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Tulip fever

In the pink dawn of Sunday, September 1st, the finishing touches were applied to an installation of 150,000 tulips that had been in preparation for several months.

A carpet of tulips across Seafarers Bridge led Melburnians to a field of tulips on the wharf apron outside Goods Shed No 5 on North Wharf. People were invited to help themselves to tulips. No number specified. No limits imposed.

Decaying, fraying Goods Shed No 5 was the perfect urban backdrop for artist Joost Bakker’s imagination.

Goods Shed No 5, and restored North Wharf

The prompt for this act of beauty was when Joost Bakker learned that this was to be the final tulip growing season for his brother Pete. He won’t be growing tulips any more even though tulip growing has been in the family for generations. It’s just no longer competitive to grow tulips locally.

The tulip bulbs had been trucked down from Monbulk and grown on in their nutrient rich medium at the site of the new Seafarers Park to be ready for their mass blooming on the first day of spring.

The Bakkers chose to celebrate the end of this era, not with bitterness, but with this massive tulip give away.

All that was asked in exchange for an armful of flowers was to support local flower growers and engage with flower sellers in the future about whether their flowers are grown locally. Locally grown flowers in season, like vegetables, require fewer inputs – of pesticides, fertilisers, water and insecticides. Unlike vegetables, flowers are not required to show the country of origin.

In dwellings all over Melbourne, 150,000 tulips will now be blooming fed by their plump bulbs. Such is Joost Bakker’s zero waste imagination – generous and full of possibilities.


In the background, repair work is underway to the Mission to Seafarers. The floor in the main hall has been repaired, replaced (where it was needed) and sanded, and is now ready for another coat of varnish. Services to seafarers continue upstairs throughout the renovation work which is guided by conservation architects Lovell Chen.


In the foreground, the display suite for Riverlee’s Seafarers development. Expect to see posh pooches along North Wharf as Riverlee recently announced that 1Hotel, part of his development, will be notably pet friendly. Features will include plush in-room dog beds, treats available to purchased from the minibar, doggy-day-care and dog-walking services.

Goods Shed No 5, future Seafarers Park, and Seafarers display suite

Riverlee aims to be deeply sensitive to the local history of the site. As part of their public benefit contribution, Riverlee has restored the Malcolm Moore crane, and will incorporate Goods Shed No 5 as a new function centre within the development. They have also restored the decaying wharf and will pay for Seafarers Park. Their website includes a brief history of the site.

Recently I have begun to feel more and more strongly that there is more to heritage than the exemplary restoration of buildings and structures, a theme to explore another day.


Joost Bakker on instagram Early start at Seafarers

Foreground Fertile ground for change: Joost Bakker tackles the toxic city 7 March 2019

Seafarers Residences at 731-739 Flinders St. The website shows a fascinating photograph illustrating the relationship of the Mission to Seafarers to the wharves on the Yarra River bank.

Earlier Port Places posts on changing North Wharf: Records, A heritage dome in a development precinct, Port places

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