The Sydney Morning Herald has been getting good mileage today out of the NSW State Governments planned western metro. The proposal is to run a metro out to Parramatta with increased density along the way.
Never mind that the metro is as likely to get off the ground as the numerous public transport strategies of the past few years, and whether or not a western metro is a good or a bad idea, it is the the imagery of this reporting that I find intriguing — architectural photomontage as alarmist political tool.
The front page of the offline paper (for the uninitiated, these are available for viewing in cafes while you wait for your coffee) features a large photomontage of a non-descript 80’s commercial building towering over some innocent trees and the Leichhardt ‘Marketplace’:
The impression being that the proposed densification is absolutely going to monster everything you love about your city. Look at the disrespect they have for newspaper design guidelines! Take that you stupid headline! You are no match for my height!
And below the shiny blue symbol of developer greed — an innocent clocktower! To the left of the image, the subhead reads “Heritage Suburbs Targeted”. Clocktowers signal heritage right? Never mind that this particular clocktower was quiet possibly built after the building that rises so arrogantly behind it. Understand this, poor clocktower: Time. It marches on.
In the online version of the article, the image has been cropped. Maybe the CSS was too difficult to code so that it popped out of the confines of the online layout. But then maybe by cropping the top of the tower it grows taller, its unseen height continuing to a height where it will overshadow your backyard.
Then, mid-morning, the Sydney Morning Herald added an updated version of their montage to the front page of smh.com. This time with with additional vignetting and a headline over the top of the image. The image now rendered far gloomier and the obfuscation of the top of the building again suggesting that this corporate monolith will disappear beyond the limits of human vision. Into the vast wasteland of the sky.
The choice to use a lifeless commercial building over residential buildings (as is actually proposed) further complicates the message. Obviously the blank face of some accounting company headquarters is far easier to despise than people’s homes.
In this instance, a graphic representation of the proposed areas showing the increased density over a map of the metro line with accompanying height diagrams would have been a far less politicised means of reporting this piece of news and would have informed the readership with meaningful data. Instead the graphic material adds nothing substantive to the discussion past appealing to reactionary nostalgia through stock visual cliches.