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Aerial of Adelaide city at sunrise.

The increased activity within the city’s streets and laneways highlights the community is embracing a wave of large and small city destinations. Along with ephemeral activities, Adelaide has an evolving suite of event spaces that spring into life at different times of the year. Adelaide’s revival is due, in part, to large revitalising projects resulting from significant investment led by the state government and Adelaide City Council.

These projects have helped re-invigorate the city as they inspire and encourage discourse on design, as well as challenge the sometimes-conservative values that our city might have accepted in the past. Executed well, and with a built quality not often seen in the last century, these projects now provide the backbone of the city.

Projects that have started to transform the city landscape include: Victoria Square, University upgrades, North Terrace, Rundle Mall, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), Adelaide Oval and the Riverbank Footbridge. Those to come include Adelaide Central Market, repurposing of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) site, completion of the new hospital and biomedical precinct, the redeveloped Riverbank and Festival Plaza precinct.

Three stages of North Terrace have been constructed since the masterplan (which commenced in 1999) was endorsed by the State Government and Adelaide City Council. This successful project transformed the accessibility of our cultural boulevard and triggered re-developments of the University OF Adelaide Frontage and War Memorial walk adjacent Kintore Avenue. Opportunities exist for the North Terrace masterplan to be realised across the new/old RAH and SAHMRI frontages. Importantly this will tie these significant but contrasting building projects together with a consistent urban design outcome along the whole length of North Terrace.

The first stage of the Victoria Square redevelopment established a flexible space in the centre of the city and is designed to host major events. To date it has provided the stage for internationally-renowned events including the Tour Down Under, Tasting Australia and World Solar Challenge 2015. It also provides a platform for people to comfortably sit and watch the city go through its day-to-day movements. Future stages to reconfigure the roads will encourage development of the building edges and the southern garden, including amenities, and planned works to be undertaken by Adelaide City Council will create fluid links back to the Central Market.

Along with the major city projects, Adelaide’s laneways and streets are transforming the city experience. Adelaide is no longer a predictable experience, even for more adventurous locals. The changing journey through our key laneways can be a trip of surprise and delight, involving numerous new destinations to explore. The edges along these laneways are providing the stage to activate the streets. The building frontages, occupants and street furnishings spill onto the pavement with a sense of warmth, authenticity and personality.

Key laneway and street transformation projects include: Bank Street, Leigh Street, Peel Street, Waymouth Street, Franklin Street, Ebenezer Place, Vardon Avenue, Halifax Street and Gilles Street, along with many bespoke businesses offering unique product.

The closure of Leigh Street to traffic and reconfiguration of Bank and Peel Streets has reinvigorated this important series of laneways that link back to the Central Market and the Riverbank in the opposite direction. The new approach to street design and place has encouraged empty premises to be occupied and new businesses to be established. Trade now spills into the streets that are filled with people in high spirits enjoying the atmosphere.

So what is different?

With the redesign of the city landscape, visitors are encouraged to engage in the spaces as they move, stop, listen and watch. Our streets are becoming more interactive and allow for social inclusion.

Art on blank walls and streets, a revival of artistic shop front/window displays, and building frontages with personality to tell a story of what is going on inside, all add to an interesting street character. Multiple artworks can be found on walls, road surfaces and building entries in the East End and within Bank Street, Leigh Street and Topham Mall, such as the large mural that greets when you visit Lady Burra Brewhouse, Bar and Kitchen on Topham Mall.

Materials that clad buildings and furnish the street are becoming more authentic, with warmth and character, and the owners of these establishments are personable and passionate about what they do. Footpaths and car parks are being taken over by people, due to more generous widths, additional planting and parklets that provide rest points to stop and pause. These rest points are being scaled for human use as intimate places for conversation, while also providing much needed comfort from the natural elements.

Traditionally defined edges such as kerbs separating cars, bike paths and pedestrians are being challenged to be more inclusive in the street fabric. Parklets in Bank Street conceal the road edge, extend the footpath and provide numerous forms of seating and access points under shady trees.

Like the ever-changing foam edge between the sea and the sandy beach, the friction of the ‘street boundary’ is our opportunity to provide the much-needed energy to revitalise the streets. This all actively contributes to the personality of the city with invigorated shop fronts. Great progress has been made to create an inviting laneways network with staged work set to continue.

Bigger city projects, urban design and landscape architecture are natural catalysts enabling continued development of laneways, street frontages and buildings. This is all part of the social and cultural revolution changing the face of Adelaide.

Damien Schultz is Director at Taylor Cullity Lethlean

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