A Melbourne Design Week Exhibition

Article taken from Melbourne Design Week site, photographs from Paul van Herk and EXCX.

Exhibition as part of Melbourne Design Week, WHAT KILLED FISHERMAN’S BEND? Presented by Paul van Herk + EXCX, two people stand in a room filled with fluoro orange tape plastered around the kitchen, red string pinned across walls littered with maps, photos and newspaper clippings

Barely a decade ago, Fishermans Bend was the most hyped urban development project in Melbourne and the largest in Australian history. In spite of its sudden and suspicious creation by former planning minister Matthew Guy; every architect, planner and consultant sought to contribute to its development, while government talking points had it helping to solve national problems from housing affordability to local manufacturing. Countless master plans, visions and strategy documents have since been commissioned, but even a cursory trip to the precinct reveals that not nearly as much has happened as was hoped and hyped. Something Killed Fishermans Bend.

EXCX’s research upturns the stones and disturbs the ghosts of this fresh mystery to find out what is at the heart of a large development failure. Was it the hostile economic conditions created by the rezoning? The lack of a tram? The inefficiencies of an outsourcing bureaucracy? Are planners and designers too naïve?

Using a paranoid whodunnit method, EXCX treat the main criteria of development success in Fishermans Bend as prime suspects in its murder, starting with clues about where stated good intentions don’t match observed outcomes on the ground. Housing, jobs, public space, transport, innovation, waterfront, vision, and development are each subject to ruthless interrogation to find out what they’re hiding.

maps and documents of Fishermans Bend
Bernadene Voss, President of the Fishermans Bend Business Forum, stands where a bridge for a tram to Fishermans Bend was proposed to be built by 2025

The exhibition is a cacophonous collection of news clippings, photography, expansive historical research, architectural drawings and spreadsheets; assembled by an obsessive hermit trying to solve the murder mystery with what is at hand. Clues lead to hunches lead to accusations that become projections and eventually propositions for what might happen next in Fishermans Bend if the deeper logics and terminology of its development are actively questioned, discussed and instrumentalised.

What Killed Fishermans Bend? is held across five rooms of the iconic 1920s Weston Court building in Parkville.


Paul van Herk

Paul is an architect and urbanist whose practice is led by investigations into the instruments, mythologies and outcomes of development. He approaches each project using skills and knowledge appropriated from professional roles in architecture, public art, urban design and academia. Paul is one of four founding directors of EXCX.

Gabriela Amstalden Martins

Gabby is a frequently awarded Masters of Architecture student at RMIT University. She has made significant contributions to the exhibition during her placement at EXCX, supported by RMIT’s design elective program.