24 February 2011

198 Berkeley Street (Economics and Commerce Building), University of Melbourne, Carlton, VIC, Australia

The view from Haymarket Junction.
Once upon a time (i.e. for about its first 100 years of existence), the University of Melbourne had an undeniably pretty campus in Parkville with a lake and a lot of gorgeous buildings.  Luckily, some still stand - Old Arts, Old Physics, University House, and the 1888 Building, to name a few.  However, the lake vanished in the late 1930s.  Wilson Hall burnt down and was replaced by a hideous box in the 1950s (soon to be featured here).  And since the 1960s, the university seems to be doing everything it can to erect eyesores that overshadow its rich architectural heritage; see, of course, my recent rant on the Eastern Resource Centre.  The latest chapter in Melbourne University's embarrassing architectural lowlights of the past 50 years opened last year: the new Economics and Commerce Building at 198 Berkeley Street.

Near the intersection of Berkeley and Pelham Streets.
The amount of wank produced by the university and the "architects" surrounding this building almost exceeds the amount of wank on a St Kilda FC team holiday.  And they're up against Nick Dal Santo there, so that's quite a feat!  Just check out the building's website, an unbelieveably hideous and unusable web failure.  Somehow 198 Berkeley St is actually the most attractive thing about that site.  But perhaps the most spectacular wank appears on the university's website, right here.  I quote:

Architect Paul Bennett of Metier3 says:"The University was looking for a landmark to signify their south-western gateway. The opaque enamelled glass has patterns suggesting deciduous trees in winter as well as an abstracted leaf canopy."

The opaque enamelled glass has patterns suggesting deciduous trees in winter as well as an abstracted leaf canopy.  Are they actually serious?  Can they actually say that with a straight face?  I mean, christ-

Just look at it!


No, you blundering nincompoops, the only thing this building's patterns suggest is MOULD.  The opaque enamelled glass has PATTERNS SUGGESTING A GIANT FUCKING LOAF OF MOULDY BREAD AS WELL AS AN ABSTRACTED FUNGAL CANOPY.

Seriously, it looks like some bakers in Melbourne decided to bake the world's largest loaf of bread, succeeded ... but then couldn't actually eat it all and just left it to go mouldy.  The building may be commendable for its environmentally friendly design, but it's about as aesthetically pleasing as my pantry when it's 40C for a few days and I've forgotten that there are loaves of bread and Turkish rolls and pita bread in there.

At least I'm not the only person who has taken some objection; see this blog from July 2009, half a year before the building was officially opened.  Perhaps the only comfort we can take is that this hideous blunder of architecture has been inflicted on the Economics and Commerce faculty, rather than one with real people.  Then again, I'm not sure even economists deserve this, and it reflects pretty poorly on the whole damn university.  And bloody deciduous trees, really?!


Rating: Condemnable.

Geographical note: Although this building is part of Melbourne University's Parkville campus, it is the latest step in the university's expansion beyond its traditional southern boundary of Grattan Street, i.e. into Carlton.

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