July 09 2014

The Queen Victoria Markets: A Social Shopping Experience is Threatened

A microcosm of life in Melbourne, Queen Victoria Market (QVM) is a 134  year old tradition ingrained within the cultures and communities gathering to shop, eat, play and work.

Its regal name, spoken on the lips of people living in or visiting Melbourne, QVM is in no way a pale shadow of the modern supermarket. Far from mundane, the Market is rich with historical, architectural and social significance to the State of Victoria and Melburnians.

A grand dame of over a century old, QVM is the living record of Melbourne’s rich and evolving history. She was born to the populace as a primary wholesale market and supplier of fresh produce in the 19th century. As the city grew, so did she mature to reflect the functional changes and embrace both tourists and leisure shoppers. She did this while retaining the vibrancy of a produce market wrapped in the large utilitarian fabric of 19th and early 20th century architecture and street facades. The trading and retail enterprise contained within her bodice of food halls, shops and stalls provides continuity in market activity and significant linkages throughout the centuries. Today, she reigns as the only surviving central market built by the City of Melbourne and one of the great 19th century markets in Australia.

The front facade of the historical Queen Victoria Market

The 20th century architecture of Queen Victoria Market

More than just steel and mortar, QVM reflects the social and cultural fabric of Melbourne. It is not only an important shopping and meeting place for locals and tourists, but an icon for generations of Victorians and Melburnians who prohibited her redevelopment during the 1970s.

Today, a new $250 million dollar redevelopment of the markets threatens to destroy this heritage. The redevelopment aims to make the site more accessible to the general public, while adding mixed use developments in close proximity to the markets. This is part of the Plan Melbourne agenda to increase density in the CBD. With the markets close proximity to public transport and the city centre itself, there is a huge push from developers to make more use of the area.

The social experience that is Queen Victoria Market

 The hustle and bustle of Queen Victoria Market

The community thus far has been very resistant to the proposed changes, citing loss of heritage for the sake of economic gain. Melbourne is under constant renewal, which to some, may be detrimental to the already serious identity crisis facing the city. With the future development of many skyscrapers in the city, this can only get worse.

QVM is a place that resembles a third world market with customers constantly haggling for the best price, the smell of fresh produce in the air and a constant buzz that displays real community values in plain sight. It will be a shame if the redevelopment neglects the Market’s rich history and replaces it with the modern archetypal supermarket. Melbourne will have lost a great icon for the city.

Are there any development projects that you know of that are doing more destruction than development?

Credits: Images by Kunal Matikiti. Data linked to sources.

Kunal Matikiti

Originally from Zimbabwe, Kunal ventured to Australia to study architecture. After completing his Masters in 2012 at Deakin University, Kunal started working in Melbourne as a graduate architect at a small residential firm and has since moved to a bigger, and more commercially focused firm. With a keen interest in African Architecture, Kunal manages a small blog, www.afritect.com, where topics range from art and culture to architecture and fashion in Africa. Kunal is looking forward to earning valuable experience in Australia’s booming architectural sector and develop the skills and thought processes required to resolve some of the issues facing the unestablished creative sector in parts of Africa. Understanding of culture is an important element of Kunal's work and this forms a major element in his endeavours. Writing for The Grid is an exciting challenge and Kunal hopes to give a different and interesting perspective to an already established city.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 at 9:26 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Kunal Matikiti, Land Use, Social/Demographics, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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