I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Friday, January 23, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Pentridge Piazza: "it's like being someone special"

Pentridge prison was decommissioned  in 1997, and in the rush to privatisation that characterised his government, Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett sold nearly 30 hectares of crown land to private developers.

One of these, Peter Chiavaroli, whose family comes from Abruzzo, envisaged his housing development along the lines of Italian walled towns. The discourse is determinedly Italianate, with the "Centrale Chiara" rose garden and "Aurora" fountain, as well as the central concept of "Pentridge Piazza." 

It's a clever way to re-code a prison coded as grim and severe into a welcoming housing community. Architect and co-developer Luciano Crema cites the northern Italian town of Treviso as his inspiration.

There was also a local model too. One of the developer's early newsletters, from 2005, cited Carlton's Lygon St, another Italianate community of shops, bars and restaurants close to the University, as a model.

One article in the newsletter is headed, "Village is a must for strong family values," and features an interview with a woman, Cathy, who is now moving up to a larger house in the development (possible because the value of the first has gone up, naturally).
"You see," she says with the kind of passion reminiscent of her Lebanese heritage, "living in Pentridge means something very special. "We love it because it is our home, but we love it even more because it is like living with a great big family.
"And, you know, when you tell people you live in Pentridge Village, it's like being someone special."
She smiles at the thought and then, hugging herself as if to emphasise her point, she says, "It is difficult to explain, but we all feel so safe and happy here. We really are part of something special." 
Brilliant interviewing/copy-writing!  Demonstrates precisely the symbolic force of Pentridge as heritage site: nothing specific about ghastly haunted prisons, but simply something "special."

One of the first couples to buy were a policeman and his partner, who bought a two-bedroom warehouse shell in the old prison mill.

Interviewed in The Age, Mr Hinton was "not concerned about its violent history."

"If these walls could talk they would certainly have a bit to say, but I'm not bothered at all," Mr Hinton said.
Ms Shields thought the retention of the bluestone perimeter would provide a strong sense of community. 

The development has not been uncontroversial, stylistically, or in heritage terms. Here are a few pics I've found on the web, showing first, an attempt to build the apartments on top of the walls, over an archway that as Vaughn showed us yesterday, leads down to the old laundry, one of the oldest parts of the estate.

and here, a reminder that for all the "safety" and "community" of a walled village, that "safety" depended on making sure you didn't escape.

 I particularly like the way they have kept the interesting feature of the tower, but made steps up/down to it on the wall, to reduce the oppressive "prison affect" of the walls.


Geoff Winkler said...

I have been trying to make contact with you via "facebook" and "hangout", it seems to no avail.
I have many suggestions and ideas for subjects for your blog, including the (William) Stanford fountain. An excellent article was prepared on this and can be viewed on newsletter No.641 from: http://whitehat.com.au


Stephanie Trigg said...

Thanks, Geoff. I've been using some of the White Hat sites: they're terrific.

I don't normally friend people on Facebook if I don't know them, but have "confirmed" you now. I'm not on hangout. But am on twitter @stephanietrigg

Must dash to do some other work now, but that fountain is terrific, and a real testament to Stanford's skill with this intractable stone. I'll put it on the (growing) list of sites to go and visit.

Thanks so much for this! would love more ideas and comments!