During the Christmas break I travelled back to my birthplace – Bunbury, in Western Australia; a place I left when I was six months old and can only remember returning to once since then.
Throughout my life to date I’d felt very little affinity with Bunbury; an oft-maligned cousin of Perth. For a variety of reasons that are difficult to articulate, I felt like it was time I made a personal and solo journey there, to see if I could establish some sense of connection with the place where I was born.
So I went for four days and walked and explored and photographed and was pleasantly surprised with what I found there. Highlights included: finding places connected with my personal history; looking up at the second storey architecture in Victoria Street; taking night walks along Ocean Drive overlooking Back Beach; wandering the halls and rooms of the old convent building that now holds the Bunbury Art Galleries; and sitting on the steps at Boulter’s Heights at dusk, overlooking the city centre.
Along the way, visiting my birthplace raised some questions for me about place making:
- Is it important that we as place makers have a strong sense of connection with our own personal places of significance? How does this inform the work we do in our own and other communities?
- How does the lens of place making enrich our own experience of places we visit?
- How important is personal history in developing a sense of place?
I was also excited to identify some significant place making opportunities in central Bunbury.
The Bunbury Waterfront Project is an obvious one.
At the other end of the CBD there looks to be the beginnings of what could be a vibrant cultural precinct, anchored by the new City of Bunbury public library. International leaders in place making, Project for Public Spaces (PPS), argue that libraries are increasingly becoming significant destinations that provide vibrant public places and can generate positive impacts in terms of cultural tourism and local economic development. For more info, check out these PPS articles: Library Placemaking and Libraries That Matter.
Around the new library site are a range of public, community and commercial spaces that together could contribute to a thriving cultural precinct.
The Bunbury City library (1) is due to open in January. It looks out onto Anzac Park (2), one of the few public green spaces in the city centre and one frequented by family groups.
Across the road from the library development I found Unsunk Funk – a hub for Bunbury’s creative entrepreneurs. It serves as a workshop and retail space for Sewn by Genevieve designs and has a gallery for other local creatives to exhibit and sell their work.
Next door to Unsunk Funk on Parkfield Street is the West Coast International College of English (4) and on the other side of Stirling Street there’s the lovely Cafe One Forty (5) – a locally owned family business with a focus on using fresh local produce.
The Stirling House senior citizen’s centre (6) fronts onto the other side of Anzac Park and around the corner is the currently unused St John of God Hospital site (7) – could this be retrofitted into a mixed use development to support Bunbury’s young creatives (including student / affordable housing, artists’ studios and commercial spaces)?
With my newfound sense of connection with Bunbury, I for one will certainly be watching with interest as to how these significant place making opportunities are realised.