There has been a well-documented and longstanding call for Melbourne to build its own internationally recognisable landmark. While in my opinion we can always live without one, it is widely acknowledged that easily recognisable landmarks help to promote cities wordwide.
Test yourself: when you think of New York, which images automatically come to mind? For me it's The Empire State Building, The Chrysler Building and The Statue of Liberty. For Sydney it's The Sydney Opera House and The Sydney Harbour Bridge. These are all iconic landmarks that clearly identify the cities they are from.
It’s not that Melbourne doesn’t have landmarks; it’s just that the landmarks that we have could be considered local or national landmarks at best. Even though the Royal Exhibition Building (REB) has been given World Heritage listing by UNESCO, the fact remains it’s still recognised by most as a national landmark. Other national landmarks include the MCG, Flinders Street Station, Federation Square, Eureka Tower and the Arts Centre Spire. Melbourne’s W class trams and the Royal Botanic Gardens can probably also be included in the list of national landmarks. The Shrine of Remembrance, Parliament House, Luna Park and the NGV are more than anything else, local landmarks. If one was to judge by the sheer volume and variety of postcards, badges and fridge magnets sold in tourist shops, then Flinders Street Station could easily be our definitive national landmark.
Numerous people would argue that Melbourne is a city of many cultures and various architectural styles, which combine to offer constantly changing aesthetic experiences. Any attempts to reduce it to being represented by a single landmark will damage the very thing that makes this city great.
It is my personal view that, whether by default or by design, Melbourne will probably one day have an internationally recognisable landmark. The city has a great design culture and the prospects of a single landmark lie more in design than just monumental domination, but could be both, as long as distinctive design is the dominant feature.
If a tourist was to ask me today, “Which is Melbourne’s landmark?” I would answer, it’s the whole city, with its many interesting streets and lanes sprinkled with impressive buildings of many styles. Although this may not register internationally, Melbourne’s streets, lanes, buildings and trams together make up a very special place that the locals love and that many visitors enjoy!