. 2006, The Culture and Politics of Graffiti Art, Wilde Lake High School, viewed 14 April 2010, < http://www/graffiti.org/faq/werwath/werwath.html >.