City as a breath­ing whole

Jerry de Gryse says we have to think clearly be­fore we act on our de­sign

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS - WITH AMANDA DUCKER

HE wants public art, not mon­u­ments to our colo­nial past. He wants wellde­signed street fur­nish­ings, not generic fit­tings. He wants green leafy streets, not tar­mac and parked cars. And he wants a city cen­tre de­signed to sup­port vi­brant civic life.

When we meet at cafe

Berta for our fu­ture-fo­cused chat, Jerry de Gryse gets to the point about the Myer block of Liver­pool St, Ho­bart,

“Liver­pool St is a missed op­por­tu­nity,” says the mul­ti­award-win­ning land­scape ar­chi­tect of the re­cent streetscap­e re­vamp.

“Our city spent a lot of time and money to try to lift the stan­dard and in so many ways it has missed the mark.”

Jerry points to the tulip trees (Liri­o­den­dron tulip­ifera) as part of the prob­lem. Given his firm, In­spir­ing Place, helped write the City of Ho­bart’s Street Tree Strat­egy pub­lished two years ago, I am all ears. “The trees out there are lol­lipops,” he says. “They are planted in an in­ad­e­quate vol­ume of soil, which will not sup­port a tree of any longevity or any size ... They are beau­ti­ful trees, but they need soil to sur­vive.”

As well, he says that as a fasti­giate not spreading va­ri­ety, they are the wrong type of tulip tree to cre­ate an ap­peal­ing over­ar­ch­ing canopy of dap­pled light.

Speak­ing of light, Jerry joins two of my pre­vi­ous col­umn guests, Dark Mofo cre­ative di­rec­tor Leigh Carmichael and Dark Sky Tas­ma­nia’s Lan­don Ban­nis­ter, in his dis­may over the ar­ti­fi­cial il­lu­mi­na­tion of this block.

“De­spite peo­ple try­ing to do things dif­fer­ently we have ended up with this grossly over­lit street. It is light pol­lu­tion.”

Though he finds much to love around Ho­bart, Jerry says the beauty of our built en­vi­ron­ment falls far short of the beauty of our nat­u­ral sur­rounds.

“Ho­bart’s in­sta­grammable tourism im­agery is re­liant on what is left of the place Euro­peans in­her­ited from the orig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants — a mo­saic of veg­e­tated hill slopes, rugged to­pog­ra­phy, un­du­lat­ing fore­shore and the deep space look­ing in­land to the wild and out­ward to the ocean,” he says.

To bring up the lag­ging flank, he thinks we need to fo­cus more on the idea of “live­abil­ity in­fra­struc­ture” — nat­u­ral and cul­tural as­sets in­clud­ing light­ing, green spa­ces and street trees, seat­ing, pedes­trian and cy­cling net­works and public art.

He wants El­iz­a­beth St to be­come a pedes­trian zone from Fed­eral St, North

Ho­bart, to the water­front, with wider foot­paths, an elec­tric tram, and few or no cars.

Jerry pro­posed a tram­line on the route in the 1989 North Ho­bart Town­scapes Strat­egy and says the idea re­mains vi­able. Then, as now, it is hardly rad­i­cal — Ho­bart hav­ing once boasted an ex­ten­sive tram net­work. He says good public trans­port would serve lo­cals and tourists.

“The ca­ble car in San Fran­cisco is a clas­sic ex­am­ple where the tourists are un­der­writ­ing the cost of the guy and woman in busi­ness suits go­ing to work.”

When I ask Jerry what he thinks of a pro­posed ca­ble car for ku­nanyi/Mt Welling­ton, I am yet to learn that only one of four award-win­ning projects his firm was recog­nised for this year re­sulted in a di­rect build — the Lily Pads view­ing plat­form at the Royal Tas­ma­nian Botan­i­cal Gar­dens.

As he says, mon­u­ments are not his thing, but a sen­si­tive in­ter­pre­ta­tive re­sponse to sur­round­ings is. And that’s why he reck­ons we should let the moun­tain be.

“I am adamantly op­posed to a ca­ble car,” he says. “I think the pro­po­nents un­der­play the vis­ual im­pact of what will ac­tu­ally be a func­tion cen­tre ac­cessed by a ca­ble bus.

“I’ve taken ca­ble cars else­where in the world and my ex­pe­ri­ence was that I got to the top and all I could smell was fish and chips. The moun­tain is em­blem­atic of our city and to pri­va­tise that, to com­mer­cialise it, takes away from its in­trin­sic value as a nat­u­ral el­e­ment.”

His big pic­ture? “I want us to do things bet­ter and do them whole,” he says. “I want Ho­bart to con­tinue to build on the mo­men­tum of re­cent years. There’s a lit­tle bit more money around to do things.

“And let’s do things whole. In our pro­fes­sion, we do a lot of mas­ter­plans and only 10 per cent of it gets done, and 10 years later some­one calls for an­other master­plan.”

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