CLOSED – When we think about Melbourne


The winners are mdonnelan63 (Sydney Rd) and Glen (the CBD).


Affirm Press has supplied two copies of Jenny Sinclair’s wonderfully visual book, When we think about Melbourne, to give away to readers of The Melbourne Urbanist (details on how to enter at bottom of page).

Here’re some images from the book; here’s a review by Anson Cameron published in The Age; and here’s the author in conversation with John Faine (in company with Sonia Hartnett and Chopper Read!).

This extract of the chapter, City Stories, looks at how novelists have imagined Melbourne and here’s part of the rightly famous chapter on the Melway, a cartographic delight.

Here’s how Readings describes the book:

Considering most Melburnians remain as steadfastly loyal to their city as they do their chosen AFL team, Jenny Sinclair is not alone in her love of Melbourne. When We Think About Melbourne charts the geography of Melbourne by exploring the historical and cultural significance of its landmarks and suburbs. Each section is accompanied with images and maps, which make for an interactive reading experience.

Sinclair’s interest lies in the way people make sense of their surroundings and come to call a particular area home. She does this through analysing the importance of maps, whether they are grand-scale drawings, something found on Google, or lines scrawled on notepaper. She also explores the potent effects of Melbourne on its artists – from Paul Kelly to Helen Garner – and how their works shape our own view of this ever-evolving city.

Best of all though is this extract from a glowing review by someone or something called The Melbourne Urbanist:

One of the observations made by Jenny Sinclair in When we think about Melbourne really strikes a chord with me – just how different the city is when you see it from the saddle of a bicycle. In this extract, she’s just cycled up the middle of St Georges Rd to Reservoir:

Perched on my bike on the track that runs through the park opposite these fine houses, I look down across Preston, Glenroy and to the city, and think: ‘it’s all downhill from here’. When I get home, I felt my sense of the world had expanded a little. Moments like this, of unexpected connection and revelation – I call them ‘surprised by joy’ moments after Wordsworth’s poem – come when we immerse ourselves, when we walk and ride; they are why we should get out of our cars for ourselves, not ‘just’ for the environment or for exercise

Cycling through the city is one of those pleasures that other less-fortunate souls haven’t experienced. Seeing the arse-end of factories from inner city bike trails, the undulating topography, the small exchanges of street life, or the great complexity and detail of inner suburban streetscapes that otherwise might seem regular and monotonous, is to be privy to a hidden world.

The author looks at how Melbourne has been approached by painters, musicians, novelists and film makers. She explores how television, the souvenir industry and the internet have interpreted the city and how indigenous and non-indigenous people see each other…….

The book opens with a spatial interpretation of Melbourne through the “lens” of the Melway refidex. Ms Sinclair frets that her book will only be known for this chapter but that’s probably inevitable. That’s because it’s innovative and creates wonderful behavioural and emotional “maps”:

You’re cycling down Canning Street, Carlton (Ref: 29 K12) towards the city, your earphones whisper the stories to you: this house was built with blood money, a murdering brother’s inheritance; the two genteel English sisters who lived in the terraces named ‘Irene’ and ‘Elaine’ were actually lovers, fooling the neighbours for forty years.

The use of maps as a device to interpret and decode is continued in the next chapter. It looks at Melbourne through historical maps, tourist guidebooks and even radical cartography, using the example of a tourist map issued in 1996 by the gay and lesbian community:

Where a government-issue map might show a coffee cup in Lygon street or a lion at the zoo, this one is packed with (iconic) stereotypes: pouting drag queens and moustached leather-boys prance across its pages……

All you have to do to enter is say which shopping/activity centre in Melbourne you think is the best. Just use the Comment box at the bottom of this page. Entries close midday Saturday, 3 September 2011. One entry only per person.

As usual the quality of your nomination has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on whether or not you win a copy of the book. The winner will be determined at random. However, a little explanation is encouraged. If you’re stuck, “the Bourke Street mall” is acceptable.

