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Honouring the men who returned the Yarra to the city

The work of visionary Melbourne architects Evan Walker and David Yencken in redeveloping the Yarra River corridor has redefined Melbourne, the Premier John Brumby said today.
Their strategy to revitalise the Yarra in the early 1980s changed Melbourne forever, said Premier Brumby, speaking at an event to honour Cain Government, Planning and Environment Minister Evan Walker and his departmental secretary David Yencken.
“Thirty years ago the Yarra had fallen on hard times. Its industries had moved on and the city looked away from it, as though it were an embarrassment,” the Premier said.
“Evan and David saw the potential of the river as a public space and set about transforming it from a wasteland to Melbourne’s cultural and recreational heart.
“Their plan saw the development of the south bank and set out the strategy for landscaped promenades lined by public buildings, restaurants and open spaces filled with art.
“As a government we have been proud to continue their vision with projects such as the Convention Centre, Birrarung Marr and now the refurbishment of Hamer Hall.
“Today we are honouring David and Evans work in the traditional manner with a plaque and at the other end of the scale with a free iPhone app walking tour.
“The walking tour is the story of the Yarra’s rejuvenation as told by the people responsible. Using audio and images it shows how David and Evan’s vision was carried out and how much the river has changed,” he said.
Former Planning and Environment Minister Professor Evan Walker AO said it was a privilege to work with Yencken on the South bank Strategy.
“To see this forgotten part of the heart of Melbourne developed, adding to the quality and extent of the pedestrian precinct on both sides of the river was deeply satisfying,” Mr Walker said.
“More recently I have been delighted to see the second planning axis come into being, joining park lands and gardens to the East and Docklands to the West. This has been a fulfilment of our original strategy and contributes to the essential liveability of Melbourne.
The Yarra River has not only been restored to its place as a central feature of the city but has become a positive focus. The old ‘drain’ has gone.”
Professor David Yencken AO said that over the years Melbourne turned its back on the Yarra despite its history as the site of first settlement and a water source.
“By the start of the 1980s this part of the river was an area crying out for attention. Its wonderful opportunities were ignored: its closeness to the city’s heart, its intimacy of scale and its sunny north-facing south bank.
The strategy we developed in the 1980s sought to make the river a central part of the experience of the city centre, to capitalise on its many qualities and to make the river frontages as attractive as possible to people.”