The Secret To A Sense Of Place


There's a blog called Freo's View and it's jolly good.

There's an interesting dialogue going on over there about Place Management.

Diana Ryan asks whether all our places are going to end up looking the same.

This is my take on it.


Place management is about fostering assets.

Assets should be distinct. It's part of what makes an asset.

Place managers should be facilitating local assets for regional sustainability and local distinctiveness.

Local governments are recognising this in part, but too often just book marketing ads, run a festival or knit a bootie on to a tree.

A good place manager must be able to create a competitive community, and the local distinctiveness (born from its assets - people - locally) is critical for this.

The fundamental legacy of place management should be that local peopel (assets) have a community which self-develops as part of its day-to-day doings.

Because reinvention is necessary for vitality and competitiveness.

It's culture, really.

It's a different issue whether a local person or an interstate consultant can provide this best.

This is where the web of industry and communities wrap themselves up in conflict and contradiction.

No consultant probably believes he isn't completely necessary but should not be paid to help.

See? Web.

The answer I think is a sustainable system of self-development where extra, professional staff are less necessary.

Many cities have this: they are special area rate organisations who have a staff member to do their bidding.

But these are badly run sometimes so the outcomes are not there or not good enough.

Place management has a long way to go. The journey's exciting.

But hopefully, we're all unnecessary anyway.

A good place manager must understand how private property, the attraction of businesses, retail uses and business management affect community participation.

Must also tie bootie to tree.

Above: Le Bon Cake Shop, 93 Acland Street, St Kilda, Australia  Le Bon Continental Cake Shop on Urbanspoon


Below: The Imp, 863 Albany Highway East Victoria Park  The Imp on Urbanspoon

Tiny Tables are not just to get more bums on seats.

It is to engineer more incidental contact between strangers.

That is an essential service we come to coffee shops for - as much as the black stuff in the cup.

No, perhaps this is better.

Below: The always-supporting-your-community state-government Department of Housing 24-hr shopfront.

No mosquitoes can get in.

269 Albany Highway, Victoria Park.

A Review of Coventry Village Markets

Coventry's is a large site which was once an industrial something-or-other.

Called Coventry's.

They have lots of branches around.

I'm not really sure what they do.

Anyway, they decided they didn't need this site anymore so they sold it.

The new owner said they wanted to create an indoor market. Ok, then.

To set the standard and to prevent headaches with quality-control the landlord said he would provide high-quality shop counters, side by side. The inspiration was Victoria Markets in Melbourne, Australia, like this:

Above and below: Queen Victoria Markets, corner of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne City Centre, Australia.

The landlord told me he wanted 30 butchers, 15 cheese guys and about as many fruity ones. Sounds delicious.

And not impossible.

So, let's go check it out. It's been five years and I've never seen it.

The centre faces the main road - Walter Road West - and there are some nice curly bits. Gutsy. They can't have been cheap.

But, really, the main entry is at the rear. You have to drive down a new road to get to the rear of the property and the market's entrance.

Wow, it's in a sea of enormous.

The lane is kissed by a big, warehouse wall and at the back is a huge carpark.

Not much 'markets' yet.

More curly bits. I like it.

The grand entry is not so grand. That's bad. Let's show off a little and seduce our audience.

I didn't see any door counters on the inside. Naughty.

The grocer. I checked it out but the prices are more expensive than Galati's.

The shops are panel boards set up in rows. And the street names are a great touch.

I thought it was a suggestion board at first, but a retailer has cut out their Facebook reviews, laminated them, and posted them outside their shop. Good.

The height is jolly impressive. Without height, spaces suck. Whether this building has a preservation order on it or not I don't know (I doubt it), but you can see how the saw-tooth pattern of the roof allows for large glass panels to let in light.

I only saw one plant indoors and rushed up to greet it. Plastic. Mmm ...

The doorways and shopfronts have mouldings to add to the building's impression. They are made of a composite plastic, it seems. No shame in that.

Because I was in the area I popped across the road to Morley Galleria, the regional shopping centre. Used to be my favourite.

But: not good.

Wow, that's bad.

* * *

Moving on.

Look at the height of the people, the height of the shopfronts and the height of the ceiling.

It's two storey building.

This is how tall a two-storey building should be. Really tall.

And what have we here? Noice.

They should do weddings.

And here's a tip. A vacant shop should still have a story. So, good one (below)

Every time I take photos in a shopping centre I begin to get stalked by security guards so I gave up and left.

And that's just one difference between your mainstreet and a shopping centre.

*           *           *

Coventry Village, 253 Walter Road West, Morley, Australia.

Sometimes You Have To Get Out Of Town To Find Great Shopfronts

Sometimes shopfronts are persevered in small towns due to a lack of re-development. This is Northam, Australia, and its main street: Fitzgerald Street.

Fine signage. Nice door. Stallrisers. Excellent lettering. For sale.