If you’re one of the winners, you’ll have to provide Affirm Press with an Australian address they can post the book to (I won’t know who you are or where you live).

This is how I choose the winners of giveaways. First, I count the number of comments, excluding any invalid entries (e.g. pingbacks, replies by me). I then generate a random number(s) at Then I count through the valid entries starting from the first comment (the top one) until I arrive at the winner(s).

35 Comments on “CLOSED – When we think about Melbourne”

  1. Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, as a) I was born here (St Vincent’s), b) I came of age around these traps (though of course they have partly, but not completely, changed), and c) I’ve returned here (it’s home again). My bedroom looks over quaint red chimneys, around the corner is the silent stream of bike transit, and around another corner is the pool (for folk like me who long for water when not on 2 wheels!). Then the food … (Yes, would love a copy of Jenny’s book …) Cheers Bojun!

  2. Roger says:

    Balaclava Road,Balaclava, which is in stark contrast to present day Acland Street, which, twenty years ago, was a real shopping strip notwithstanding the cake shops and tourists.

  3. Alexander says:

    I hate shopping centres. Indoor ones drive me crazy; I lose any remaining residue of my sense of direction I might have retained when I tried to navigate from the car park to the entrance. Oh for the day I walk out of a shopping centre and I discover, lo! that it is the right exit I have taken—but even when it’s the wrong one, I would rather walk around the darned thing than try my luck on the inside.

    As for the outside ones, playing chicken is not my idea of a good time. Sure, there’s one or two, every now and again, that have no traffic on them, but either there’s nothing there but a barber, a post office, and a cafe, or they’re too far away that you have to navigate our public “transport” “system” and expend about fifty times more time than if you had’ve gone to the local indoor centre or chicken playing field, or maybe—if you’re lucky—it’s raining.

    And now there’s the internet. You get to pick a product (if you can find it on the website), which you’ve never seen, and pay for it, then wait fifteen to twenty business days for it to be delivered when you’re not at home. Sure, I’ve never lost my sense of (physical) direction, or played chicken, or been rained on when buying on the internet. But any of the things which made the process of purchasing something tolerable—picking up the thing and enjoying it, the helpful staff, getting what you need when you need it—well, the internet has managed to take a horrible experience and make it worse. Only redeeming feature is it’s cheaper. That only redeems it if you knew you’d want it a month in advance, or it’s a luxury.

    Not to mention the whole shopping process in general. Either you have so many choices you don’t know which one to buy, or else there’s only one choice, you buy it, walk out of the shop, and lo and behold you see the same thing as you’ve bought at the shop across the road for half the price. Is there such a thing as an “enjoyable shopping experience”? I don’t bloody think so.

    Let it therefore be understood by all and sundry that this entry does not actually represent my preference, but is merely pro forma. Therefore:—

    My favorite shopping/activity centre is the Bourke Street Mall.

  4. Michael O says:

    I think that Glen Waverley is the best! Its very multicultural and has lots of unique and interesting places! Tons of restaurants, has a nice shopping centre thats never too crowded, plenty of buses and a train to take you into the city! I may be biased because I spend so much time there, but I do love it!

  5. mdonnellan63 says:

    Glen Waverley is very good, but too far for me. Kew Junction, Camberwell and Moonee Ponds used to be very good, but for variety and value, Sydney Road, Coburg and Brunswick can’t be beat.

  6. Jazzy says:

    Union Square, West Brunswick. (needs all the help it can get)

  7. Richard Peterson says:

    Gertrude Street

  8. Michael says:

    Box Hill. I grew up near Box Hill and it has always had an interesting mix of businesses and restaurants. When they built over the railway line they managed to join two shopping strips previously separated by the railway line and incorporate a market and bus terminal without creating wastelands of carparks. Now it is home to some of the best food in Melbourne (for those who know Hong Kong food anyway). I love that I can get an authentic Hong Kong breakfast and that it has managed to hold onto some small shops of the kind that low rents make possible. It puts other places to shame.

