3/04/2009

Melbourne Central Mall: Enviro-Porn

As a belated follow up to this post I stumbled across the 'urban garden' below in the entrance to the Melbourne central shopping mall.

The oddest thing about this structure is that the plants appear to be plastic.

Commenting on my CH2 post in this excellent piece Owen Hatherley surmises:

"Infantile as this is, the face of green urbanism has to 'look' green".

Here we see a wonderful extension of this logic, where the aesthetics of 'being green' have detached completely from the actual business of environmentalism. Not only are the plants synthetic, but the infrastructure covered by the plants appears to have no discernible environmental benefits. It is not solar-powered, or self-sustaining; it's a bog standard shopping mall wall plastered with the totemic feel-good symbol of "greenery" (one thinks here of the UK supermarkets lobbying to have the standards of "organic" produce lowered in order to offer lower quality produce for lower prices but with the word "organic" on the packet in a nice green pastoral font). Behind the plastic flowers is the plastic illusion of holistic conscience. It's a PR man's allotment.

If you look at a genuine working man's allotment you will see a real embodiment of urban greenery; scruffy & surrounded by dirty metal and concrete. The Melbourne Central greenery is the polar opposite of this. Underneath its "organic" facade is the synthetic obscenity of a hardcore LA porn film.

37 comments:

michelle said...

Sad.... In our image obsessed Warholian world appearance is all that really matters, and the marketers know it. They know we won’t stop to consider the sincerity of green affectations because we’ve already had so many fake “organic” concoctions shoved under our desensitized noses at the supermarket. In a way it’s just one more part of the now near-total co-optation, trendification and dilution of all counter mainstream concepts by marketers who have to water them down into a safe, gentle and sterile suppository for the lazy masses who can’t seem to tell the difference between the image and the real thing. I can almost hear the marketers slithering up that plastic wall and hissing among the vines.

Oh, and, I found this blog on the first page of google results for the search “Melbourne psychogeography" ... does an active psychogeography chapter currently exist in Melbourne, and if so, where can I find more info on it? Thanks??

And .... random, but have you ever heard about/driven through Mawson Lakes before? It’s like some sort of futuristic suburban experiment in sterile plastic living. It’s pretty interesting.

Bridie Knight said...

I heard an interview on By Design- Radio National, with the (French?) geezer that planted that wall, amongst others in cities around the globe. I haven't seen it in person and imagined it quite different to your photo... living for a start.
I did get the impression from the interview that the 'plant wall/urban garden' was a spreading virus like the Ferris Wheels that seem to have sprouted in many cities around the world.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should have done some research and reading before posting an angry blog about how this wall simply panders to urban greenwashing. Patrick Blanc was commissioned to make the piece with real plants. There's enough sunlight coming through the skylights in the cone to sustain the plants' photosynthesis and they run off recycled water from the airconditioning. The whole system is self-sustaining and plants are generally solar-powered, as it happens. Patrick Blanc is a world reknowned French botanist and having his incredible work adorning our bland shopping malls is a privelege, not a pornographic epic. There is no obvious advertising benefit to having his work there; it simply acts as a purifier of the city air. Personally, I think that's far more "organic" than your internet facade.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/blanc-canvas-20080717-3gy2.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Blanc

http://blog.adonline.id.au/national-tree-day-hits-the-wall/

smallawei said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SPL said...

Anonymous, my piece was critical but this does not mean it was "angry", unlike your comment. It was in fact a dispassionate anaylsis of the urban garden. I'm not sure you understood what I was trying to say. For instance, who mentioned the wall being used for advertising benefits? I'm not Naomi Klein. Kindly respond to what I wrote and not what you imagined you read.

Blanc looks like an interesting man and I'm not knocking him personally, in fact I'd like to read more about him, but the whole thing feels rather 'faddish' as one comment here points out. There seems to be no obvious environmental benefit to the wall (I imagine the effect on the city air that you suggest would be negligible) and aesthetically it is frankly dull and panders to a superficial idea of what "eco" ought to look like.

As for your comments about my blog not being organic... of course there is nothing remotely organic, in a biological sense, about this blog or the internet in general. Surely that is one of the most incredible aspects of it, that we created it ourselves.

I fear you too have fallen into an immature trap of seeing "organic" as a synonym for "good". There is a great deal that is organic about a virus that kills a child in a developing country but not necessarily about the medicine that can treat it. My point was that we need a more reflective and grown up conversation about environmentalism that moves beyond smug anti-science. Sadly you have not managed this.

I am aware that plants are 'solar powered' but if you think that the my blog is a "facade", and I'm not sure why it is any more than any other blog, pehaps you should read the following from the article you linked to:

"On Tuesday night, three-millimetre-thick sheets of felt were stretched and stapled over a 48-square-metre base hanging off this frame, and Blanc's design drawn in chalk on the surface by Sylvain Bidault, Blanc's assistant. On Wednesday night, a group of volunteers worked from 6pm until 6am on Thursday, making little slits in the felt, inserting plants in the pockets they'd opened up, then stapling the outer sheet of felt around the plant, to hold it fast. "Three staples only," Blanc explains. "One left, one right and one at the bottom.""

Mon Dieu! it's like Gaia Herself was wielding the stapler!

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