Is there a spot for contemporary street art in planning?

By Sam Palma

It is no secret that innovative urban street art captures the eyes or interest of most people who come across it, sparking a social element to what can commonly be a blank interface. Melbourne has the privilege of having some of the world’s best laneways and urban street artists which see locations such as Hoiser and Union Lane become not only a tourist attractions but add a layer of culture to our City. Contemporary street art and murals have the potential to stimulate conversation and awareness towards social, environmental and political issues, while providing opportunity for local artists to exhibit their work to a wide audience.

With the ongoing acceptance and appreciation of contemporary street art within an urban environment, does the planning system within Victoria have the provisions or tools to regulate commissioned street art on what would otherwise be a blank concrete wall?

Specifically, inner urban suburbs that see the construction of apartment complexes built to the boundary and left with four storeys of concrete walls exposed to the public realm, remaining blank and unappealing until the adjoining block is eventually developed.



Source: skyscapercity.com 

Such interfaces bring to light the term ‘concrete jungle’, as overbearing, tall and dull interfaces proclaim and dominate streetscape views. Understandably, any development occurring on a property boundary will require the use of such concrete walls, and although there are mechanisms of texturizing the facades to soften the profile of them, is there scope to implement greater improvements or change? 



These photos from a recent trip I took to Berlin reveal the potential some of these blank facades can have to express art, social or political issues/change to the public realm and streetscape. Although street art is commonly conducted without permission, does that mean there is not opportunity to not only regulate such forms of art, but incorporate the delivery of such projects into the planning system to ensure appropriate messages are delivered?

Within a Melbourne context, this response would be best suited to podium style apartment developments where they comprise a boundary wall of up to 3-5 storeys high (which typically comprises of car parking facilities) and a single or double storey development on the adjoining site (as shown below).















Source: skyscapercity.com

It is noted that in some instances the introduction of street art to some of these blank apartment boundary walls has the potential to influence the architectural context of the building within the streetscape and broader context, and this will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Potential avenues for implementation within the planning process:

At the time the planning drawings are endorsed by the Responsible Authority, a design is agreed upon, shown and form part of the endorsed plans as a one off proposal.

Or

Is there potential for developers to be granted ‘concessions’ for implementing innovative urban art on boundary facades, acting as a catalyst towards the idea of regulatory art on building facades.

What other avenues could be explored as a way of uplifting these blank concrete facades to spark social interaction?

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