Assessment Task 3 Communication Artefacts from a Design Perspective Harry Hughes Artefact: Le Louvre on Collins Street Le Louvre is a retail outlet widely considered as part of the upper class “Paris end” of Collins Street. It is a place prominent in Melbourne’s history because it is seen by many as the last remaining link between Melbourne and European haute couture. According to the Lonely Planet guide to Melbourne, many Melbournians are “too scared to step inside the Parisian outlet” due to the associations that come with shopping at Le Louvre.
Since the 1930s, when the term “Paris end” came into wide usage (and was in fact coined by founder and original owner Lillian Wightman), the store has been respected as an outlet of fine fashion and an aspect of the city’s upper class. This is primarily due to the part it played in introducing European designers to Melbourne at a time when elitist fashion started to become important to Melbournians. It is thus clear that this retail store was, and still is, able to link Melbourne and the
white Australians who founded it to another place – Europe. Le Louvre helps to communicate that Melbourne is not a stand-alone city; it has cultural links to many other places. These cultural links are not confined to Europe; they extend to Greek, Aboriginal, Chinese and several other cultures. (Greek cafes, Aboriginal art, Chinatown and British-originated signs are just a few examples of these cultures).
The building was originally a townhouse built in 1855. In 1927, the owner of the time had its façade stripped and altered, and from then onwards, the appearance of the building has barely changed. The “enigmatic” façade now boasts a distinct Parisian style and design – large glass windows showing off the gold-lit interior, wooden framework, and several floors above the ground level, similar to certain luxurious stores on Paris’ Champs Elysees. Indeed, just walking past any of the “high end treasures” on Collins Street (such as Chanel and Gucci) transports you to another place and time; truly a far cry from the dingy and dark laneways that fester all over the central business district.
In Pamie Fung’s article “The seduction of the laneways: making Melbourne a ‘world city’”, she writes about Melbourne’s laneways and analyses their appeal; how they give Melbourne the air that it has. Fung mentions that structures in Melbourne’s central business district “compress different European places, styles and times” and that “modernity and sophistication are located in the ‘classy’ Euro-look of the city centres”. It is clear that European style was strived for by Australians (if only because Australia is viewed, even by Australians as a “primitive backwater”) and the Parisian style structure of the Le Louvre building no doubt plays a part in giving Melbourne the “Euro-look”.
William H. Jordy’s architectural study “The Symbolic Essence of Modern European Architecture of the Twenties and its Continuing Influence” speaks of the influence of European architecture on the rest of the world during the 1920s. A perfect example of this is, in fact, Le Louvre, the design of which includes the trademark “extravagantly open interiors” that were present all over Europe. REFERENCES: 1. (Anon), “Fashion & Fun”, Total Travel, 22 May 2010, http://www.totaltravel.com.au/promotions/australia/victoria/melbournewinter/fashion-fun.asp 2. (Anon), “Le Louvre”, Lonely Planet, 21 May 2010, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/australia/melbourne/shopping/366247 3. Jordy WH, 1963, “The Symbolic Essence of Modern European Architecture of the Twenties and its Continuing Influence”
4. Fung, P 2006 “The seduction of the laneways: making Melbourne a ‘world city’”, Crossings 11(2): 1-12, http://www.inasa.org/crossings/11_2/index.php?apply=fung. Accessed 09 Feb 2009, viewed April 15 2010, RMIT University Library
Chan Lai Wah Artefact: Koori Artwork on the corner of Bourke and Swanston Streets Whenever the topic of Melbourne’s culture crops up, the discussion of several other cultures is involved. It is widely agreed upon that Melbourne culture is a fusion of several different cultures, forming a unique and exquisite tradition of its own. However, Koori tradition and culture is often overlooked in this circumstance. Along with Parisian, British, Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, Koori ethnicity is also an integral part of Melbourne culture. Most Melbournians are not aware of the significance of Koori culture in this city – in fact, most would not recognise depictions of Koori artwork. On the corner of Bourke and Swanston Streets, artist Lisa Kennedy has painted an electrical supply box with elegant and
poignant delineations of Koori culture and way of life. If not for the inscriptions painted on the artefact (..the Timeless Beauty and Spirit of Koori People and Culture), nobody, save a handful of culturally astute citizens, would know the origins of the symbols illustrated.
