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.  

 Alt-Adelaide is now the old industrial Adelaide, even though the  urban sprawl both north and south and the suburban fringes that it gave rise to is  the new urban reality. Sprawl was the result of designers' visions of their future, working with industrialists. This is a vision that had its roots in Le Corbusier's highly influential 1935 book The Radiant City. I doubt that urban design and planning can reform the auto-dominated patterns of the twentieth century and return to the 19th century century, given  neo-liberal's   laissez-fiare model of allowing capital flows  to dictate the urban form.  

As I walk around in the inner city trying to imagine  a more walkable Adelaide  with more public space along the lines of the  new urbanism movement   I am sometimes lucky to  see inside a building  that is undergoing renovations.  This hotel on Hindley St is an example:  

On these walks I do keep looking for the signs of old industrial Adelaide as  the city  has appeared on the roll call of 'shrinking cities' or maybe  it is  just not growing. It  struggles to avoid ongoing decline  due to a  failure to reinvent itself along the lines of  the new urbanism movement. A more walkable and ecological urban Adelaide with greater density  struggles to emerge,   due to a failure to roll back the dominance of the car in the city.  It is pretty clear, however,  that the underlying patterns of urban sprawl still dominate,  with their  profligate waste of resources  and negative social and ecological consequences. This  low-density, automobile-oriented landscape  lacks social diversity,  produces social isolation and is destructive of agricultural land and habitat. 

A central  narrative about old industrial cities holds that the consequences of deindustrialization and manufacturing decline for large cities in the Western world is a negative  one of decline.  In this interpretation, deindustrialization and the unsuitability of city locations for advanced manufacturing operations mean that old industrial cities are faced with decline and only those cities which succeed in shifting their economies to consumption activities, creative industries and advanced producer services can look forward to a bright economic future. Further,  the story goes, those old cities that, historically, have been dependent on manufacturing and heavy industry,  are condemned to falling progressively behind the more post-industrial cities  such as Brisbane. 

Maybe the new urbanism model with its  return to the Light designed 19th century city of Adelaide,  or to a European city or to a  European model of 19th-century urban form  is flawed,  given Adelaide's  ongoing urban sprawl that shows no sign of stopping.   The ideas behind Smart Growth--increased light rail, compact and  denser re development of brownfield industrial sites;  and urban growth boundaries around the urban fringe  beyond which no development is allowed--- require centralised power and planning process along with  a rejection of  the neo-liberal mode of governance that lets capital rule the production of space.   

My  unease with new urbanism is that it is  ecologically illiterate. In the context of climate change with respect to Adelaide we need an ecological urbanism, one that goes beyond thinking of landscape as merely providing temporary relief from urban life as shaped by buildings and infrastructure.