Saturday, October 16, 2010

Behind the clocks: Sights and sounds of Flinders Street Station

Thousands pass through Flinders Street Station each day. However most try to spend as little time there as possible. And hurried daily users have little reason to go beyond the platforms they need.

Flinders Street Station turned 100 this year. Its condition has also been raised as an election issue, with the Liberal opposition promising a design competition to redevelop the station.

It's worth taking a leisurely wander to appreciate this grand old building. Walkers are exhorted to keep right - indicating that pedestrian congestion was high. 'Do not spit' tiles are testament to the early 20th century hygiene movement and influenza plagues. And carved signs indicate a single-function permanence absent from newer buildings.

Sounds are equally important. Water run-off, the varying character of manual announcements and the horns of trains indicate movement or intended movement. The steps of commuters provide a dull, uneven beat to buskers, whose notes bounce off hard subway walls.

See and hear all this and more in the video below.

Some high quality historical pictures of Flinders Street Station appear at Melbourne Curious.


Anonymous said...

Why the right? Obviously no-one obeys that particular sign.

Alan Davies said...

Great video, Peter. Love the idea of the 'soundscape'theme.

It shows how badly FSS has been treated over the years. Not only the appalling maintenance but also the horrible design of the main concourse "shopping centre".

And that tram shelter in Swanston St! What were they thinking?

I think Baillieu's onto something here and I hope the Government decides to match his promise.

I'd like to see the original grand roof finally put over the tracks and the old ballroom, child care facility and viewing platform reinstated (not sure how original they all are though).

Peter Parker said...

@Anon - I don't know. Daniel Bowen has studied this more than I and his thoughts appear at and

@Alan - thanks.

As for fixing FSS, my priorities are 1. Relocate that police fortress and build an extra exit to increase directness to the tram stop, 2. Clear platforms of junk (as per ), 3. Fix the leakage problems (your roof idea would help, but it should let in more light than Southern Cross), and, 4. Retile ramps and subways.

I'm less sure about the ballroom. The building is long but very narrow. I doubt the ballroom would be suitable for large functions.

One possibility is some sort of use by community groups. For instance a similar facility to Ross House or the Griffin centre (Canberra).

Another idea (my favourite) would be to relocate the City of Melbourne Library. Provided access is good, this could benefit the library as FSS is a higher profile spot than Flinders Lane.

Child care could work, though I don't know the occupancy of existing CBD-based centres, if an outdoor play area would be required or if it would be long day care (aimed at workers) or casual short-term use (aimed at city visitors/shoppers).