These beautifully illustrated symbols of Koori life exemplify the fact that Melbourne is a cultural city. Melbourne culture is an intricate blending of various different cultures, global cultures as well as local cultures. The European-esque laneways, Parisian shops on Collins Street, quaint signs borrowed from British history, Aboriginal art, vibrant Chinatown and delightful Greek cafes all illustrate the mixture of cultures that make up a captivating and unique one. Not to forget, Melbourne’s own founders and origins, whose culture is spread out throughout the city in the form of statues (The Three Business Men Who Brought Their Lunch, Larry LaTrobe). Thus, Aboriginal art reinforces the importance of indigenous culture in the formation of Melbourne’s own culture. (Whitelaw, A 2006)
This said, it can be concluded that Melbourne would not be Melbourne without all those different traditions and ways of life. Melbourne is not just about the original white Australian founders (although, they too, are no doubt a prominent part in this culture). The beauty of Melbournian culture is the curious blend of so many different cultures, as well as the respect that exists for each of these cultures. “Koories adhere to their Aboriginal identities, kin and culture as most Melbournians now respect these Koori cultural expressions”. This quote from an
article by the University of Melbourne (2008) advocates the hypothesis regarding the cultural harmony that exists due to the respect shown for every single culture, including Koori culture.
There is no doubt that Melbourne being a cultural city is due to the interesting blend of cultures as well as the respect for each other’s cultures that exist as mediums. However, is culture in modern day Melbourne becoming farcical? As time goes by and histories are forgotten, is it a superficial culture that exists in Melbourne? Aboriginal design motifs are used as sources for a revitalised, highly decorative and supposedly ‘authentic’ form of Australian clothing. (Maynard, M) Koori art is more than just decorative and beautiful. Koori artwork is crafted with depth and meanings hidden within the symbolism. Koori motifs used as clothing patterns signifies a decline in cultural recognition. What will become of Melbourne culture when this decline strikes the other cultures that help define this city? REFERENCES 1. Whitelaw, Anne 2006, ‘Placing Aboriginal Art at the National Gallery of Canada’, Canadian Journal of Communication, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 197 – 214, viewed 17 April 2010, <http://web.ebscohost.com> 2. School of Historical Studies, Department of History, The University of Melbourne 2008, Aboriginal Melbourne, eMelbourne, the City Past and
Present, viewed 17 April 2010, <http://www.emelbourne.net.au/biogs/EM00001b.htm> 3. Maynard, Margaret 1999, ‘Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture’, The Red Center: The Quest for “Authenticity” in Australian Dress, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 175 – 195, viewed 23 May 2010, < www.ingentaconnect.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au>
Minh Huy Le Artefact: Larry LaTrobe Statue on the corner of Collins and Swanston Streets Located on the corner of Collins and Swanston Streets, Larry La Trobe is a lifesized statue of a dingo type dog. This statue was made by an artist, Pamela Irving, in 1992 as part of the Percent for Art Program and Swanston Street Redevelopment. Larry, a gift to the City of Melbourne, keeps an observant eye on the ongoings of the street and city Square. After being stolen in 1995, the statue was restored (with slight changes to its detail) on the 16th of September, 1996. The statue’s restoration was funded by the owner of the foundry where Larry was cast.
The name Melbourne was given to the European settlement founded by Batman and Fawkner in 1835. Aboriginal people lived in the areas tens of thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans and from them, originated a complex culture and art. Melbourne was a young city that was created by private plan, and as a result, most of the artworks in Melbourne is made by private, rather than public planning. Consequently, there are several parts of our constructed environment that illustrate exquisite and artistically pleasing craft. Despite the beauty of these crafts, these are not necessarily labelled as “art”. On the other hand, there are many other objects that show little craft or depth in thinking that are labelled as “art”.
Based on the surge in public art in Melbourne, we have to determine the definition and role of two different concepts – “artwork in public places” and “artwork by / with the public”. Shin (1999) argues that most of the things we perceive to be “public art” are, in fact, not “public art” at all. These arts, often misconstrued as public art, are arts in public places. Art in public places refers to works of art placed in view of the public, while public art is a hybrid work involving much more than simply the creative products of an individual artist. Larry Latrobe, as an accessible artwork that is increasing the value of the city, considered as a small landmark and built under the plan of the city council, is therefore “public art”. The
role of public art is constantly changing, as seen throughout history, from Aboriginal art to European-esque art.