  9. Colin Bostock says:

    Without a doubt it has to be the Clayton Shopping Centre. This really is the multicultural heart of the South Eastern Suburbs – good cafes and restaurants, a wide range of mixed businesses, a fantastic Comunity Centre with multiple services and all delivered with a smile!

  10. Matthew says:

    I love the qurkiness of Smith Street. I love the rustic grand emporia buildings, the old MacRobertson factory buildings in Fitzroy, and the Foy and Gibson complex just behind the street in Collingwood.

    Smith Street has managed to retain a good mix of cafes, bars, entertainment venues, and shops.

  11. Daniel says:

    The CBD. I struggled to think, there’s so many different ones for different things, but the CBD is always the big special trip, and where you can find virtually everything you need.

  12. Q.Maisie says:

    I just love Preston Market and High Street. My heart lifts every Saturday morning (once I’ve found a park) and I know that the next 1-2 hours will be full of sounds and colour and smells and FOOD and people that make me feel connected to my past (just up Bell Street in Pascoe Vale) and my future (dinner that night in Ivanhoe with my family, using yummy stuff I’ve bought in Preston).

  13. Cat says:

    South Melbourne market and the area up to clarendon street

  14. apsheko says:

    The streets and markets of Footscray. I love the bargains, I love the myriad jellied confectionaries, I love the things in cans which shouldn’t be in cans, I love the bulk cheap spices.

  15. peter pianta says:

    Windsor End of Chapel Street…

  16. Cate says:

    When I first moved to Melbourne (from the UK ) I loved the big indoor shopping centres. We don’t have many of them in England, and having somewhere to shop in the warm during winter was a rare treat not often experienced in the UK! However after a number of years living here, I now understand the excellent shopping strips scattered across Metro Melbourne are an essential part of its culture. Favourite for a Sunday would be the Market on the peer at St Kilda – on that note, even if you hate shopping, you’ll enjoy Vic Market – it’s an experience and a half. Hampton St shopping strip is another one of my favs – beautiful location to meander when it’s sunny! .

  17. Tanya says:

    I love Gertrude Street, Fitzroy…’s got such an interesting and quirky selection of shops. There are many with locally hand-made goods, specialist bookshops, an old-style barber shop- filled with products surely procured in the 50s and 60s, cafes, an organic bakery, designer clothes shops (that I can’t afford), retro clothes shops, arty shops and still a few other businesses like a wrought-iron shop, billiard table makers and a hardware shop. It will perhaps reach a tipping point before too long however, where it will be entirely chi chi shops, when rents go sky high, in the usual manner of gentrification. Apart from that, Sydney Road, Brunswick has a cosmopolitan cornucopia of cuisines and all manner of shops and services, but traffic and parking is usually a headache- better to take the tram.

  18. Beatrice McGregor says:

    Glen Waverley is good (great cheap Chinese food), Sydney Rd and the Brunswick East end of Lygon are great for a eccentric bar crawl (atticus finch + retreat = great wine and conversation) but for a great afternoon cafe crawl, my hubby and I can’t go past a gentle stroll and the sea air of Acland St and surround, starting with Lau’s family Kitchen, Ciccolina’s back bar or restuarant it doesn’t matter which, Clay Pots for the Jazz, Pure Pop records for the open-air live music, and Blessington St Laundry for, well, our laundry!
    And for the BEST TOAST in Melbourne we pop into 19 squares opp the Dry Cleaners 😉

  19. matt dobson says:

    For a commercially successful local strip shopping centre with an offer of actual real commodities, Station St, Farfield appears to have it nailed. Somehow an excellent blend of retailers with products that are truly needed – a range of food shops, books in a library, clothes, stuff to cook with, even a church. Also stores that we like to got to to spend our wealth – cafes, bars, wine shops, take-away. How did it happen?

    But the one I love is Preston Market. I was a fruit and veg. stallholder for 8 years and it just got better and better the more time I spent there. The secret to it’s slightly unhinged vibrancy (I think) is that there is not a franchisee in sight, so instead of the facade of ‘customer service’, you get the warts-and-all interaction with sellers. Some days good, some days great, some days cranky.

