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. 

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 view camera (a 5x7 monorail) 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 are  a number of such brutalist buildings in Adelaide from the 1960s/1970s. 

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, or the specific look of the photographer.    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  that is done for the client which  everyone goes ooh aah over.