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King George Square

Home > Brisbane > Picnic Spots | Environment | Parks
by Melissa Hamblin (subscribe)
I'm a lawyer and freelance writer living in Brisbane's West End. Visit my blog at
Published October 11th 2011
I haven't actually tested this theory yet but I suspect there is a limit to how lengthy I am allowed to make these articles. As such I will not be able to express the full (and profound) extent of my vehement dislike of the King George Square refurbishment here. If you would like to be regaled with the full story, complete with excitable hand gestures (including table slapping) feel free to buy me a glass of wine on a Friday night.

Now, I am sure that the "architect" or "designer" that came up with the concept of the refurbishment thought he or she was very clever (I'm positive it's a he though, as I like to think no woman would ever be so idiotic). I'm sure his mum also thinks he's clever. I do not. You can imagine the eureka moment as the design was conceptualised – "…hmmm so they want a public space eh? A place to bring the city together? A heart? I've got it. Nothing says soulful and cosmopolitan like a concrete desert decorated with Soviet era bunkers. Oh and while I'm at it why don't I put in a temporary awning thing and market off some of that public space to a restaurant chain? Genius".

This is possibly the worst public space in Australia – and that includes the monstrously ugly square behind the parliamentary building in Adelaide, at least that has some weird cubist thing going on.

The hideous entranceways to the bus station are completely unnecessary (maybe a fact finding mission to Paris - or even Melbourne - would have been in order) and seriously detract from the grandeur of City Hall. Why do we need giant blocks of grey ugliness to alert us to the fact that we can go downstairs and get a bus? Surely a discrete sign would do as well.

The unending grey of the pavement is horrid; what, pray tell, is wrong with some cheery and soft grass? Then there is, as I like to call it "the giant black tarpaulin in the sky". This architectural gem seems to serve no purpose whatsoever. No doubt it was intended to provide some shade. It does if you go up the ramp to sit in the concrete away from even a whiff of greenery. Under it there is a restaurant. Now I am sure it is a perfectly nice restaurant (although, on principle I have never been there) – but what is it doing taking up so much of our public space? Why is there no where else to enjoy your lunch in the square? Why is it all so heinous?

Even ignoring the fact that the space is amazingly ugly and sterile, you can't but wonder at the sheer impracticability of the design. There is a wide open space concreted (sorry, 'paved') in a slippery and pale material. Fabulous. So it is nice and deadly in the rain (did someone forget that we live in the sub-tropics?) and when it is hot, is it hot? Blisteringly so. Obviously, after a while, someone recognised this and so they dug up a bit of the concrete to put in a few spindly, sad looking trees. At lunch time you can witness a few poor, brave-hearted souls trying to gain sun protection from these miserable specimens. You can practically see their sandwiches melting in their burning hands.

What makes it even more frustrating is that, just up the road, ANZAC Square provides a perfectly good example of how to develop a public space; lots of (short) trees; grass and benches for lunch, resting and general lolling about; pleasant pathways and a ground level entrance to the places below. Think how enjoyable King George Square could have been if it was designed along those lines – with the addition of a larger open space for things like the Speigeltent and large public gatherings.

Finally, not to be unfairly critical, I really love those coloured block things the lions and King George have been remounted on. It's just a shame that they look out on a Stalinist wasteland.
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Why? Visit for a lesson on how not to design a public space
When: Anytime - be careful in the rain...or sun.
Where: King George Square, Brisbane City
Cost: Several millions no doubt
Yes, I reckon, I'm not a big fan of concrete squares too...
By bicor - reader
Wednesday, 12th of October @ 12:25 pm
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