One way of making sense of Adelaide as a city is in terms of it being akin to an American doughnut. The American donut is a sugary ring with an empty centre and is a fine metaphor for the rich suburbs around a collapsed inner city. The city centre was structured on the segregation of urban areas into retail, industrial and living areas whilst the suburbs were designed as a refuge from the bustle of city life.
Since the mid-20th century Adelaide, like other Australian cities, has been subjected to the "doughnut effect": the city centre becomes "hollow" as population moves from inner suburbs to the outer suburbs in search of newer, larger or more affordable houses. The ‘great Australian dream’ was a large house on a quarter-acre block in the suburbs. Consequently, Adelaide became a low density city.
People live in the suburbs on the urban fringe and work in the city. Since adequate public transport runs out well before you hit the real 'burbs' people travel to the city in the car to work, shop and play. The city centre is full of car parks, office buildings, shops and commuters.
The conception of the city as a doughnut overlooks that the hollowed out centre (CBD) was, and is, a place of mostly white collar work within high rise office buildings. In Adelaide these building are mostly in the bland modernist style: rectangular shapes of concrete and glass.
The hollowed out centre is mostly noticeable on the weekend: the streets are empty of people. It was devoid of vitality and the city centre had the feel of a urban wasteland or concrete jungle. The corporate model was a soulless landscape of glass, steel, and concrete boxes.
The large population concentrations around the periphery of cities saw the suburbs began to take on the properties of urban areas, thus eliminating the need to travel back into the city center. Car ownership gave rise to the formation of the Edge City by the town planners and urban designers.
I lived in a working class cottage in the residential area of the inner city whilst I was doing my doctorate at Flinders University, which was located in the southern suburbs. I had a standard poodle and we used to walk the city. We avoided Rundle Mall, the retail shopping precinct, which was seen to be the heart of Adelaide's CBD. This model of the city experience was one of eating and shopping.
Urban life was painted in terms of the suburbs versus the city yet there was little conception of the urban lifestyle based on living in the city. I found the rest of the CBD outside the retail shopping precinct to be bleak, depressing and uninviting. Instead of the rich density of urban life celebrated by Jane Jacobs my experience of urban existence was one of provincial monotony, sterility, and vulgarity.
Quality of life and a sense of community were deemed irrelevant. That was what the suburbs represented. The city was a machine for working and shopping to paraphrase Le Corbusier. The modernism of the mid-20th century urban planners appeared to be structured on a hostility to the messy urban street. It was a slum to be cleared to make way for the new.