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. 

Hindley Street, Adelaide

Hindley Street is  the  historically grungy street in Adelaide's CBD with little in the way of modernist Adelaide architecture.  Historically,  it has been the  nightlife entertainment centre of a suburban and industrial Adelaide.  Today the street consists of  yiros outlets, shisha venues, convenience stores,  massage parlours and pubs.

It is in need  of a bit more diversity to overcome the tacky look of urban impoverishment. This is an example of the historical grunge:

Despite the  recent emergence of a  laneways and street culture in Adelaide, Hindley Street  still has an image problem from the perspective of the city council.  It is a counter image to the offical brand of the city.  

empty shops

The empty retail shops in the CBD of Adelaide are quite noticeable when  I walk around  the city on my visits from Encounter Bay these days.  I interpret them as one  of the signs of the difficult economic times associated with Adelaide's  slow transition  from being an industrial to a post-industrial city.  This is still a city undergoing de-industrialization,  with a stagnant population,  high poverty and unemployment rates and increased homelessness.  

I accept that I cannot  now photograph the CBD as I used to when I lived in the city and I walked the standard poodles  in the early morning and late afternoon.   As the low key commute  involves an hours drive to Adelaide  from Encounter Bay on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula coast,  so I have to accept whatever light there is  when  I walk and photograph the city during the day. 

renewing Adelaide

Most of the  new development in Adelaide's CBD  since the recession caused by the 2007-8 global financial crisis has been apartment towers. All Australia’s state capitals have seen versions of this  phenomenon,  but the pace and scale of change in Adelaide is  much less than it has been in Melbourne's Docklands or in the inner west of Sydney. 

The exception to the apartment boom are the new buildings along the  western side of North Terrace--that is the expansion of the Convention Centre and the new health and biomedical precinct around and down from the Morphett Street Bridge . The latter consists of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, (SAHMRI), the Health Innovation Building (University of South Australia), and the Adelaide Medical and Nursing Schools (University of Adelaide).  

The CBD has been rapidly changing since we left living in the CBD in 2015. We just saw the start of the redevelopment  prior to leaving to living on the coast. We had a sense of Adelaide being between its  decaying industrial past  with its rust-belt imagery (eg. of Whyalla) and a high tech driven future. The promise was one of revitalisation of a moribund urban life with its underperforming public school system,  chronic public-sector management woes and pockets of intense outer suburban  poverty.   

architectural photography

This is one of the last images that I made with a large format camera before I left living in Sturt St in Adelaide's CBD  to move down to Encounter Bay on the coast on the coast of the southern Fleurieu  Peninsula. The  photo was made early on a  Sunday morning in the late autumn.   Hence the empty streets.  

It is of Wakefield House  in Wakefield Street just east of Victoria Square.  I do not think that it is heritage listed.  Wakefield House  is  a heavy, concrete modernist building that would have had a utopian feel to it when it was first built and celebrated.   This building represents the future.  It stood for  modern,  industrial  Adelaide. Today, my personal impressions is  that the building has a historical almost brutal look.   

There is a long history of architectural photography and this one is a modest architectural photo in a documentary style rather than an atmospheric moment.   It does not strive to be the glossy architectural photo that one sees in the architectural magazines.   It  makes no pretension to be an architectural hero shot, namely the photo that gives a project an identity through being the face of a building.The hero shot  is the image in commercial architectural photography  done for the client that everyone goes ooh aah over. 

more empty streets

I found the empty streets in the CBD disconcerting,  when I was walking around them in the early morning on the weekends.  This was the reality of an industrial society: a stumbling around amongst the nineteenth century architecture didn't result in  me  coming across a diversity of  random people.  I rarely  saw another person.   

There was a sense of melancholy on the streets.   A desire for an urban life that wasn't there.  I was living in an industrial  city that wasn't really a city because of the lack of people. They were all in the suburbs.  It was eerie. The promise was that people would come with the transition to the post-industrial  society.  

where are the people

 Many of my photos  of the street  from the perspective of carparks have little or no people in them. This is not  just by design.

 One of the notable historical aspects of Adelaide is the lack of people walking the streets or gathering  in squares or piazzas. It always felt like a large country town rather than a capital city

This is starting to change as more people are encouraged to start  living  in the CBD  and more international students arrive to study at the universities in the CBD. But  on Sunday morning the people on the streets are few and far between.  

One reason for this lack of people is the lack of piazzas or laneways that are closed to cars. It is proving very difficult to achieve this because it is political. The  political conservatives are opposed to the inner-city living,  and they favour the suburbs and the use of the car as  the  mode of transport.   

The conservatives  see those who want  the inner city to be a more attractive and liveable as Greenies who are  pro bike and anti-car. They favour more investment in freeways and less investment in public transport including light rail in the CBD.  

a congested city

The urban planners know that Adelaide  is kidding itself if it believes the private car can remain as dominant as it is now. Adelaide will keep growing, and all the evidence suggests building roads to reduce congestion is a short-term fix at best – the congestion just keeps coming. 

The urban planning and transport planning professionals worldwide have accepted for many years that the best thing in growing cities is to improve public transport to keep those cities moving. The cities that rely on cars, generally speaking, perform worse economically than those that have public transport.

What is needed  is a tram system connecting to the train station and the bus station in an integrated way. The argument should be about developing a commitment to public transport overall, and it needs to be consistent and integrated not about more freeways for cars to deal with commuter congestion.  The congestion occurs at the points where traffic must leave the freeway and join the existing urban road network and more freeways only increases pressure on these outlets.