Currently, art is considered as a social process, thus it has a potential role in creating convivial cities. Miles (1997) believes that participatory art has a more important role than formalist art in the living city context now and promotes attentiveness to social healing, “cultural diversity, ecological healing”, the reclamation of public space, and the “empowerment of urban dwellers”. Now, we should view public art from different perspectives to determine the actual role of public art in the future of urban development. While Melbourne is a city of art, we should consider the theoretical context of how public art can contribute, through practices which are decorative or activist, to a new urbanism based on the values of those “who seek an ecologically responsible and communitarian society”. (Miles p188)
1. “The White Hat Guide to Public Art in Melbourne”, White Hat Website, viewed 17th 2010, < http://www.whitehat.com.au/Melbourne/Galleries/PublicArt.asp > 2. Dongsuk Shin, November 1999, ‘Public Art in the City of Melbourne Its Typology and Planning’, Master research project thesis, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, p 1-15 3. Miles, M 1997, ‘Art as a social process ‘and ‘Convivial cities’, in Art , Space and the City, 1st edition, Routledge, London, p 164-208
Ruby Mountford Artefact: painted street sign, corner of Celestial Lane off Little Burke Street Throughout Melbourne, there is evidence of the city’s multicultural roots, spanning Europe, the British isles, Asia and the original inhabitants of Melbourne; the Koori people. Located on Celestial Avenue, off Little Burke Street, there is one of these remnants. A painted street sign of a bygone era, its quaintly old fashioned message a stark contrast to the modern world just outside of the avenue.
This communications artefact is a black and white sign painted directly onto a bare brick wall around 2 meters off the ground. The words “Commit No Nuisance” are painted in white on a black background with a white border. It is the message of the sign that appears a curiosity, as today such a vague instruction appears comical.
It was not always so. The design of the warning derives from similar signs in London and India. The design was originally planned as a “discreet warning against performing improper acts in public, most commonly urination” (Only Science 2009) for such acts were in breach of the law and punishable by imprisonment as of the 12th century.
The exact date the sign was painted is unknown, as is the artist who stencilled it onto the wall. One possibility is that it was linked to a children’s school that opened in 1892, and was entered through Celestial Avenue. When three teachers at the school contracted typhoid fever it was thought to have been caused by a defective draining system of the alley, which in turn would support the introduction of a sign warning against public urination and defecation, both activities that pollute the water. (Bate 1994). However there is no concrete evidence to support this theory.
The design of the sign itself is simple. The letters are of such a size that can be seen and read easily as one walks by the alley, a suggestion still incorporated in modern sign design, for as Theis (2001) argues, “if your sign will be seen from a distance, you'll need a typestyle with strong, simple strokes”. The sign itself is positioned close enough to the corner so as to be visible to passersby, placement being another factor in a sign’s efficiency. The border around the sign suggests the sign was designed to be read by the people walking by, as borders are considered to allow the reader to focus on the message and read it quickly (Theis 2001).
The simplistic colour choices of black and white allow the sign to stand out from the ochre of the brick. However, while this was suitable in 1890s, black and white is now quickly overshadowed out by the loud and bright advertisements and shops in Little Burke St. Attention is drawn to the “No” by the three small leaves on either side of the word, again in white, to add further emphasis.
The many cultural roots of this city; the street art, architecture and other remnants of Australia’s colonisation and international integration are often seen as an enhancement to Melbourne; quirks that add to the city’s uniqueness and identity. It is most likely this mentality has enabled this communications artefact, a remnant of British colonisation, to survive if not completely free from vandalism, then as an object that, while having outlived its usefulness, is still regarded with fondness.
REFERENCES 1. Unnamed author, 2009, ‘“Commit no Nuisance” signs and shy bladder syndrome’, blog, 13 December, Only Science!, viewed 10th April 2010, < http://onlyscience.net/2009/12/13/commit-no-nuisance/>
2. Bate, Weston 1994, Essential but unplanned: The story of Melbourne's lanes, 1st edn, State Library of Victoria and the City of Melbourne, Melbourne,
3. Theis, Kate 2001 “Effective Sign Benefits”, 14th March, Sign Industry.com, viewed 18th May 2010 < http://www.signindustry.com/banners/articles/2001-03-14effectiveSignDesign.php3>
Published on Jun 2, 2010
This is the collaborative group publication from the design group. First arterfact: Le Louvre by Harry Hughes. Second arterfact : Koori Artw...