FORWARD: Issue #2: Transportation
The Metro Tunnel Creative Program was developed to maintain local vibrancy, livability, and public engagement during construction of the Metro Tunnel in Melbourne, Australia. Featuring activities and events by a team of designers, curators, and place managers, the Creative Program aims to enhance city life alongside construction of the Metro Tunnel. Completed in September 2020, the Thank You photo essay project by photographer Phoebe Powell consists of photographs of 52 nurses, medical researchers, cleaners, clinicians, and other frontline workers who helped Melbourne through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Artists can play a crucial role in helping businesses and communities endure construction
When planned and designed well, new transportation projects can provide a lifeline to disconnected communities and safer passage for people moving around outside of cars. A new light-rail line means more customers for nearby shops and access to more jobs for nearby residents. A road redesign might mean fewer crashes and wider sidewalks. And a new subway tunnel promises a guaranteed flow of people to fill offices and restaurants near each station.
These benefits are often used to sell transportation infrastructure projects to communities. Invest resources in new infrastructure and endure one, five, or more years of construction, they are told, and the investment will pay off. However, when construction includes the complete tearing up of streets, blocking of access, noise, dust, and frequently changing detours, it's easy to lose sight of the long-term benefits. Often, the businesses that stand to benefit from the completed transportation infrastructure’s promise of new customers can’t survive five years of blocked access during construction.
Construction mitigation for transportation projects is mandated across the country, and frequently includes accommodations for pedestrians to maneuver around the construction site, signage about impacted businesses, and detours for transit riders and drivers. However, while these measures mitigate the worst impacts of construction, they do little to encourage people to venture directly to the impacted area.
Increasingly, transportation project teams are turning to the arts to address these problems. In Saint Paul, Minnesota, the Irrigate project partnered hundreds of artists with businesses impacted by the construction of the Metro Green Line light-rail, leading to positive press about the construction process and an uptick in business for many of the independently owned businesses along the Green Line corridor. Some cities have instituted programs that incorporate art directly into construction barricades, like West Hollywood, California’s Art on Construction Fence Program.
These kinds of initiatives show that artists can play a crucial role in helping businesses and communities endure construction, by creating an attractive environment of installations, public art, events, and other artistic interventions that provides a counter-narrative to the construction itself.
Scroll down to learn about an ambitious construction mitigation program underway in Melbourne, Australia.
Metro Tunnel Creative Program
Encouraging community interaction with construction sites, supporting local business, and maintaining livability
Location: Melbourne, Australia Title: Rail Projects Victoria
In Melbourne, an ambitious program is currently underway to mitigate the construction of a new rail line connecting Sunbury to Cranbourne/Pakenham via the central business district. Upon its completion, the Metro Tunnel project will include two 5.5-mile tunnels and five new underground stations, delivered via a public-private partnership between Rail Projects Victoria and the Cross Yarra Partnership consortium. Since the project requires seven years of extensive construction in the middle of Australia’s second largest city, the Metro Tunnel Creative Program was launched to “encourage community interaction with construction sites and support local business” and to “maintain Melbourne’s vibrancy, liveability and public engagement during the construction impacts of the Metro Tunnel Project.”
The Creative Program features a regularly rotating series of curated artworks along more than three miles of construction barricades and temporary acoustic sheds, pedestrian bridges, and other structures, each designed to provide support to businesses impacted by construction, support Melbourne’s artists and creative industries, and provide assistance for people to safely navigate through and around construction sites.
The award-winning project has been well received by Melburnians, who have responded to the Creative Program by stating that “it brings heart back to the city, reinstates what community means and why and how we love cities—that even though there is the necessity of infrastructure projects, there is something to celebrate and enjoy and experience."
Informed by the community, the Metro Tunnel Creative Program created a temporary pop-up park in Albert Road Reserve, featuring timber decking, generous seating, and new plantings. Photo by Phoebe Powell.
According to the Metro Tunnel Program, "The Domain Road Pop-up Park is designed to enhance the local area and bring residents, businesses, and visitors together to eat, relax, and enjoy enhanced green spaces. Informed by a program of community consultation, the temporary design includes wooden decking, more outdoor seating, and more plants." Photo by Anne-Marie De Boni.
