South Road: An experiment 1

I have often thought about walking along Adelaide's South Rd in the late afternoon taking photos of this urban stretch. I drive along this road  every time I go to and from Adelaide to Encounter Bay.   It looks interesting with all the different signs, architecture and colours. It's all mixed up, chaotic  jumble. 

However, South Rd is Adelaide's  main north south corridor and at peak hour it is  jammed with cars in the late afternoon. It is noisey and full of fumes,  and so I have  backed off walking along it. Breathing all those fumes  would not be  good for one's health.  Still, I find photographing South Rd in the late afternoon winter light intriguing.  

I  tried an experiment recently: --taking photos through  a car window. The opportunity arose  when we were returning from Blinman after being on a camel trek from Blinman to Lake Frome, as I was  sitting  in the back seat  and Suzanne was driving towards the Southern Expressway.   


I wound the  back window on the left  side of the car down. The basic concept was simple: to take a photo when the car stopped in traffic. It is unlike the Conceptual artists of the 1960s. They preconceived a conceptual project that they  then carries out with photographs. However,  photography was only useful or interesting to them insofar as it was instrumental in conveying or recording their ideas. These artists describe the photographs themselves as either brute information or uninflected documentation. The  1960s conceptual tradition  held photography as a specific medium  with its  rich history and formal conventions  at arm’s length. 

windows onto

This photo comes from when wandered  in   Rundle Mall in September,  2011.This was a time when I was still living in the CBD and so it easy for me to walk the city in Adelaide learning how we perceive the city,  how we imagine it, how we experience it.  The photos of  shop windows below are very different to the drone's aerial view of Rundle Mall; an aerial view  which has become pervasive in documentaries filmed outdoors.   

I was being a flaneur wandering from shop window to shop window, drifting  amongst the shoppers and office workers who were  going about their business in a very determined and focused  manner.  I was just drifting through the shopping precinct looking for something to photograph; drifting not hunting. The photo is different from Google's Street view which unfolds on the screen under our fingers. 

walking Bowden

I was able to walk around Bowden making some photos when I was  in Adelaide last week. I had several hours whilst I was waiting for Kayla to be clipped.  I quickly realised that  the  Bowden/Brompton that I lived in  during the 1980s has well and truely gone.  

 This old industrial /working class suburb is undergoing extensive urban renewal and redevelopment.  The factories and cottages have all gone--replaced by apartments in Bowden and townhouses in Brompton.  

I spend some time walking around the new redevelopment in Bowden--it is high density urban infill with a heritage precinct on the land of the old Brompton Gasworks. Bowden is envisioned as a vibrant, inner city destination. 

The empty land opposite where I used to live in Gibson Street is now Emu  Park whilst the Stobie poles have mosaics.  The boundary in Gibson St has gone, as has the house where I had a studio.   Conroys Small Goods is still there.  

Re-development of the Central Market precinct

The response to the  decline of automotive and manufacturing activity and employment in Adelaide has been  redevelopment to ensure a transition to  an  information and knowledge based economy.   Adelaide,  as  a middle ranking city in Australia, is lagging behind Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth  in becoming a knowledge city. Adelaide  struggles to develop the human capital (knowledge workers)  to underpin the knowledge economy and the infrastructure to utilise that human capital to create economic value. Melbourne is probably the key city  here. 

One sign of the  process of  change in Adelaide to becoming a  post-industrial city can be seen  in the number of boutique hotels being built in the city.This  is considered to be part of the 'revitalisation' index.      

The large background building under construction  is the Indigo Hotel in Market Street looking across Gouger St.  The Indigo  brand  is owned by IHG hotelier, which is  set to open in 2020.  It is marketed as adding to, and participating in  the vibrant atmosphere of the Central Market precinct. 

Adelaide Central Market precinct (walkable urbanism)

 Up until 2014-15 Suzanne and I   lived in Sturt St a couple of blocks from the Adelaide Central Market in Adelaide's  CBD.  The Central Market  was our shopping centre and we would do the weekly shop early on a Saturday morning around 7am after we had walked with the poodles (seen as significant others).  We would walk down to the market precinct  with a shopping trolley, have a coffee at Cibo's in Gouger St, do the shopping, then walk  back to the town house, unpack the shopping, then have breakfast. We would be back home around 8.30-9 am.

We walked to most places in the CBD (GP's,  gym,  hairdresser,  gallery openings,  etc ). This convenience was one of the attractions of inner city living. I understood walking  to be a counter to the car's domination of  the city with its  traffic noise and fumes, congestion,  the urban grime and the heat during the summer.   Our  car would  sit in the garage during the week,  as it was  mostly used for  travelling to places outside the inner city,  or to go to Victor Harbor on the  weekends.    Now, at Victor Harbor,  we have 2 cars and we have to travel in the car to several shops to  do the weekly shopping.  

street art

During the last few days I have been going through the archives looking for material for the forthcoming online Walking/Photography exhibition at Encounters Gallery. Whilst doing so I  came across some  photos of street art in Adelaide, South Australia that I had made around  2011 whilst I was walking  the city. 

I was living in the city at the time and my daily walks with the poodles would be around the CBD and the parklands. These walks would be meanderings--to do with exploration, a way of accommodating myself, of feeling at home. It was a way I got to know the city. Walking  into dead ends,  or  reluctantly retracing  my  steps,  didn't matter to me  because this was part of  the process of  exploration.  

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.