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. 

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.   

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.  

Adelaide: a doughnut city

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.