Where is our garden city going?

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Governments and real estate developers usually talk about providing affordable, healthy and connected lifestyles to their citizens and customers, but this does not always translate into effective land use policy or good urban design.

Ongoing research from the Australian Urban Observatory shows that when it comes to livability, rhetoric and reality can be two very different things. Adelaide’s latest national scorecard reveals wide variation across the metropolitan area for all quality of life metrics, including access to quality green spaces.

And while the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of well-designed, publicly accessible recreation park grounds, it has also drawn attention to the inequitable distribution of this precious resource – the suburbs of the ‘edge. average ”in Adelaide being often the lowest ranked.

As noted by former Mayor and Member of Parliament for Adelaide Jane Lomax-Smith, although he regularly does The EconomistTop 10 most livable cities in the world, Adelaide is Australia’s poor park capital – with just 10 percent of the metropolitan area allocated to public parks, compared to 20 percent in Melbourne, 40 percent in Perth and 57 percent in in Sydney.

Public open spaces include parks and recreation reserves, public gardens, nature reserves, civic areas and walks where people can congregate for active and passive recreation without being excluded for economic or social reasons. As urban infill erodes private open spaces, biodiversity and the canopy of trees, it becomes increasingly essential that these spaces be well planned, designed and managed.

Policymakers should not be happy with current park levels in Adelaide, and we would be best served with clear steps – not just ambitious rhetoric – to cultivate and develop these assets.

These are not new ideas. National Trust and Green Adelaide look to history for inspiration – pointing to start of Charles Reade’s 20th anniversaryeconcepts of the century for a second ring of Metropolitan Park and Torrens River Linear Park – and adapting these concepts into ambitious plans for the future rehabilitation of open green spaces.

During his five years in Adelaide (1915-1920), town planner Charles Reade proposed a second outer ring of park and a linear park along the Torrens River.

The Trust has just been launched 50 Year Plan for Metropolitan Adelaide cites Adelaide’s Metropolitan Open Space System as a way to resuscitate and expand Reade’s concepts on a larger scale. New linear parks would be cultivated along restored waterways crisscrossing the Adelaide Plains to link a network of interconnected national parks in the hills to an uninterrupted coastal park from Semaphore to Sellicks.

The National Trust is proposing new linear parks along the restored waterways to increase the links between the evolving Adelaide Coastal Park and the expansion of a large national park along the hills. Source: https://nationalmap.gov.au/

Historian and former National Trust chairman Norman Etherington acknowledges that these global concepts will need to be gradually improved upon by successive state and local governments, and suggests an annual review of the state’s open spaces grant program to compel future ones. governments to be held to account. I would add that stricter legislation and a careful renaming of the Planning and Development Fund to strengthen its true purpose as an open space fund would prevent further plunder by the state planning agency. .

Tim Horton’s design for the Adelaide Zoo grounds generously placed a large public entrance forecourt outside the zoo proper. Completed in 2010, it also boasts Australia’s first specially designed green roof and expansive living walls of native plants. Photo: Peter Bennetts

Each year, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) champions the quality and quantity of designed landscapes through its annual awards program, and many of these projects are made through the Open Space Grants program. Notable historical examples include Hassell’s Adelaide Zoo grounds and Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Troppo’s design for Henley Square.

Henley Square draws people to the central space. Image provided.

Located in Semaphore Coastal Park in Sellicks, TLC and Troppo’s design successfully draws people into the central space with a refreshing ephemeral water feature flanked by tall wooden shade structures. Less successful, perhaps, is TLC’s reinvention of the northern half of Victoria Square, which contrasts somewhat unfavorably with the unretouched southern half, where John Dowie’s Fountain of the Three Rivers sits now. Maybe it’s the expanses of hard, heat-absorbing surfaces that are less welcoming, or maybe the entire master plan just needs to be done.

Left: TLC’s reinvention of the northern half of Victoria Square contrasts with the unretouched southern half. Right: TLC’s original blueprint. Photos: John Gollings and Sam Noonan

The Woods Bagot Market Square will include a 3000 m² urban public garden above the existing Central Market and Market Arcade. Image provided by Metric.

A raised public terrace can also provide a welcome green relief in new built developments: the Woods Bagot Marketplace will feature a 3000m² urban garden above the existing Central Market and Market Arcade.

The answers to climate and topography are evident in this year’s AILA award winners. Noteworthy is Birdseye Studios’ Barossa Adventure Station, a multi-level park that integrates play into the conservation of the cultural landscape of the old train station. The play space is inspired by the natural and cultural heritage of the site and works in harmony with the natural topography, creating play opportunities that echo the activities and movements of the site’s former railway and agricultural role.

Birdseye Studios’ Barossa Adventure Resort is inspired by the site’s railway and agricultural heritage. Photo: Sweet lime

Tract’s award-winning contribution to the Northern Connector Project is impressive. Committed to designing bridges, active transportation networks and landscapes, Tract was contextually inspired by Barker’s Inlet, the surrounding market gardens, salt marshes, wetlands and crystalline forms, as well as the habitat of the species. migratory birds and butterflies. Key to the project was planting strategies for ecological diversity, transforming what could have been an alienating highway environment into a spectacular and useful peri-urban landscape.

Tract was inspired by the context of Barker’s Inlet for the design of the Northern Connector project. Photo provided.

The scarcity of open green spaces in Adelaide can lead to competition between passive and active modes of recreation, and tensions between the occasional and organized use of park land. Add in the pressures of those who see these spaces as potential leases for institutional and commercial exploitation, and you have a political battle in your hands – as is currently happening with the proposed rezoning of large sections of Adelaide Park land, classified as national heritage. .

All too rarely, the inexorable alienation of public parks is reversed. Karrawirra Parinangku and the Kaurna Learning Circle, at the north entrance of the University of Adelaide, transform a former staff parking lot into a place of reflection and inclusion. The historic Mitchell entrance gates and peak fence that once separated the university from the banks of the Karrawirra Pari / Torrens River have been removed in a liberating gesture that invites the public to a rich ceremonial venue articulated through raw materials natural. The song lines depicted in the sand and native plantations complement that of Paul Herzich Polish Wangu, bearers of messages of hope for a more inclusive future.

At the northern entrance to the University of Adelaide, the floating arbor structure and Oxigen stone seats redefine ancient Kaurna rituals in a contemporary cityscape. Photo: Mark Watts

Stephanie Johnston is a freelance planner and writer based between the city and Port Willunga.

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.


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