  20. blogkamp says:

    Gertrude Street, Fitzroy – for shopping, eating and drinking

  21. Sian says:

    I used to think Sydney Road was pretty good, but having moved to (and bought in) Footscray I’m fairly comfortable declaring it is my current favourite. Having two markets (Footscray and Little Saigon) to choose from and standard supermarkets (Coles, Sims, Aldi if you head west a bit further), it fits the bill for all of my shopping needs.

  22. Kaz says:

    The best place in Melbs for a guaranteed decent feed for UNDER $10 ANYTIME… Victoria St Richmond. Also home of the tackiest and best $2 shops, Asian grocers and now also the convenience of a Safeway & an Aldi. And finally, no activity centre (or at least on the periphery of the ‘activity centre’) in Melbourne is complete without a Sunday brunch spot where you have to lineup for an hour for your scrambled eggs, and Victoria St has two such cafes quietly tucked behind (Three Bags Full & New York Tomato). Pho, fresh food and coffee… definitely my prerequisites for a winner!

  23. John says:

    I’d have to go for my local strip: Victoria st Mall (and the surrounds) in Coburg. The best falafel in Melbourne at Half Moon, fantastic Lebanese breads and cakes up the road at Al Alamy (yes, it’s better than A1 bakery), Coburg market just around the corner, the library, the Indian grocery, Safeway and Coles for whatever I can’t get at those places and, best of all, it’s all still at those slightly pre-gentrification prices. No doubt that’s about to change though, we’ve just got our first yummy mummy cafe on O’Hea st and coffees have gone up from 2.50 to 2.70 at most places.

    The yuppie marches on.

  24. Cassy says:

    Victoria Street, Richmond, is a great place to pretend you’re overseas – the smells, delicious food and non-English script all help, you just have to ignore the (comparatively) unchaotic roads themselves, lest they break the spell. I like Centre Rd, Clayton for the same reason – only.

  25. wilful says:

    The CBD.

  26. Camille says:

    Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.

  27. Brodie says:

    How has no one said Ballarat St, Yarraville yet? Whilst you couldnt grab the latest brands or gadgets here, you will find hallmarks of a flourishing ‘evolved’ activity centre – quaint and thriving retailers, small eateries and cafes, community, character and of course that Melbourne icon: the Sun Theatre. Plus it’s entirely accessible by PT! Definately gets my vote

  28. I love Sydney Road, Coburg, just south of Bell Street, for pretty much the same reasons as John, above. Yet to be yuppified.

  29. I love going to the Mediterranean Wholesaler on Sydney Road ( known to all good italians at Madafferi’s ) and getting a very hot and fairly bad coffee from the grumpy barista before sitting down in their in-house cafe with the smell of freshly baked bread and an inexpensive and very tasty cannoli in hand. Terrific.

  30. Aaron says:

    Chadstone. Not because I happen to think it is but apparently a lot of Melbourne do if size and patronage is anything to go by. Jazzy great job for repping Union Sqaure, Brunswick West 🙂

  31. Glen says:

    Definitely the CBD. It has individuality, vitality, a true mix of uses and enough variety to occupy a visitor for a full day. Unlike many other similarly sized CBDs (mainly in the US and the UK) it has real character that keeps me coming back.

  32. Katie says:

    How has no one said ‘Norflands’? One of my favourite spots to shop! And as an added bonus, I can go there in my trackies and still feel like I’m on the cutting edge of fashion.

  33. Moss says:

    CBD, especially the intimacy of the laneways and early arcades.

  34. Michael Walker says:

    Maling Rd Canterbury would be my selection. The food is fantastic, as is the coffee, and there is always something of interest in the ‘antique’ shops to fascinate.

  35. Terry says:

    I’d have to go with the city, something for everyone. It has a certain charm, especially for the pedestrian with all the nooks and crannies to explore

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