Ex-Roediger Bros. 182 Fitzgerald Street.

Would make a great residence (for me). I would keep the lettering.

Above and below: Elizabeth's Mens Hair Design, 192 Fitzgerald Street East

Transom windows are different (the bumpy panels above the signage). Shiny and skinny mullions (the rods in between the window panels). Recessed door with funny windows.

When we think of good residential property, decorative features such as pressed tin ceilings are synonymous with value.

Above: Pressed tin soffit. 

Above and below: Deeply recessed shopfront. Goods face the customer as they walk down the street. Weather protection.  Very cool and very rare. Keep your varied shopfronts in the mainstreet or if you're building a new mainstreet require a variety of shopfront shapes and sizes.

Homestyle Chic, 224 Fitzgerald Street.

Above and below: Colour - but light colour. Big windows. Panelled window at corner. Recessed entry. Thin mullions, except door.

Northam Travel, 178 Fitzgerald Street

Phnom Penh: Shopfront and Streetlife study

Yesterday was pretty good. Gritty roads from the airport to civilisation were relieved by a tidy street of evening smell and colour. And I ate a frog.

I can't stay at a hotel for more than one night, so I've already booked in another, just to taste it. And I'm going to torture a man.

This chap. I've commissioned him, for life, to show me every street and shop in Phnom Penh.

This is his tuk-tuk and it is essentially a slow motorbike with a cabin on the back. 

But first we have to stop at the local fountain to pinch some water for his radiator.

Hey, look - they stole our Queen.

And they have angled car parking bays, like us, too.

You hear a lot about The French Architectural style here because of history and things like that, which means when you build a new building you are forced to quote 'the local vernacular' which is probably what this building is doing.

And the outcome is good. Someone built a sponge cake and then a proper patissiere has sculptured and decorated it afterwards.

OK, we're getting more shoppy now. I took this photo because I thought 'Ha! Elephant!'.

Only later did I read it more closely.

French vernacular.

I should definitely leave the food photography to the experts, but I want to develop a pathology of photographing everything I eat, like the wrongly-accused savant caught with a murder weapon in his barn, brought to us by Midsomer Barnaby.

Moving on, Mr Tuk-tuk.

Pyjama ladies 1 & 2.

Due to the horrific, international oppression of men, only women are allowed to wear comfortable and colourful clothes to work.


End of Part 2

Here's a tip. Wherever you are, ask to be shown the embassy precinct.

Here you'll always find the best residential architecture.

If you're a diplomat you're always going to justify being in the part of town where people don't hack your arm off with a rusty KA-BAR.

And because you're 1,500 miles away from the taxpayer who is funding your party, you can always pretend that you are.

So if you get a chance to go to a party with Barack Obama and U2's Bonobo and advance your career in media and politics, put your hand up for this important, diplomatic work.

If it's a funeral for Nelson Mandela - even better. You'll be under no pressure to politically perform for your country so you can just get drunk and slip Oprah Winfrey your business card.


Go backwards to Part 1

It's Superb!

I love this.

A jolly mintox Octopus Sign.

Beautifully conceived and prepared: The preparation of the building in white is just as important as the fine, grey octopus.

Every councillor must understand how signage affects their disctrict, for good and for bad.

And this is a good one.

And, oh - look: a Ford Falcon something-or-other done in burnt tobacco racing green.

Hooked Healthy Seafood, 172 Chapel Street, Windsor, Australia

And here's Chapel Street, Windsor. A bit. From Duke's Coffee Roasters, 169 Chapel Street.

Followed by a shop-a-dog down the road at Surace Fresh, 233 Chapel Street, Prahran

I Get Off On This

'When the world is grey and the feeling is lonely, you can always go ... downtown'

Or so the famous song nearly went. But check this out.

Why isn't the world paying attention (to me, mainly)? Hot shopfronts are where it's at. They make streets tolerable, walkable ... and that means you meet more people and have more friends, which means you will die later.

So suck up all your taxes donated throughout your lifetime by hanging around a longer, have more lovers, and get off on shopfronts in the meantime.

Above: Mariana Hardwick Flagship Store, Hardwick Bulding, 459 Sydney Road, Brunswick, Australia.

Above: Olive Grove Studios, 159 Sydney Road, Brunswick. Noice.

Alas: Sydney Road, Brunswick, Australia.

The Shopfront Dilemma

Now, many - most - of the Hanoi shop-fronts have a roller door.  Bad? 


Just like in a shopping centre, a roller door permits 100% shopfront activation.  If you have glass panels and doorways - as most of us do - it seems you are creating more barriers between the public and private realms.

Not good.

OK, so 'roller shutters' are taboo.

We know that.  Some localities actively ban them - others are trying to back-fit their cities to rid themselves of them.

Opportunity!  We need roller doors that are acceptable when in closed position.

You can get 'semi-clear' roller doors now - pretty ugly,  but certainly they could also be decorated, have visual permeability, LED-lights inserted ...

