As an interior designer, my preoccupation with cities lies in how people use and occupy the built environment rather than solely its structural form or technological infrastructure. So, in considering the future of our city, I began to consider how people have changed the way they use our city and importantly what change is to come. In the mid-80s, we saw the revitalisation of the East End of the city as it transitioned from a wholesale fruit and vegetable market precinct full of artists to a new dining precinct somewhat devoid of artists. Our city attracted new events and we used the streets in different ways.
At the same time we curiously sought to abandon our city with businesses lured to the inner suburban fringes of Greenhill and Fullarton Roads while simultaneously increasing the density through a number of tallish but stubby edifices on King William and Grenfell Streets. Retail seemed to lose its sparkle and the city (like many other city centres) had lost much of its uniqueness and parts of the community just stopped ‘going to town’.
Now, there is a city resurgence. In the cultural and commercial centre of our state we are rediscovering our pride. We look less to other places and are beginning again to appreciate the natural assets of being a small city. Adelaide has rediscovered itself and the world is discovering Adelaide.
In thinking about the future, it is very tempting to focus on technologies. For example, innovations such as driverless cars excite for the potential to improve road safety and fuel efficiency and open new economic opportunities. What is the point of travelling to town in your car if there is no reason to go to the city in the first place? This brings me to the central point of what I think the future of our city is about, and that is opportunity.
Let’s look at a number of areas where this opportunity is emerging.
The relocation of the Royal Adelaide Hospital brings opportunity to a space in the west of the city (it may be parkland in theory but in fact it was a rail yard). The strategic location of a major international medical research facility (and new developments from two universities for medical research and teaching facilities) creates new opportunities in the west end.
These opportunities are not only for a new generation of health care professionals but cater for us all in terms of new innovations both technical and cultural. Further, the vacated hospital site provides opportunity for new civic and commercial activity in the east, building on its highly successful transition from market precinct to a thriving retail and hospitality destination.
Standing back from each of these individual developments we can start to see the future of North Terrace in totality; Parliament House and Government House at the centre, the ‘wellbeing’/education precinct to West Terrace and the cultural/education precinct to East Terrace. North Terrace will be a place where opportunity exists for education/culture and wellbeing over the entire width of the city.
Moving one street south to the Rundle Street/Rundle Mall/Hindley Street axis (the major retail and hospitality spine of the city). We see these three places in isolation and often in competition with each other yet in the future if, like North Terrace you consider the whole, you again start to see something different. With the significant expansion of the University of South Australia’s City West campus coupled with the aforementioned developments on North Terrace, the West End of this axis stands to be a much busier place.
Opportunity again will exist here for people to live in larger numbers in this part of the city both through new student accommodation developments and permanent residents. Further, if the visions for expanding the existing cultural cluster of unisa/Adelaide College of the Arts/jamfactory/Australian Experimental Art Foundation/Nexus/Media Resource Centre into a larger entity anchored with a large new performance space are realised, then the West End will develop into another important cultural hub in the city to complement North Terrace and the Festival Centre.
The central section of Hindley Street is currently moving through a period of change. With the street’s new hotel developments, the improved access to Adelaide Oval, a return of commercial cinemas and a redress of liquor licensing legislation, this will bring significant opportunity for a reawakening of daytime commerce and a broader, richer and safer early evening and night time economy. Like North Terrace, the Hindley/Rundle axis in the future will be a vital commercial and cultural corridor with a rich collection of complementary and overlapping uses.
Importantly, this activity will stretch from West Terrace to East Terrace. The future of the city lies in the whole city being a place of opportunity rather than pockets of activity interspersed between areas of apparent dullness. Our city streets are interdependent and connected, for the city to be a place where people look to live, work and visit this interdependency and complexity needs to be recognised and nurtured. In the future, I trust we stop looking at our city as a collection of ‘main streets’ that sit in competition with suburban commercial strips or shopping centres but rather a three-dimensional, intertwined and varied assemblage of experiences that co-exist within the green ring of the Adelaide Park Lands.
The city will certainly be denser but will never lose its human scale; Adelaide can demonstrate that small is genuinely beautiful if it chooses to. This is a city that can demonstrate the value of quality over quantity particularly in design. It will embrace the positive qualities of ‘slow’ and build a food and wine culture that is based on our terroir.
The city being so intimately connected to food production regions and people – and the city being so connected to the nation and world via an easy to navigate airport – Adelaide will be a food and wine city, not a city with a couple of food and wine strips.
The ready connections we take for granted in Adelaide need to be further developed; the city is not an island and will remain the centre of our greater city and state in the future. The future Adelaide will be better connected via excellent public transport (hopefully trams) around the city and to the suburbs. Importantly, Adelaide will be a place for all ages, young entrepreneurs and empty nesters looking for a more cosmopolitan lifestyle are already coming here, but families will also live here accessing the proposed new schools. Adelaide will again become a place that’s great for children, teenagers, young adults and older people.
In the future, not only will South Australians seek to live and work, learn and have fun in the city, but also increased numbers will visit a city that has grown into a compelling destination from North to South and East to West Terraces.
Andrew Wallace is Program Director Interior Architecture, School of Art, Architecture and Design, University of South Australia