I've always seen the structure of Melbourne as a fried egg - a stretch of boring white with an interesting centre. With the recent land acquisitions by the state government intent on increasing the size of the outer limits, and little to know interest in servicing the outer sprawl with viable public transport, the highway system is set to become even more unbearable for those choosing to buy cheap land packages in the sake of securing the Australian dream.
A friend of mine recently took a day trip, walking half the length of Greater Melbourne, mostly along these new highways. Amongst other things, he noticed the detailing on these road barriers, which are designed to be viewed at great speeds. Considering they're meant to break up the crushing monotony of driving hours to and from work, they need to provide reassurance while still providing some sense of variety. The repeating patterns allows for great distances to be covered with a minimal of effort. Modular rock formations are an easy solution, a replacement for nature considering vast swaths of it have been erased for our infrastructure. But when viewed up close, he said, was all wrong. These natural stand ins don't come close to matching the algorithmic complexity that nature is capable of.
I'm reminded of part of a speech that Dan Hill (City of Sound) gave at the opening of the Bluestone Lounge Room exhibition that was part of the Melbourne Design Festival last year. Those with a keen memory will remember I covered this at the time (one of the finer exhibitions at the quite respectable City Gallery at the Melbourne Town Hall).
When you design a city with cars in mind, the urban fabric becomes incredibly crude and low-res, akin to an early video game - slow down and the jaggedy pixels become clear
In comparison to the detail needed for the yoke of footpath urbanism, these stretches of road, seen at walking speed do not reveal their patterns. The scale is all wrong. Indeed, some of these patterns are nothing more than simple pixels, blown up for speed. Only when viewed from the seat of a car do these patterns reveal themselves, at their proper resolution.