Friday, November 5, 2010

Whoa

I do so love George Seddon, I just love him to bits. But I think, very sadly, that the good people of Adelaide will take a lot of persuading of the truth of this paragraph from his paper at a symposium at the University of SA the year before he died. No Adelaidean will be unaware by now of the appalling effect that the rising temperatures of the last few summers have had on the Parklands, but we cling to them regardless. Here's Seddon's vision for them, as at 2006:
In brief, there must be a major increase in urban density, and these parklands will then have a future like the squares and piazzas of Rome and other European cities. Given heavy use, most of them will need to be paved, but not with concrete or bitumen. Pave them properly with stone. Adelaide already has the best café culture in Australia, and this will be a natural extension. I repeat, think Piazza Navona, an environment well within the potential of central Adelaide's café culture. ...
So forget 'green'. Don't use the word. Adelaide is not meant to be green in summer, any more than Tangier. It raises false expectations and associations. Try 'well vegetated', or follow California, which has road signs that mean 'don't throw your cigarette butts out the window or you will set the place on fire', but they actually say 'Keep California green and golden.' It means dry and brownish yellow in summer, but it's a good sell. 'Go for gold' is my advice to Adelaide. The mid-greens are alien to the Australian landscape and its clear skies.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with well groomed sclerophyll forests in the city. We are only just exploring this form of landscaping for the parklands versus the traditional lawns & significant trees. Browning - big deal; rebirth is assured come the wet weather. Wetlands within the parklands to sustain the parklands? I'd hate to see commerce reign over a unique feature of Adelaide when we should celbrate these unique spaces.

Di said...

That's a terrific quote and I'd never heard of George Seddon before so thank you. I'm not from Adelaide but I have visited and the quote and your photo makes me want to visit again asap. I love people who are able to make their points and arguments constructively.

Russell said...

A coincidence - I was thinking about George the other day ... only because I was stuck at the traffic lights next to his old house and wondering what was going on in the backyard.

What George suggests is what he did to his own yard, and perhaps it would be better that way - we could have paved areas around our houses (low maintenance and cheap) shaded with some trees, and then use our water ration to have our traditional green parks which we can all enjoy, even if it's just driving past. Plus we wouldn't, personally, have to maintain them!

screamish said...

er..yes...paved café squares sounds all very nic, but what you might end up with is like the French town where I live, where there's a population of 50 000 people and ONE single park, most of which is taken up by ornamental plantings and pathways.

It's not something I ever thought about much before living in Europe (being spoilt in Australia with our parks and open spaces).

With incresing urban densitu most people won't have the money or room for gardens. and then for inner city dwellers it becomes entirely possible to go for months without your kids sitting under a tree or lying on a patch of grass, or being able to run freely in fresh air.

Cities are about people, surely, not just business or allowing space for more people to park more cars...

planting natives is good, to cut down on water demand...but replacing these spaces with European style squares isn't a good exchange...in Brisbane they recently destroyed a stretch of old mangroves in the city to clear the view for coffee drinkers on the riverfront. Insane...

anyway, coffee isn't culture! It's just coffee!

screamish said...

ps Sorry- Don't mean to sound snide about coffee drinkers (I'm one)- it just frustrates me that urban planners can't take a longer term view...we have to take the car and drive ten minutes to find an open space for our kids...I think that's something that should be avoided when thinking about the future of public space in cities...

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Seddon covers the points about urban density in the essay, but he is being realistic about the future, particularly about Adelaide and the way Adelaide uses water. His line about high-density housing is basically 'It's necessary, suck it up.' His line about the very Australian 'Oh but if you have children you must have a lawn' is implicitly that that's one of the things he means by 'unrealistic expectations'. He's advocating the building-on of the cafe culture not for its own sake but as an acceptable alternative to the current unsustainable arrangement.

Don't get me wrong, I have always been a ferocious hands-off-the-parklands person and I love them to death myself, but reading Seddon has opened my eyes. He's right, we're being silly.

Barely recovered from the bodies in the barrels affair, Adelaide's just had another grotesque sequence of events (nowhere near as bad, but in a way even weirder, and involving the torture and starvation of five children so quite bad enough) in the dysfunctional far-northern suburban spread, home to what a left-wing lawyer friend of mine calls the Feral Underclass, where the "nice" people of Adelaide wouldn't dream of going. Seddon and many like him know this is one good reason to stop the urban sprawl and spread, and he's right. His other point is that Adelaide is city in a semi-desert and should start behaving like a city in a semi-desert.

Lesley said...

Perth's just had the driest winter in ages — we really need a major shift in how we think about gardens.
Round the corner from me there's a front-yard full of iceberg roses interplanted with foxgloves. FF'sS.

Frances said...

Seddon's post makes a lot of sense. My problem with paving, tho, is that it creates a heat bank.

Anonymous said...

'My problem with paving, tho, is that it creates a heat bank.'

Exactly, Frances. Summer in an extensively paved Adelaide would become more pizza oven than Piazza. And paving--whether brick, concrete, bitumen or stone--generates high levels of storm water and greatly inhibits infiltration.

TFA

Fred said...

"In brief, there must be a major increase in urban density"

This statement is true only if we accept that population growth in Australia should continue at the current high rates - higher than most other countries in the world.

The liveability of our Australian cities is declining as population increases.

Per head of population Australia has one of the greatest carbon footprints in the world. What kind of cities, what kind of world are we going to leave to our children and grandchildren? We cannot keep consuming and polluting as we have done in the past.
If you have not already read the comments of Kelvin Thompson MP on why we need to limit population growth, I commend them to you: http://www.kelvinthomson.com.au/page/population-debate/default.asp

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Fred, Seddon is not talking about increasing the population but rather about concentrating the existing population by reversing the Adelaide trend to low-density north-south outer-suburban sprawl. This was a visionary what-if paper, and here's the context: 'Given increasing fuel costs, and all the distribution costs of all urban services -- footpaths, gas, electricity, sewerage and drainage and the acute need for water conservation [I note he doesn't mention comms but factor that in] -- the high and increasing cost of low-density urban infrastructure, it seems inescapable that Adelaide will need to reinvent itself to survive. In my view it should be aiming to concentrate the city within the ca 1950 boundaries [I dimly remember Adelaide in the late 1950s, when I was a small child, and that really is a radical suggestion], at much higher density. As a disincentive to continuing sprawl, double the rates for those who choose to remain outside the pale. In the interests of equity, this could not be done overnight, but it could be achieved under notice and with fair warning.'

I'm not necessarily advocating this, mind, and given what politics has become at both state and federal level I'm confident it'll never happen, but I am full of wonder and admiration that someone is (or rather, sadly, was) able to think on this scale about problems and solutions.

Fred said...

Thanks PC for providing the context to George Seddon's comments.

I must apologise as I'm overly sensitive at the moment to any reference to increased urban density in the Australian suburbs.

Professor Rob Adams and his team in the report "Transforming Australian Cities for a more financially viable and sustainable future" have made similar suggestions for Melbourne to those made by George Seddon. Their report suggests that it is possible by getting better utilization out of existing land-use and infrastructure within existing metropolitan boundaries to meet the projected growth pressures on the city. By having limited areas of medium-rise (5-8 stories) high density, the existing suburbs outside these areas will remain largely intact and the shape and form of the city will not be significantly changed.

Unfortunately the Victorian Government and developers are now using this report as the justification for wide spread high rise development and have ignored the pre-requisites identified in the report as necessary for successful implementation of the strategy.