Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What's in a name and does it matter?

There's a bit of confusion over terminology. The name Fishermans Bend itself has been the subject of debate over the years. Fisherman or Fishermen? Allan Meiers, in his book Fisherfolk of Fishermans Bend offers this definition: 'Fishermans Bend: A term used by Sandridge Council to designate all the land bounded by the seashore at Hobsons Bay, the northermost bend of the Yarra River and Boundary St which divides South Melbourne and Port Melbourne'(piv) The Register of Geographic Names VICNAMES has it definitively registered as Fishermans Bend with some interesting historical information about the fishermen who lived there in the early days. Even this apparently neutral entry is a red rag to Port Melbourne as Fishermans Bend is listed as being in the municipality of Melbourne.
The Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, has thrown a bit of confusion into local minds by the designation and delineation of the Fishermans Bend Urban Renewal Area - beginning to be known as FBURA. As understood locally, Fishermans Bend also covers some of the established residential areas of Port Melbourne including the Fishermans Bend estate - yet they are clearly not contemplated to be part of the FBURA. To add to the confusion, Montague is included within the FBURA. Speak to any person who grew up in Montague and they will be fierce in defense of its being a place in its own right - never having been part of Port Melbourne. While Montague was in South Melbourne's jurisdiction, it was most definitely first and foremost Montague.
Where it does begin to matter is when it if put forward as a design rationale for a development.
Thanks to Urban Melbourne for giving the opportunity to look at the  proposal for 132-134 Ferrars St in some detail. The amazing visualisation technology available today even shows the retained street trees in Thistlethwaite St. The architects, Rothe Lowman*, say that the major driver for the design was the early name for South Melbourne, Emerald Hill.
That inspiration is quite misconceived and suggests a lack of understanding of the historical and geographical context of the site.  Every single description of Montague calls up its relationship to the Yarra River as does the planning report. The proximity to the river drives the above ground carparking, and the anticipated sea level rise.  Montague was always prone to flooding, many of its residents worked on South Wharf - Montague was definitely a river place.  Emerald Hill, by contrast and and by definition was a hill. In those days (and perhaps in the future too), those topographical distinctions really mattered.
And is it just me? I thought emeralds were green, not purple but I wouldn't know since I've never owned one.
Sources and further information
The Fisherfolk of Fishermans Bend is available from the Port Melbourne Town Hall Assist counter or directly from the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society.
*also architects for Aqueous apartments in Nott St, Port Melbourne

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