Friday, March 25, 2011
There was just astonishment when the new war memorial at Springbrook was first encountered. The monument read almost as a parody of a shrine, seeming to mock the feelings that such places are meant to engender. As can be seen in the photograph, the memorial strives for a strict formality with its axial path leading to a circular place marked by a minute, almost ‘jokey’ obelisk – like a chess piece on the Champs Elysees. The sense of a pious parade promenading along this axis is laughed at by the playground that it passes. Likewise, any possibility of solemn reverie being likely when one is resting on the seat provided near the small entry rocks pretending to be boulders, would be tortured by the scramblings and screams of the children, even potentially, for just the frame for play suggests this outcome. Trying to hide behind the tree will not change this outcome - perhaps it may be aggravated - and shifting to the other seat is no solution as it faces the play area, supervising it. It is not as though the play space can be ignored from any location. It dominates the area, located in a central position in this clearing with the memorial slipped in beside it in a tight squeeze, fitting snugly, rather like the last piece of a jigsaw.
The scale of this memorial structure, especially with its relationship to the play area, makes it appear as a model of a memorial, a place for children to enjoy. It is this ambivalence that tests the integrity of this place with what can be experienced as a mock sincerity. While this is an emotional worry, there are practical issues to be concerned about. How does one declare the memorial a special place for remembrance and reflection when it occupies the same place as the play area – its juxtaposed twin? The memorial could easily be seen as an extension of the play equipment. It will certainly be seen as something to play on. This raises other concerns. As the photograph shows, the play equipment has a special soft fall area, with equipment detailed for the safety of little fingers, fine legs and gleeful faces all distracted by fun and forgetful about caution. With the attraction of nearby ledges, piers, steps and the tiny obelisk, the concrete, stone and metal memorial can easily be seen as a play space – ring a-ring o’ roses?; but it has none of the safety features necessary for such a purpose. What latent threats lie ready to trap a child?
So there is a twin concern: the mock, almost mocking sense of this memorial and its adjacency to a play space, with each concern generating further anxieties. It appears that there has been little attention given to these matters, while that given to the decorative illustrations on the panels surrounding the mini-obelisk seems to have been exuberantly excessive. It is a shame that so much money and effort has gone into making this place where the possibility of mystery and quiet awe is diminished by the trauma of raucous play - even as a ghosted presence – and the decorative exuberance of the illustrations.
One is left wondering: do proposals for memorials ever get reviewed prior to their construction? If the argument for this memorial is that it will give Springbrook a place for the Anzac Day march to congregate, then one has to express concern about whether the crowd (even a small one) could ever assemble in this place with some simple dignity and functional comfort for any ceremony, without the play space causing a problem, either just by being there or being used. The ground on the opposite side of the path falls away fairly steeply, making any assembly an awkward lopsided affair with a bias to the playground. Indeed, it is the sense of honest and dignified ceremony at this now cluttered forested clearing that is missing. The pieces are there, trying to look like a memorial, complete with most of the popular clichés, when the eye is constantly engaged in the distraction of the colourful, and what could be seen as more interesting play equipment. One shudders to think of the possibility of this place encouraging children to participate in war games. There are enough clues in the decorative cutouts to stimulate such an interest, and the proximity to the playground suggests that such an interaction might be very likely.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Your article on Springbrook in the GOLD COAST SUN, Thursday 17th March 2011, page 8, ‘SPRINGBROOK DEMOLITION PLAN PROCEEDS IN DARK’, is as much a concern as it is misleading. The cry for the heritage listing of an unspecified group of structures based on a photograph of one building that has an ‘olde worlde’ name and image, only highlights an ignorance in these matters that any government would find difficult to overcome even with a surplus of information.
Springbrook, with its unique cool, moist, misty climate that makes functioning fireplaces a necessity rather than a decorative, social-climbing feature, has stimulated in some a certain nostalgia for things English or European. So it is that Springbrook has ‘The English Gardens’ just up the road from the site of the old ‘Tulip Farm’ that once generated traffic chaos when the flowers bloomed. ‘The Manor’ that you have used as the illustration to support the argument for heritage listing – even cultural heritage – is in the order of twenty years old and continues the ‘English’-themed charade that some like to impose on this plateau.
It was ‘The Settlement’ that had collected much of the heritage from the region on its site. This history was all auctioned off and dispersed, without any cry from the locals, when the property was sold to the golf course developers. Residents seemed to have no concern with this loss other than in trying to get whatever one might have wanted – cheap - from the sale that saw old Mudgeeraba and Springbrook buildings and paraphernalia go mostly elsewhere. Yet when buildings are being demolished to consolidate and expand the very fragmented Springbrook National Park, there is a great cry. I suggest that this is a very hollow anxiety with interests in things other than heritage, culture and national parks. To have these misguided aims stimulated by your silly support for the foolish heritage listing of a relatively new theatrical building, is a serious problem as the argument pretends to be otherwise.
While Springbrook’s climate is attractive, its heritage lies more in slab huts and other simple traditional structures rather than in fake manor houses. As a beginning, your efforts might be better directed to the portion of the infrastructure that we know for certain is a heritage item – Springbrook Road itself – the narrow, winding approach to this lovely mountain retreat that becomes the spine of the plateau. It is an essential part of the place and experience that we know and love as Springbrook. The great shame is that this heritage road is being developed – albeit piecemeal - to become like a highway similar to every other one in the world. Springbrook is a National Park area precisely because it is not like anywhere else. We should all work to ensure that it remains so. The demolition of the buildings is part of the growth and renewal of this special World Heritage region for the future. It should be supported, not pooh-poohed with misguided, distracting, false arguments.