W. F. E. Liardet, Landing at Melbourne, 1830, watercolor/Copyright held by State Library of Victoria

It has been thirty-four years since I was last in Melbourne, and physically it has not improved in the long interval. I remembered it as a handsome, if not characterful, city; now I was aghast as I walked down Swanston Street, one of its principal thoroughfares, at what had been done to it. It was like a vast open-air museum of modern architectural pathology, waiting for unesco to declare it a world heritage site.

It was not that insuf ...