See?  I should be rich.

Retailers have enough to worry about - activating the community in your city, for example - so the last thing they should have to do at 2am is wake up because someone smashed their front window.  This is why they like roller doors.

Because they just want to focus on growing your community and economy, and no customer or local authority is going to help them (either in time or money) to repair their constantly-scunged-up shopfronts.

Above: Thinh Can, 92 Hang Chieu, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi Shopfronts

Above: Huy Hoang, 43 Thuoc Bac, Hanoi, Vietnam.  Shopfront width: 4.82m (15'10") for both.

I didn't pop in to sneak a look, but this could actually be two shops.  I know the signage makes it look like one but there's a partition wall there.  It could be just to create more racking space and we actually have a door connecting the people, and that they've had to post people on both sides of the shop.

Don't know.

Hanoi: You Could Live Here

Video: 2m03sec.

I like having red-wine conversations about the magnificent environments we've all found in our trips abroad.

I even like complaining about why we can't can't have these things back home.

I sometimes even like going through the reasons why: the economy, first world vs third world benefit/costs arguments, labour costs, 'service', 'regulations' ... and all that malarky.

But what should be unacceptable to all of us is to repeat these conversations generation-in-and-out whilst our young people (and even normal people) are presented with situation normal - which is a community that is unstimulating and stifles self-development.

We are still building communities, wondering how to 'house' people, and how to accommodate the reasonable demands of the average bloke and bloke-ette who want to wake up in the morning and efficiently grow their life.

The places they're in are critical to this.

That's why you don't live in Antartica or Tel Aviv.  Or Belmont.

And people are smart.  They know that they're only a short plane ride away from a new life.

And that's an affordable and very real option these days.

But don't worry.  On behalf of all the people sitting opposite me on those dark nights, with sediment in their glasses from hours of debate about city management, urban revitalisation, 'service', retail and 'the economy' (sheesh) I have found the mother lode.


Hanoi is Embarrasing

I'm in Hanoi and it's embarrassing.

I recall being in Torun, Poland and having the same thought.

It's an embarrassment of riches.

I'm in shock each time I go out.  I'd classify it like this.

  • Short streets, of about 60m each
  • Truncated intersections, so four shopfronts face into the centre of the intersection
  • Tall and skinny builidngs of no more than 5 metres in width
  • An independent retailer in the ground floor of each building

For example, I saw one street which had a about twenty hardware shops only, each about 3-metres wide.  As I drove past I began to quiver.

Photos wouldn't do it justice at this stage.

Shopfront Success at the Claremont Quarter - Benefits The Community

Above: Zimmerman, 23 St Quentin Avenue, Claremont, Australia

This is a successful streetscape, in my opinion, and all the parties must be acknowledged for making these courageous and advantageous decisions which have benefited the community.

So, 'Thank you' to:

  • The Town of Claremont
  • The Claremont Quarter landlord
  • The Claremont Quarter architects
  • The retailer

Remede in Glyde Street, Mosman Park

Above: Remede Wellness Medicine, 13 Glyde Street, Mosman Park, Australia

Formally 'Mosman Video'.

Not only is their external colour and paint-job first rate, but so is their signage.  It is 3-dimensional, and is not the drab and generally-awful, flat, ubiquitous, sheet-metal signage found elsewhere.

Lots of beauty clinics could have taken this property.

But the right one did.  Their choices increase the value of the property, attract the right neighbours who will endeavour to match their high standards, improve the user-experience of the street and, generally, improve the community.

Thank you, Remede.

Ecology vs Economy #6

Above: Jolie & Deen, 411 Chapel Street, South Yarra, Australia.

Managing our communities and economies should be led by the most immutable force: the ecology of our region.  We can't always design out of it, and customers are instinctively led by its power.

Understanding the power of our ecology drives efficiencies in our community and economic planning.  Ecology has much to offer us in terms of making the local business precinct safe, comfortable and interesting.

An example of how business income is positively tied to uncontrollable ecological factors is here.

Three things 'Heritage' gives us in Managing our Business Districts

This shopfront sign in Bay View Terrace is a beauty.

It is on the Westpac Bank and is a great innovation.

It describes the local business history of the people.

What do you get when you are given history or 'heritage'?

  1. Distinctiveness: things that are unique to your place are the stories.  They cannot be replicated elsewhere and this makes your place more interesting and competitive.
  2. Entertainment: discovering local, distinct stories is fun.  Placing them among the business district is a relieving contrast to the day's shopping or daily errands.  Business-stories are fascinating to people too - everyone has their own story of the 'shops in the olden days' - even if that was 2001!
  3. Comfort - a sense that people care enough to recall and display local stories reminds us that this place is all about community - the economy is just a sweet by-product of that.

Thank you, Westpac.

Above: Shopfront detail on the Westpac Bank, 27 Bay View Terrace in Claremont, Australia.