It has been thirty-four years since I was last in Melbourne, and physically it has not improved in the long interval. I remembered it as a handsome, if not characterful, city; now I was aghast as I walked down Swanston Street, one of its principal thoroughfares, at what had been done to it. It was like a vast open-air museum of modern architectural pathology, waiting for unesco to declare it a world heritage site.

It was not that insufficient money had been spent on it; on the contrary, it was that the architects had tried too hard.

To do what, exactly? One sensed that they were in competition—on the city’s behalf—with Sydney, to make it appear more dynamic, more modern than Sydney, despite it always having prided itself on being the Athens to Sydney’s Rome, or at least the Boston to Sydney’s New York. It...


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