Adelaide: an urban heat island

The skyline of 1970s modernist Adelaide from the top floor of the  Wakefield St  car park. We are  looking west towards Victoria Square.

Little has changed in this part of Adelaide since I  left living in  Sturt St in 2014 to move to Encounter Bay on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula.  The only change is the  hotel  on Whitmore Square-- the dark building in  the left  background. 

Summer in the CBD is  very hot due to the way surfaces like asphalt trap heat even as cars and buildings exude it. When a city is markedly warmer than  its surrounding rural areas, it is called an urban heat island.   Adelaide is one of the worst in Australia and it can be stressful, if not dangerous, to be outside  during a heatwave with 40+ degrees temperatures.  With  climate heating, the impact of higher temperatures will become more evident in the CBD. 

old signs + the new urbanism

One result from walking with the poodles around Adelaide's  CBD  is that my 'walking Adelaide' usually  involves wandering down the  various laneways and the  back alleys as well as into the  various carparks. In doing so I occasionally  stumble across an interesting image,  or even two,  in a few of  these back alleys. 

An example from January 2019: 

Usually these  signs/images  are on the walls of an  alt-Adelaide  (the seedy underside of Adelaide),  and they have been there for many a year. They are off the main pedestrian thoroughfares,   and so they are been forgotten and unseen.   So they slowly decay over time until there is a major urban development, which its usually a hotel, a block of student apartments or an office block.  

Adelaide modern

Prior to mid twenthieth century  modernism Adelaide was a planned city of red brick and sandstone within a self-contained rectilinear grid   encircled by parks and green space, never to be built upon,  with its discrete zoning of dwelling, work, transportation and recreation.   It was  Colin Hassell and John Morphett  who  rejected the established classical/gothic revival architectural order in early 20th century Adelaide. 

The modernist ethos was to make a modern world, to sweep away the old and, out of chaos, build stability. Concrete was the  stuff of dreams of a progressive, dynamic cosmopolitanism.  Adelaide did not experience the modernist  Brutalist style of building  deployed to satisfy the urgent demand for cost-effective post-war housing on a mass scale that was  frequently associated with socialist utopian ideals, and dreams of collective living. 

One of the themes that I explored off and on when I was living in Adelaide's CBD was the modernist architecture from the 1960s and 1970s. These pictures are of the backs of those  overlooked "form follows function" buildings along  Pirie St which  survived the mindless razing of so much of Adelaide's built heritage from the 1960s to 1980s: 

 Many of the modernist  buildings that are gathered together in the Victoria Square precinct are of the 1970s butalist  genre, such as the Department for Education's headquarters on Flinders Street and  Wakefield House opposite St Francis Xavier's Cathedral. Whilst photographing these kind of buildings I realised the  importance of light to architecture and how it can transform a building completely, both inside and out. This is especially the case with the roughly textured béton brut  buildings.

West Terrace Cemetery

When we  lived in Adelaide's CBD in the first decade and half of the 21st century one of my  favourite afternoon poodlewalks was  in Adelaide's  west parklands, especially  Park 23 (G.S. Kingston Park or  Wirrarninthi) with its sculpture trail  plus  the heritage listed West Terrace Cemetery. Wirraninthi used to be called Wirranendi,  and over the years that I was living in the CBD I witnessed its  extensive replanting with trees, shrubs, grasses and the ecological  rehabilitation  of the  stormwater wetlands. 

We--the two poodles and me--  would spend many an hour wandering around and exploring the cemetery in the late afternoon.  It was safe territory.   The poodles could explore the  fenced grounds whilst  I could take photos. I just had to keep an eye out  for the cyclists riding through the grounds and for  the occasional graveyard  visitor. I usually went to the  forgotten, rundown  areas, which I found more to be more interesting than the newer, and more  flashy Italian/Greek  grave stones.  I thought that the latter were excessive--over way the top.  

Adelaide's empty shops

It could well  be the case that with the disappearance of the Holden  car plant at Elizabeth,  Adelaide is in danger of being  a distressed city with its unemployment, run-down buildings, an inequality with  its impoverishment  part of the population,  an underperforming public school system, declining living standards,  and a limited skill base due to young people leaving to find work in Sydney or Melbourne.  

