In Plain Site

When walking from the north-east corner of Hyde Park through the park towards Bathurst Street, whether walking across the pavers, bark chips or grass, you will walk past trees, the war memorial and as you do you will notice what looks like a sandstone plinth in the distance but it’s obscured by trees that you are yet to pass. All around you people are going about their own business and there is the constant sound of sirens and traffic either flowing or stalled. When flowing the engines roar like the ocean, churning as wheels turn.

The closer you get the more you notice, that there is text on the sandstone plinth but it’s yet too far away to read and through the trees you see what could be the sandstone shaft. Though the thick foliage of the trees still obstructs your view, veering to the right you see just above them the pointy decorative metal top of what could be a tower roof or an oversized ornamental arrow pointing up at the sky.

It is only at 50 metres distance that the sphinxes are visible and the writing intelligible. A few more metres and the Hyde Park Obelisk is unveiled in all its glory; sandstone base with Egyptian ornamentation, the sandstone shaft and the topper a filigree bronze pyramid thrusting into space. Standing a full 22 metres it dwarves the surrounding trees (when not on a slop) but is itself dwarfed by the modern buildings. All the buildings along Elizabeth Street between Liverpool Street in the north and Park Street in the south appear to be either offices, retail shops or cafés with large windows; all the better to ogle at a model in phallic architecture.

When in Bathurst Street facing Hyde Park although the top of the Obelisk is veiled by trees, like a phallus obscured but thick bush the base is clear and obvious, sandstone contrasting with the greenery behind it. The closer you get to the intersection of Bathurst Street and Elizabeth Street the quicker it becomes completely visible, thrusting above all the trees at monumental scale. Walking down Elizabeth Street via Liverpool Street or walking up Elizabeth Street from Park Street you notice it quickly, by virtue of it being in the middle of your walk way. In actual fact not trees or foliage or other constructions are directly next to the Hyde Park Obelisk on any side. It is a large scale sculptural monument, almost a stand-alone duck.

People stand next to the Obelisk, walk by it, stare at it in their cars whilst waiting to turn left or right from Bathurst Street on to Elizabeth Street and pass it by without a second thought. Two men are standing under it, deep in conversation for the last twenty minutes I’ve been writing this, only to suddenly part ways. One crosses to Bathurst Street and the other walks down Elizabeth Street, presumably towards Park Street to catch a bus? Tourists photograph the Obelisk blissfully unaware; a couple sits on a step 5 metres from it to stare at their mobiles. A man slowly saunters past it, only to change his mind and walk back the way he came up Elizabeth Street towards Liverpool Street. Six people wait at the lights; twenty people sit at the small tables in the Starbucks across the street guzzling their lattes, expressos or cappuccinos, all the office workers type away at their macs or pcs, and the retail workers palm off this season’s latest must haves. At least forty people have paused to rest, passed by and met up and move on under the Obelisk as I’ve been sitting here writing this, all of them unconscious of the history they just walked on.

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