Sunday, January 21, 2007

Form 1, Function 0

Good design is supposed to be about making utilitarian objects that also manage to look good – at least that’s what I read in an article on good design in The Saturday Age so long ago that I’ve forgotten when it was. Or perhaps it was in one of their pieces on architecture. Whatever.

Yesterday, in the print edition, Suzy Freeman-Greene took a look at design in Melbourne with the help of The Melbourne Design Guide* and finds that good design is flourishing in Melbourne. The Age even has the photos to prove it, including a picture of a footbridge over the Craigieburn Bypass on the Hume Highway.

The bypass is the product of a collaboration between artist Robert Owen and a firm of landscape architects – Taylor Cullity Lethlean. It’s a big piece of iconic impressive architecture, like the Denton Corker Marshall “Gateway to Melbourne” (aka the Cheesestick) on the road formerly known as the Tullamarine Freeway.

The Cheesestick has no known function whatever – it just provides a bit of visual spectacle for taxi drivers and their passengers on the way to the CBD from Tullamarine Airport. In contrast, the big horseshoe thing on the Craigieburn Bypass also serves as a footbridge. So you get a big, iconic landmark for the interstate truckies, and a bit of community infrastructure in the same package. Only a complete philistine would bag it as a piece of totally crap design.

So I’m a philistine. Over the past few hours, I’ve tried to see this Objet d’Artitecture as an aesthetically pleasing combination of form and function, somehow magnificent in the way that the sweeping curve of the bridge over the roadway manages to combine the utilitarian function of lifting the pedestrians over the tops of the B-doubles with visual excitement. All I’ve managed to see is a plug-ugly attempt to tart up an underlying failure of urban planning – the existence of the freeway in the first place.

I guess that’s why I’m not cut out to be a designer – my thinking is far too pedestrian.

* - to view the Melbourne Design Guide on-line, you will need a Flash player. This is not good web-site design.


Brownie said...

Marshall Dental Corker MUST have something on someone at the Melbourne City.
How do they keep getting gigs?

ugly concrete crap.
I think one of the early 'City Squares" was them.
It's gone now thank god.
and so they should be too.

Anonymous said...

Did you know the cheese stick is supposed to be a giant zipper? You could get killed trying to puzzle that one out as you hurtle past it.

Marshall Dental Corkedher must see going to work as driving up the groin of capitalism.

- barista