This long and uneven process of de-industrialization has resulted in crisis management by the South Australian state government; one that   aims to prevent further  urban decline in the context of post-Fordist capitalism. However, Adelaide struggles compared to Melbourne or Sydney, as the latter  have weathered industrial decline far better than Adelaide, due to  these two larger cities having benefited  more from globalisation.  

It is true that a faltering Adelaide  has begun the process of  adapt and respond to economic the form of   re-invention--of slowly  transforming  into becoming a post-industrial city. This is a transition  from producing and providing goods to one that mainly provides  services. In a post-industrial society, technology, information, and services are more important than manufacturing actual goods.  This, it is argued,  is the path to recovery. 

The subsidised casino, convention centre and sports stadium  are designed to encourage urban development, give Adelaide a competitive edge in the competition between Australia's cities,   and  a new image as an attractive city in contrast to the rusting industrial image.   Adelaide brands itself as a destination  that seeks to attract visitors and a creative class of new residents in the CBD.  

What I  do find  disturbing  is that there are still a large number of empty shops in the CBD. The above picture is of an  empty shop is in the western part of Hindley St, which is in the northwestern area of Adelaide's  CBD. 

Austral Stores building

Slowly, ever so slowly, I am returning to working on the Adelaide book project after couple of years.  We  left  living in Adelaide's CBD about   3 years or so ago, and shifted to living on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula coast. Most of my daily photography on the poodlewalks  now happens along  the coast, whereas when we lived in Adelaide,  the daily photography emerged from walking the CBD with the poodles.   

Adelaide's  CBD has changed since 2016.   What is noticeable to me as a visitor about the  new development in the CBD  is the increase in both the high rise apartments and the coffee shops/cafes.  Adelaide is becoming post-industrial. 

Occasional day trips to Adelaide are all that I can  do these days, and this particular trip  was designed to  pick up the photography from where I had left off 3 years ago.  This photo was made on a day trip to Adelaide when  I was able to spend some time wandering around the  CBD as a flaneur.  The above picture was taken from a car park  behind the back of The Austral Stores building in Hindley St.

Port Adelaide

I have been going through my archives and realized that the images that I made in and round Port Adelaide do form part of the Adelaide book. The book is more than the images of the CBD of Adelaide. For some reason I  had kept these two areas of Adelaide  separate when I was photographing. 

The Port is intrinsically connected to the CBD as it was, and still is,   the terminal or exit point for South Australia's exports.  Historically  the exports were loaded onto ships at Port Adelaide. Today, the  goods continue to be railed to the Port but they but they are  now exported in containers through  the container terminal in Outer Harbor.

Elizabeth after Holden

This picture was made whilst I was on a recent visit to Elizabeth for the opening of Eric Algra's photographic exhibition This is Our Town.   Elizabeth is a town that is struggling to come to grips with the  closure of General Motors  Holden car plant in October 2017; an event that   ended more than a century of car manufacturing in Australia. 

The recent  Holden commemorative  mural on  the wall of  the shopping centre ---Elizabeth City Centre--remembers the past as the town confronts the fallout  from  the 12,000 job losses in the northern suburbs from  the  ripple effect in the supply chain of the  component suppliers, and  the  range of logistics companies as they close down. 

The Holden plant closure represents  the end of  the old style nation building centred around industrialisation and manufacturing.  Elizabeth was a  planned community with  a utopian vision for how modern life based around  steady job and money, happy workers,  orderly streets,  stable families and a pleasant place to live.  It was a car city that championed the car. It was a city going places. 

people in the city

When I used to poodlewalk around Adelaide's CBD when I  lived in Sturt St (2005-2015) the people in the city outside of the office hours.  were few and far between. The CBD was noticeable for the empty streets on the weekends -the doughnut city I called it. An alternative name could have been zombie town as the  past cast a very long shadow over the city.  

This started to change just before we left in 2015  to live on the southern coast  of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Small bars were opening, more people were living in apartments,  people were on the street outside of business hours and the laneways from the central market to the railway station were being developed

This is a significant change:  a transformation from  Adelaide being like a country town to Adelaide having an urban life. I notice the difference when I walk around the city  with a camera 3 years later.