Australia’s greatest urbanist: Hugh Stretton

The Australian City in History has yet to be written. If it were, there is one person that would loom large: Hugh Stretton. He died on 15 July 2015 after a long battle with illness, three days past his ninety-first birthday. There was a short obituary in the Adelaide Advertiser and his personal friend economist Geoff Harcourt wrote a touching tribute: ‘I doubt that we shall see his like again.’

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Torch the House! Gough Whitlam’s Ngara.

No Australian Federal Government did more for urban heritage than Gough Whitlam’s. Yet his childhood home, called Ngara, faces demolition any day now, at the tail end of an urban heritage conflict. A few weeks ago the Heritage Council of Victoria decided that Ngara was not of state heritage significance. Located in the inner eastern suburb of Kew, the house was built by Whitlam’s grandfather. Whitlam was born there and lived there for 18 months. For the heritage council, this was an insufficient basis to require preservation. The saga over Ngara is not entirely over. The local Boroondara Council might

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Regenerating heritage at Melbourne’s Rialto

The Rialto precinct in Melbourne is undergoing another facelift in the coming months. The Age reported last week that at the corner of Collins and King streets a new wraparound 5-story glass and steel office block would soon be built, adjoining the Rialto Towers. As this part of the Melbourne CBD has been a research interest of mine for a while, I’ve been following this development with interest. The commentary was accepting of the proposal. Fronting more of the Rialto Towers onto King Street is part of the renewal of the area. 

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Australian urban history at AHA 2015

Urban history is one of the oldest forms of history practiced in Australia. Early local historians like A.W. Greig were interested in cities and its spaces. Similarly, since World War II, the Australian city has been subject to much local and academic historical analysis, and remains a perennially popular topic. After all, as Graeme Davison argues, Australia was effectively ‘born urban’. Since colonisation, much Australian history has played out in its cities even when this is not made explicit. After all, history must happen somewhere. Most often in Australia – where urbanisation rates hover around 80-90% – this is in cities. 

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On the road

Despite my intentions, this blog has not progressed much since January. Unsurprisingly, I became caught up in my literature review, seminars, and other activities required during the first six months of my PhD. Fortunately over the past few weeks, I’ve begun original research on Australian urban heritage, and written a draft of my first PhD chapter. I’ve been tweeting regularly. It is now time to return to this blog.

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New year, new phd, new blog

It’s 1 January 2015, which marks the commencement date of my phd. Still feeling groggy, rather than hitting the books, I instead have set up this blog. Over the next three or so years I’ll be researching the history of urban heritage with a focus on Australia. I’m particularly interested in how notions of what ‘heritage’ is has shifted over the last five decades since it emerged as a concern in the 1960s. In the 1970s, heritage was a few nineteenth-century buildings in the Rocks, Sydney. Today, it’s Melbourne’s Palace Theatre, posited as significant as a form of ‘cultural heritage’. More on my research topic in future posts; as I firm

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