Sunday, 8 July 2007

Public Buildings, Granville

I was reading the paper and was interested in this article by Elizabeth Farrelly, discussing the fact that the major architectural prize for public buildings was not awarded this year, as none was deemed to be up to scratch. Farrelly discussed the decline of public architecture, and the decline of buildings which assert the importance of the public domain.

Farrelly asks: "Why are we so loath to embellish the public realm in which we spend so much time and by which we are all affected? Traditionally, time, and energy and money - love, if you will - were lavished on built institutions because they meant something. They said something significant about aspiration and civilisation.

"A post office was a declaration of a society's beliefs, its public systems and its intention to endure. Now, a post office is just a tacky and badly stocked stationery shop that happens to carry stamps and passport forms, inhabiting an office building like any other; the cheaper and more anonymous the better."

What better than these side-by-side examples from Granville? The old Town Hall dates from 1888, which the foundation stone reminds us was the Centenary of foundation of the Colony. The more prosaic library next door looks to be a 1950s or 1960s effort.


  1. Oh my...I think Elizabeth has a point and is correct. I must confess, however, that on this daily blog I have seen some recent architecture that is stunning. It must show that the decline in thinking is bestowed on those places where the mundane is accepted by the people and the city fathers. I suspect her story will be remembered by elected officials and you might see a architectural prize next year for almost anything completed.

    Nice post. Interesting too.

    My daughter, Melinda, has a picture she took on my blog. It is a stunning macro.
    Brookville Daily Photo

  2. the town hall looks stately indeed

  3. Abe - i love some modern architecture; just the most stunning examples are private buildings (including corporations), not public.

  4. In the 50s it was a problem of money and reconstruction after the war. But there's no excuse now for a liack of fine buildings. Sometimes the City Fathers may be afraid of taking a pasteing if they put up a FWOM.

  5. Growing up in the area in the 60's. the town hall looks much better than I remember it. It was a dull dirty white then. I don't remember the library at all, I used the main one in Parramatta.

  6. How right you are Sally!
    Here, the choice of putting 2 photos rather than one is fully justified!

  7. Great example you've found, although, how could they outdo that great old town hall!

  8. I'm as sentimental as they come about old buildings, Sally, but we live in a different world now. For one, we can no longer [thankfully]obtain the cheap hard working labour on which much of the best construction in that era depended. For another, funding of such programmes in those days depended upon a much narrower section of the population base than is now the case. As affluence became more widespread, and costs were borne by larger sections of society, it became increasingly difficult to convince voters to fund anything they didn't see as valuable to themselves.

    Means testing and death duties are two policies the left supported strongly in my own lifetime, but have virtually dropped since the bottom half of the population, growing excited with their modest gains, turned completely against such "outrageous" notions. Those living a long time can be much more positive about human nature if faulty memories help them to overlook the dramatic changes in voters' attitudes which have taken place as affluence increased.