What happens when you put a freeway though a suburb?
American neighbourhoods experienced this quite frequently in the 60s & 70s. The neighbourhood we called home in Chicago was called Noble Square, or was it called the West Loop? No one really knew because it had this big freeway slicing it through the middle. Ultimo has similar issues, albeit on a completely different scale, with the Western Distributor. And for all this concrete and no-right-turn-dead-end street business, it seems to have survived fairly well. Mind you, it’s pretty easy to get stuck on the wrong side of Bulwara Road, where it is mysteriously called Bulwarra Road (more on that bizarre situation later).
We are less sure about the effectiveness of Warren Langley’s Aspire (those yellow fork things) as a solution to “bring life” to this particular little dead zone.
According to this Alternative Media Group article, in 2009 the Independent City of Sydney Councillor Marcelle Hoff said “Aspire, by Warren Langley, features glowing golden trees, turning the unattractive area below the freeway into an eye-catching outdoor gallery”. Clover Moore’s own press release describes how in 2002 the Council prioritised this area for public art, in order to “make the pedestrian link under the Western Distributor less threatening”.
Isn’t art magic, huh? To actually turn a concrete jungle, into a GALLERY, just like that? To make cities SAFE, with art? Whoa.
All it takes is a bit of yellow LED lighting, and, hey presto! No more city fuglyness. If only we had known that before! Manufacturing safe, happy urban amenity is so damn easy.
But we are being cruel. There is nothing particularly wrong with there being random glowing forks under our special little freeway. It’s better than no art at all. We’d just like to be honest about the fact that public art is so rarely a successful “place-making” initiative. Sometimes, my friends, it is just there.
Incidentally, there are some great pics of the Langley work here