“It brings heart back to the city, reinstates what community means and why and how we love cities—that even though there is the necessity of infrastructure projects, there is something to celebrate and enjoy and experience.”
—Creative Program community response
The numerous artworks created as part of the Metro Tunnel Creative Program include the following:
Tunnel / Vision In November of 2018, artist Bonnie Mercer and sound engineer Lisa Rae Bartolomei recorded the sounds of excavation and construction in the tunnel to produce a two-hour performance and an immersive multimedia experience at Melbourne Music Week. The performance featured a time-lapse of the construction process and multimedia graphics that visually responded to audience noise. The project provided a new and innovative interpretation of the Metro Tunnel’s construction process for a new and wide audience.
Ideas from the community about what they love about their neighborhood informed Kensington by artists Mike Maka (Makatron), Hayden Dewar, Welin, Scott Nagy, and Krimsone. Participants helped paint this 120-meter-long piece during a Kensington Community Festival, including groups from the Kensington Community Children’s Co-operative. Photo by Phoebe Powell.
Melbourne Fashion Week The Creative Program has collaborated with Melbourne Fashion Week for the past three years to produce artworks, performance, and augmented reality alongside construction barricades. Each of these projects included interactive components to directly involve Melburnians:
- Adele Varcoe’s Me in Couture (2018) invited participants to place their faces into mirrors and imagine themselves in high-end couture.
- Will and Garrett Huxley’s Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams and Pink Fit artworks (2019) included leading a pop-up runway around Melbourne, featuring a “colourful collection of their abstract impractical costumes,” designed to “break the binaries concerned with gender, body and race, allowing a sense of mystery and outré visual stimulation.”
For the 2019 Melbourne Fashion Week, the Metro Tunnel Creative Program commissioned creative duo "The Huxleys" to bring joy to the city. Recognizing that their work doesn't automatically translate with the construction world, the duo said it was "a really fun challenge to brighten up and beautify construction sites." Photo by Melbourne Mouse.
“… . . a colourful collection … . . [designed to] break the binaries concerned with gender, body and race”
- Nixi Killick’s Cryptic Frequency (2020) included an interactive, augmented reality artwork on a construction barricade, activated when viewed through a smartphone, and a performance of two acrobats dressed in matching camouflage during Fashion Week. The bright, colorful project welcomed Melburnians back to the city center post–COVID lockdown.
Metro Tunnel Creative Program commissioned fashion designer Nixi Killick to create an interactive artwork at Town Hall Station construction site during Melbourne Fashion Week. Photo by Anne-Marie De Boni.
Parkville Storytelling Project and Thank You Photo Essay At the site of the new Parkville Station, which serves the Parkville biomedical precinct, the Creative Program worked closely with 30 community organizations to develop relevant themes for artwork. The Parkville Storytelling Project includes short stories developed from these themes by local writer Sonja Dechian and illustrated by four local artists.
The Thank You Photo Essay project, completed in September 2020, consisted of photographs of 52 nurses, medical researchers, cleaners, clinicians, and other frontline workers who had been intimately involved in helping Melbourne through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Metro Tunnel Creative Program was developed to maintain local vibrancy, livability, and public engagement during Metro Tunnel Project construction in Melbourne, Australia. Completed in September 2020, the Thank You photo essay by Phoebe Powell consists of photos of 52 nurses, medical researchers, cleaners, clinicians, and other frontline workers who helped Melbourne through the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Phoebe Powell.
Janelle Barone is one of four illustrators who brought to life local stories now displayed around a Metro Tunnel construction site. This one depicts Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance flight paramedics MIchaela Malcolm and Sarah Wells. Photo by Charlie Kinross.
Artist Pat Perry painted a 90- by 20-meter mural on the roof of a shed built to contain noise and dust during construction. In an homage to Melbourne's theatre history, the mural depicts a late 1800s theatre troupe. It is visible to office workers and hotel guests in surrounding buildings.
FORWARD: Issue #2
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