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So they've been talking about creating a temporary beach on the banks of the Yarra for summer... the idea is to dump a bit of sand, supply deck chairs and beach umbrella's and perhaps a couple of ice cream carts.
Apparently it's inspired by the Paris Plage - an annual artificial beach along the Seine, complete with palm trees. I've never seen the Paris Plage, but I have been to Blijburg beach outside Amsterdam, which is fantastic. Blijburg is a temporary artificial beach located on a housing development site on IJburg, (the new islands in the east of Amsterdam). Eventually it will all be high density housing - but in the meantime it's a beach with a little bar and restaurant. It's not flash - all very make-do-provisional-aesthetic... but that just makes it even more fun. And Amsterdam has three other urban beaches as well - four if you count the 'beach' on the top of the Nemo building.
The great thing about sandy beaches is that they're 'smooth' as Deleuze would say; they're not programmed, the water and people's footprints rewrite them continually - they're open spaces, free spaces - spaces for play - places of becoming. Cities are the opposite, they're highly 'striated' spaces, clearly programmed, places for work, defined places, known spaces. Which is what I like about the idea of a beach in the CBD - it's exciting because it would crash together two completely different types of space - a collision which can't help but change the way we experience the city.
But from the articles I've read about our proposed urban beach - people seem to be canning it, which is a bit of a shame I reckon.
"There are so many beaches in close proximity to the CBD that the concept of an artificial beach seems frivolous and wasteful of resources."
Graeme Gunn (RMIT university architecture, as quoted in The Age 14/08)
What do you think? I've set up a poll so that we can all vote (on the top right of the page). I've read a few different arguments against the beach so far...
Argument 1: We already have perfectly good beaches close to the city including Port Melbourne & St Kilda etc. so a 'fake' beach in the CBD would just be a white elephant.
Well - I grew up in Wollongong, and so it's hard for me to get too excited about Melbourne's bayside beaches at the best of times. To me a 'real' beach has to have surf. Maybe this prejudice is making me miss the point - but I reckon a city beach is just as useful as a Bayside one. After all, a beach in the CBD will do a totally different job to a beach on the coast; no-one is going to go to visit the beach on the Yarra for a 'day at the beach', but they will go there during their lunch hour, or for an brief relaxation during a full-on day of Christmas shopping - or as a chance to allow the kids to let off a bit of steam.
And on those hot summers nights it will be fantastic, people can hang out between festival events, or before a big night out clubbing in the city.
Argument 2: Other cities with Urban Beaches are all landlocked, and that's why their beaches are successful.
See above - I don't think the beaches on the Bay would 'compete' with the city beach. A city beach is just a way of extending Melbourne's beach culture to the city. Mixin' it up a bit. It's about making the city more exciting, more varied.
It's probably a good way of promoting Melbourne's coastal attractions to visitors too. When people think of Sydney - they automatically think of Bondi and golden beaches, but I don't think they do the same for Melbourne. Being from NSW, I certainly never associated Melbourne with 'beach' before I came here.
Argument 3: Beaches don't 'belong' beside rivers - they should only be found by the bay or the sea. A 'faux foreshore' would ruin the 'natural beauty' of the river as it is.
Well, rivers quite often have little beaches. In Australia it's certainly much more natural to find a sandy bank along a river's edge than mounds of green grass planted with English Elm trees, let alone hard bluestone paving. In fact a fake beach won't be any more faux than any other element of the landscape along the city's river edge.
Argument 4: To make a beach you have to take away something that's already there.
That's probably the most convincing argument for not having a beach that I've heard. I can't think of any place along the river in the CBD that 'needs' a beach. I love the rivers edge just the way it is.
The only thing I would say is that the beach would be temporary - so it's really more like putting out a slip n' slide on your front lawn in summer than digging it up and installing a swimming pool. We wouldn't be losing anything for good, just having a temporary change of decor.
Argument 5: It's too expensive, and a waste of money
Well that's out of my league. I have no idea how much it will cost, or what the budget for providing that kind of amenity is. But is it a waste of money? If you see the city-beach as an attempt at an imitation of the 'real thing' then of course it's bound fail, and so yes it's got to be a waste of money. But if you see the beach as an attempt to create a different kind of city space - as some kind of freer more relaxed urban square, then maybe it's not.
Argument 6: People can't swim in the Yarra, so why have a beach?
There's two responses to this - the first is that people can't swim in the Seine either - it doesn't have to be about swimming, it's about lounging, building sand castles and wearing as little as possible (and all in your lunch break).
The second response is the only argument I've heard in the public debate so far which is in favour the Yarra beach concept - and it's my favourite argument because it brings the idea of a beach back to what this blog is about...
Apparently the Yarra Riverkeeper Association has welcomed the idea of a beach precisely because we can't swim in the Yarra. The beach, they argue, will bring Melbournians to the water's edge in a new way and in doing so increase their awareness of the health of the waterways. They'll be on the beach, they'll think about how nice it would be to be able to take a dip, and that will increase the pressure on improving the way we manage pollution and stormwater along our river.
"The closer people connect to the river … the more they'll understand its problems and the more they'll influence government and themselves to take better care of the river."
Riverkeeper Ian Penrose quoted in The Age 14/8
So, what do you think? A city beach ... Stupid? Possibly good, but risky? Or just straight up fantastic?
Labels: eco news