Melbourne’s cafes are not categorised for being spacious or have grand entrances. They are hard to find, often busy and grinding kilos of coffee per second. Coffee is a way of life in Melbourne and nearly everyone you meet will have an opinion on where to find the city’s best. In recent years the scene has moved beyond frothy lattes and cappuccinos and embraced alternative brewing methods such as siphon and clover coffee. These places buzz from the early hours of the morning; grinding beans, frothing milk and getting you a phoenix-shaped latte and a fresh almond croissant even before you’ve gotten to work.
Try to find a café open after four o’clock though, and you may find yourself in a ghost town. Melbourne City Council says there are over 160,000 café/restaurants in the municipality, most of which are opened from 8-4. What does this have to do with urban planning you may ask. The latest solution to the real estate crisis? Perhaps not, but definitely an unused market.
Last year I did a bit of research about the potential of using carparks for public space. I calculated there is the equivalent of 36 Melbourne Cricket Grounds put together just in the City of Melbourne. If that is carpark space, can you imagine what we could do with office and retail space?
The temporary, guerrilla, pop-up -however you want to call it- movement has really taken a step forward offering everything from fresh produce to the most audacious pirouetting one may ever see. Using one of Melbourne’s laneway cafés, a secret location in Collingwood and other “informal” spaces, groups of people have developed series of evening classes for ordinary, working people to learn new things, in a non-committal way. Classes range from things like bicycle touring, hummanure, bat conservation and grammar they didn’t teach you in school and everything in between. It gives individuals a chance to mingle and a new way to spend their evening while giving life to spaces that would normally sit idle.
While bat conservation is not my thing, I could definitely do with some grammar classes. These spaces support start-ups, small organisations, artists and people interested in learning something new.
The pop-up movement is not only for hipsters sipping wine and talking about bicycle touring or improving their grammar. There is great potential to use unused private and public spaces and support Melbourne’s, or any city’s evolvement. This movement is doing amazing stuff — we just need more of it.
If you’re interested in any of these informal classes, check out A Centre for EverythingHomehouse, Laneway Learning, Melbourne Free University and Small Giants. A Centre for Everything is also organising a panel discussion on the subject of small-scale, non-accredited forms of learning and teaching in Melbourne, with invited guests Melbourne Free University, Laneway Learning, Small Giants and Homehouse. The event, on May 11, is part ofDirect Democracy exhibition at Monash Museum of Art. For more information see A Centre for Everything's website (www.centreforeverything.com)