Swanston Street: History Repeating

Movement, access and activation along Swanston Street have been recurring themes for Melbournians, but I didn't realise the 'to-ing and frowing' of pedestrianising the street went back this far.  This article from 1971 details plans for banning cars on Swanston Street from Flinders to La Trobe, even putting the trams underground.

The  article states that "under the scheme, Swanston Street would be a giant promenade with fountains, restaurants, trees and plazas".  

This reminds me of a scenario I heard of that occurred in 1985, where Swanston Street was closed and temporarily grassed for a weekend as part of the State of Victoria's 150th birthday celebrations.

This article in the Age from a while back had this to say about it:

"For a weekend in 1985, 11,000 square metres of grass was laid along Swanston Street from Flinders Street to La Trobe Street for Victoria's 150th birthday celebrations. The car-free experiment helped citizens see the city in a new way."

Although the street was closed to traffic in 1992, Robert Doyle sought to re-open it in 2008, later changing his mind.

I thought it was interesting to take a look back in time and see how long the debate over access, movement and activation in one of Melbourne's most prominent streets has been going for.  It's also interesting that some ideas tend be recurring; the idea of 'grassing' the street relates to current themes of 'pop up' planning, which seem to be all the rage (temporary parks, shops and food outlets), and lets hope we never stop experimenting with our urban environments.

Thanks to James Bryan (Mornington Peninsula Shire Council) for sending the 1971 article through, you can read it here

For more information on grassing Swanston Street, click here


  1. Thanks for this - was trying to find images for an upcoming tour of ours, and this is exactly what we were needing.

    Melbourne Architours


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