Lecture on Fed Square: Public Space, Community and Heritage in Melbourne

On 20 December 2017, the Victorian State Government and Apple Corporation announced plans for a flagship Apple store for Melbourne’s leading public space: Federation Square. The proposal involved the demolition of an original building on the civic square and its replacement by a generic complex.

There was an immediate public backlash against the Apple proposal to enter this public space (which had been managed by a government-owned private company). A new advocacy group called Citizens for Melbourne established a campaign called ‘Our City, Our Square’. A key strand of the campaign involved nominating Federation Square for a state heritage listing, which the Victorian National Trust did in August 2018.

The heritage nomination proved contentious: Federation Square was only completed in 2003; its postmodern aesthetic is still controversial; one of the original architects endorsed the Apple proposition; and, is public space even heritage?

Apple quietly dropped its plans in April 2019, before Federation Square was heritage listed in August 2019. Subsequently, Fed Square had a Conversation Management Plan developed and its management as shifted into the Melbourne Arts Precinct.

This lecture provides a first-hand account of the events and issues. I co-founded Citizens for Melbourne and documented the campaign. The campaign provided an opportunity to test the idea that public space might also be heritage for Melburnians.

This lecture, therefore, examines the key heritage issue at stake at Federation Square for the heritage profession, civil society, and the Melbourne community: the past, current and future role of public space for urban conservation and city life.

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CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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