There was a time when the Clever Country was the buzzword – in a time of buzzwords – the multifunction polis and the Precincts model were then fairly obvious code for back-door privatisation, and higher ed was slipping companies into campus ‘Science Parks’ to benefit from the free tax-payer-funded “synergies” that would ‘incubate” start-ups for commercialisation whoopee.
Well, this latest plan from the my alma mater, the University of Melbourne, has the merit of replacing a hospital (my sister and nephew born there) and offers a prime front door site for Uni.Melb Inc. Privatisation is such a dated word these days that it passes by in a blink… Further below I will offer as contrast an old essay on university-commercial research complicity, questioning the premise of these new premises for learning. Learning – is that what universities are still for, or research, or are the caveat’s obsolete and dated, very early 1990s, and we are in the realm of future business? Well, there is an old critique to be made nevertheless (someone said to me today that the key to moving forward is how criticism is handled – push back with exo-punitive denial, or quietly get on an fix-up your practice. I know Uni.Melb has a long history of not being able to handle criticism. In terms of institutional memory it will seem far far and long ago when the then Vice Chancellor Pennington, in the days when a vice-chancellor was basically a jumped-up after-dinner speaker and raconteur of limited means, who just happened to be friends with the Liberal machine… but anyway, Pennington had said the sign of a troubled department was disagreement within, and for the politics department then that was as laughable as it seems. Nowadays not so much, and vice-chancellors are armed against criticism so any dissent means its time to shoot the messenger, with intent).
But by and by – having just been reading Seuss to the kid, I have to stop rhyming so as to get through this bit… Let’s list some absurds in the precint proposal:
“Planning … innovation” – it goes without saying this is a proxy for nothing.
“The University of Melbourne and its [unnamed] partners” – were the partners not invited to the press conference, or did they refuse to stump up their cut for the reslease? Maybe they are secret or sect-like or shy. It anyway leaves me with a big question why. [away, Sneed, away]
“one step closer” – no need to worry about how long this white elephant will take, we are all the more closer to the rhetoric of the early 1990s. The Precinct model for Melbourne was Jeff Kennet vintage at least – have we just been Jeffed again? Ahh those were the days.
“The new precinct will host researchers, companies, government bodies” – as we saw, privatisation. Companies can access the tax-funded thrills of the library and the University Club, though I suspect Jimmy Watson’s might do OK, if anyone still does lunch without whimpering.
“community members from different backgrounds” – obligatory diversity statement up front. Always welcome. Will it mean a whole department of such, or still here and there brochure-freindly photo-inclusiveness? Don’t tell me class is a bigger factor than the racist demographic of University as usual. It continues.
“innovative solutions to society’s biggest challenges” – how would it be if someone suggested exclusion of corporate interests from research agendas? A fresh impetus for critical multicaulturalism, radical barefoot legal theory, Co-research inquiries, activist-in-residence programme, counter-mapping and Marxism 101-999? You know its needed. get in.
“vision… precinct… innovation…” – the circular rhetoric of recycled prose.
““Innovation emerges from vibrant and collaborative environments where people are encouraged to share skills and ideas as they work and socialise together,” Professor McCluskey said” – oh my, this is word for word straight out of the original brochure documents for setting up the multifunction polis, the work of Kenichi Ohmae, the Aust Govt Collaborative Centres definition of a science park – a pleasing environment adjacent to a a university (they do not mean Princess Park). the idea that boffins will leave their labs and sit having lunch under trees chatting until Eureka! Gold is panned from Sovereign alley/Elgin Hill. No need to go to Ballarat, the new rush starts here, well, heavily recycled, but wow. McCluskey does not stray far from the brief. “vision… precinct… innovate…” (raconteur speaker as I said, with crib notes).
“buildings arranged around a central and publicly-accessible open space” – panoptic 101. never before in Carlton have so many been sold out for so little.
“Fab lab… Superfloor… hackathons… ” – and bean bags I bet. The Graduate School already had them in 1990 too, hat tip TT.
The upsides: Childcare, student accommodation… and Spotless as facilities partner (the partners get named at the end). We should be overjoyed and confident that it is Spotless. Recall, they were recently taken over by Downer EDI, so a check on their spotless industrial relations and court records, mining deaths, dubious pressures to settle strikes, and well, lets not think the Uni of Melbourne is going through some sort of subtle shift into touch love to redeem by association. Clever dialectic that would be.
An innovation precinct only works if, bottom line, there is a big profit player that makes the lead. An old book but informative, have a look at Peter Hall and Manuel Castells “Technopoles of the World” Check out Complicity below (after the Uni.Melb press release (sorry, journalism article) and if you are really keen, come back later and read up on Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Curry Puff, a similar plan under PM Mahathir (who, well frankly, maybe those were the good old days…).
Alumni Magazine 20 April 2018
The University of Melbourne and its partners are one step closer to developing Australia’s leading innovation precinct, receiving planning approval from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
The University of Melbourne purchased the former Royal Women’s Hospital site in 2012 and announced in 2017 a partnership with a consortium led by Lendlease to redevelop it. Early works commenced in November 2017 and construction is expected to commence in mid-2018 for completion in 2020.
The new precinct will host researchers, companies, government bodies and community members from different backgrounds and disciplines who will work together to develop innovative solutions to society’s biggest challenges.
University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jim McCluskey said by enhancing research and education, the precinct will support the vision of Melbourne as a ‘Knowledge City’ and play an important role within the Melbourne Innovation Districts.
“Innovation emerges from vibrant and collaborative environments where people are encouraged to share skills and ideas as they work and socialise together,” Professor McCluskey said.
The precinct will be ideally located adjacent to the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus, which hosts some of the world’s top researchers, and within close proximity to the Melbourne CBD. It will have the tools, platforms and services to create an ecosystem where start-ups emerge and cutting-edge products and services are developed.
Mark Menhinnitt, Lendlease Urban Regeneration Managing Director, said the development will regenerate the former Royal Women’s Hospital site into an open, light and modern precinct, delivering a bold new architectural statement.
“This purpose-built facility will set a new benchmark in education and industry collaboration that meets the highest standards of design and sustainability, while also honouring the site’s heritage and history,” he said.
The 74,000 sqm precinct will feature a series of connecting buildings arranged around a central and publicly-accessible open space. In addition to co-working and commercial office space, the precinct will feature a Fab Lab, student accommodation and a ‘Superfloor’ dedicated to collaboration and fostering the exchange of ideas.
Dr Julie Wells, University of Melbourne’s Vice-Principal (Policy and Projects), said that the precinct will be a place for the local community to live, work and exchange ideas through a vast program of events such as hackathons, workshops, exhibitions and social events.
It will also include shops, cafes, public spaces, accommodation for graduate students and visiting academics, a childcare centre and Science Gallery Melbourne, which will deliver cutting-edge exhibitions, events and experiences.
The consortium delivering the innovation precinct in partnership with the University of Melbourne comprises Lendlease as developer, builder, co-investor and investment manager of the commercial space; GIC as major co-investor of the commercial space; Spotless as the facilities manager; and Urbanest as investor and manager of the student accommodation.
So, 18 years ago,the early 90’s already seemed old.
Click on the pages to enlarge and read.
Thanks Kaloy Cunanan for recovering this from ascii-land.
An article on the multi-function polis in Malaysia, from 1999
appeared in Bosma, Josephine et al (eds) 1999 Readme! ASCII Culture And The Revenge Of Knowledge, New York: Autonomedia.
A longer unpublished version is Semi-Feudal Cyber-Colonial.