Unproductive parasites are stealing our sunlight


Someone once commented that you could judge the relative size of unproductive bureaucracies in different countries (the examples given were the US and Soviet Union) by comparing the skylines of their biggest cities. Great clusters of office buildings and skyscrapers testified to the presence of many financial, legal and advertising workers. As Adam Smith tells us, these workers consume rather than contribute to the social product.

Even worse, their horrible buildings create dark and unpleasant wind tunnels. In Melbourne’s CBD the tallest office towers are thankfully – as this slightly out-of-date video shows – concentrated at certain points: the western and eastern ends of Collins Street, and generally at either end of the east-west-running streets (Bourke, Lonsdale, etc). These areas are cold and uninviting, with the sun obscured unless it’s directly above you. But this also leaves a nice, clear hollow patch running north-south along the CBD’s spine, Swanston Street, where an entire winter’s day can be spent in sunlight. 

Until, that is, a bunch of office towers and apartment buildings began popping up on the northern end of Swanston Street around Victoria Street, between RMIT and Melbourne Uni. Now some yuppie who’s spent his day not so much performing work as applying force can sneak a convenient spot of indoor rock climbing in before dinner, thereby denying all of us the late-afternoon sun. Here’s the relatively unimpeded view, which no longer exists, looking north up Swanston Street from the State Library’s lawn.


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9 Responses to “Unproductive parasites are stealing our sunlight”

  1. Daniel Golding Says:

    This perhaps isn’t the comment you were hoping for, but that’s a really interesting 3D model of Melbourne. How’d you find it? I’ve always wondered what Melbourne would look like in a game.

  2. Nick Says:

    Yeah, it is, isn’t it? I just came across it while doing a web search for another (non-animated) 3D model of Melbourne which I have in a file somewhere on my computer, but couldn’t be bothered digging out.

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  4. Conrad Says:

    The “valley” along Elizabeth and Swanston Sts is not accidental. From memory severe height restrictions were placed on them as a result of the contruction of the Melbourne Central tower.

    Also, if you pay the premium for Google Earth, you can get entire cities modelled like this (but it’s all done by amateurs, not by professionals).

  5. Nick Says:

    The height restrictions are more longstanding than that. I think they were originally introduced to protect sightlines to the State Library and St Pauls.

  6. Conrad Says:

    Height restrictions have a long history in Melbourne, but the most modern incarnation of them didn’t care much for State Library or St Pauls (witness the removal of one of the “shards” from Fed Square some years back).

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