Brisbane will soon have a new casino.

Approval has been granted to Star Entertainment Group (formerly known as Echo Entertainment Group) for a casino with related developments that include five hotels and lots of shops.

Its architectural ambition is far from modest, and has already received criticism from architects for good reason. This development is in the heartland of Brisbane, and would have been an opportunity to respond in imaginative ways to the vernacular architecture and historic buildings that surround the site.

Instead, Geoff Hogg Managing Director of Star Entertainment Group QLD, and his plans, show an aesthetic that be can be found in the inner workings of a washing machine. Is this where money is laundered perhaps? More kindly, it could be described as a puffed up piece of bling which was originally designed for Dubai. Echo’s architects of course mean it to signify something quite different.

It was meant to show Brisbane has come of age and that it is, after all, a sophisticated city in need of up-market facilities to attract visitors from around the world.  All will marvel at the cleverly shaped casino, with high-rise towers looking down on the happy, sophisticated shoppers below in the expansive public spaces.

In reality, the public spaces are not essentially very generous or public. They will be controlled by the developers. As the well-regarded architect Richard Kirk suggests, there will be little given back to the public by this development.

In contrast, Southbank has given back to Brisbane all it took for Expo ’88. Clearly it works as a public amenity that articulates with Queensland’s – mostly free – cultural centres on the banks of the river. The plans for the casino site include a bridge to Southbank, but that might be all that these two sites have in common.

The design of the casino and its tall towers might impress some, but will it build a more liveable city? Research shows that Casinos (and their punters) can create significant problems.  It is not just a little flutter that destroys families, but addictive gambling can mean the loss of jobs, houses, relationships and health.

So this begs the question, who is designed to be enriched by the development: Who is Hogging the prime real estate? Odds are the casinos will win and the punters will lose. Simply expressed, families can come together for free fun at Southbank, while others risk losing everything playing Pokies across the river in Brisvegas. Is that really what we want ?

Image: Destination Brisbane Consortium 2014 concept – Aerial River – Day (REX On)
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