Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Last Days of the Royal Adelaide Hospital

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The Main Entrance to the Royal Adelaide Hospital

The Royal Adelaide Hospital is a South Australian institution.

Founded only four years after European settlement, the hospital has been a focus for the critical points in the lives of many South Australians. Births, illness and death have brought people in droves to this place on North Terrace.

For most visitors, the hospital buildings are the last thing on their minds. Visitors hastily hunt through the labyrinthine corridors seeking out their loved ones, carrying offerings perhaps purchased from the Lavender Ladies.

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The Margaret Graham Building is the Only Building Already State Heritage Listed 

But as the glittering New Royal Adelaide Hospital arises from the dusty and oily remains of Adelaide Station's former rail yards, thoughts have turned to the future of the old RAH site. There are a huge number of buildings on the campus (see this map), some with asbestos and reportedly some with radioactive waste buried underneath. A few of the buildings are currently being used by the University of Adelaide.

Given the hospital's location in the north parklands and adjacent to the Botanic Gardens, the government has been quick to grasp the site's development potential.

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The Bice Building - Nominated for Listing

With great fanfares of Community Consultation the government announced an international competition to develop proposals for the future use of the site. While ministers insisted that they had no preconceptions, competition judges had no such qualms. Former Integrated Design Commissioner Tim Horton has already suggested it would be a suitable area for upmarket accommodation or as a retail shopping precinct.

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The Bice Building has Intricate Detailing, A Marble Staircase and Revolving Bronze Doors

Architects and designers have been loudly lauding the design led process and community consultation, but there are many in the community who are strongly opposed to the loss of public land to commercial development. Even those working in the field show a range of views.

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The University of Adelaide Medical School - Nominated for Listing

There was a flurry of interest recently when the Sunday Mail reported that the National Trust of SA had lodged State Heritage nominations for about 11 buildings in the RAH precinct. But it seems that the nominations were made in March, so perhaps it was simply a case of the Mail being late with news as usual.

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The Sanctuary, a Place of Peace and Tranquility - Nominated for Listing

Planning Minister Rau blithely stated It is not anticipated that the heritage application will limit the creativity and scope of proposals submitted for the competition. But of course he would - it only needs the Heritage Minister to declare that the nominations are Not in the Public Interest and they will be rendered useless.

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The Inscription Celebrates the Lavender Lads and Ladies Volunteers

Some of the State Heritage listing nominations are quite surprising and will be controversial. Most people equate "heritage" with "old" and "attractive", but the Heritage Places Act allows buildings to be assessed for heritage listing under several grounds. The architecture of a building is only one facet of consideration.

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Royal Adelaide Hospital East Wing - Nominated for L:isting

Perhaps the most unexpected nomination is the East Wing - a five storey building constructed in 1962 adjacent to the Botanic Gardens. It was described at the time as the finest hospital building in Australia. The East Wing was built on land then owned by the Botanic Gardens, which in turn was given land owned by the hospital near Hackney Road.

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The Dental Hospital on Frome Road - Nominated for Listing
Another nomination which surprised me was the Dental Hospital. Completed in 1968, this building designed by architect JD Cheeseman is described as being in the modernist/brutalist style, and arguably one of his masterpieces. My photo probably doesn't do the building justice, but it does seem quite plain from that angle. Apparently each facade has quite different characteristics, and that is one of the building's distinguishing features.

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The Octagonal Former Kiosk Building - Nominated for Listing

The octagonal former kiosk which housed the RAH auxiliary for many years is another to be nominated for listing. It is something of an icon, and most visitors would notice it on their way to the hospital entrance.

It will take months for the heritage value of the nominated buildings to be listed - assuming the proposal is not blocked. Fortunately it is unlikely to be a concern for the competition organisers, who are likely to be concerned with broader issues initially.

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The Margaret Graham Building Seen from Frome Road

So how do you feel  about this public space being redeveloped? Should it remain an area owned by and of benefit to the entire community? Or should it be sold off to pay for our past financial mistakes?

Do you agree with heritage protection for the more modern buildings as well as the more classically attractive Margaret Graham building?

Feel free to let me know your views ...

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Unwanted Words

I recently wrote an article on Weekend Notes about Eastwood Lodge, the former Nurse's Home in Glenside Hospital.

The building has some interesting features, and when the government proposed to demolish it, there were protests from a number of groups including the National Trust of SA. The building was nominated for inclusion on the State Heritage Register

I won't repeat what I wrote in the article - it is worth reading in its own right.

Suffice it to say that towards the end I crititcised the SA Department of Health for getting themselves into a financial mess.

Other criticism was directed (again) at the SA Minister for Conservation Paul Caica. He used his powers under the state Heritage Places Act to remove Eastwood Lodge from the Heritage Register in the public interest. The State Heritage Council had added it temporarily while investigating the building's merits.

In my view the Minister was totally wrong to blithely claim that it is in the public interest to prevent an independent assessment of the building's importance.

While the article received praise from some readers, two readers wrote comments complaining that I had introduced politics into an entertaining site about what's on in Adelaide.

While it was OK for me to write about a building at risk, it seems it's not OK to comment about the reasons why.

To me that would be a little like writing about the Twin Towers without mentioning Al Quaida or Osama Bin Laden.

One of my drivers for writing is to bring things to people's notice. Good things. Scary things. Funny things. Wrong things.

It certainly is not the first time that a comment about government or politicians has slipped into one of my articles. And I expect it won't be the last, if such comment is called for.

What do you think? Should an author be able to express their own opinion in an article on Weekend Notes?

Opinions are presumably expected for film or restaurant reviews, or an article about an activity such as a course, or a tour.

Why not comment about the reasons for demolition of an iconic building?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Growing your own

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A Zucchini Flower

Growing a vegetable garden is so rewarding!

Plant a tiny seed and watch it burst valiantly through the soil. Follow the tiny plant's struggle against the odds as it is preyed upon by its natural enemies like slugs, snails and insect pests

See it grow, mature and flower, then produce fruit - vegetables so tasty they are without comparison to the produce available from your local supermarket.

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Young Rouge de Marmande Tomatoes

Perhaps you are lucky enough to have inherited a fruit tree from your predecessors too.

Summer brings a rich harvest of fruit and vegetables that are a sensual joy to taste.

The whole experience is delightful and gives me a lot of pleasure. But the pleasure is not limited to me - neighbours, family and friends will come to your door seeking the rich spoils from your soil toil.

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Nearly Ripe Roma Tomato

In my neighbourhood it's a two way thing. A neighbour from Lebanon grows copious quantities of figs, olives, broad beans, loquats and tomatoes which they hang in bags on my fence.

I reward them with cucumbers, Rouge de Marmande or Black Russian tomatoes, lettuce, capsicums, zucchinis (by the tonne), apricots, peaches, and astringent persimmons.

My neighbour across the road returns some of my zucchinis cooked in a delicious cheesy crumbed casserole, while another down the road sends me a jar of Cointreau marmalade made from my oranges.

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Broad Ripple Yellow Currant Tomato

I find the hours spent preparing, planting and maintaining the garden to be rewarding, stimulating my thoughts in the absence of conversation and music. Watching the plants grow and thrive brings new interest as the harvest is keenly anticipated.

Then in early Summer my rewards increase ten-fold with the arrival of tasty temptations. Picking fresh basil and tomato to pile on a crisp new roll, puts a pleasant complexion on any morning.

You should try it.

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Home Grown Orange

Friday, 19 October 2012

Enjoying Adelaide history and architecture

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I enjoy wandering about Adelaide and noticing its architecture. Even the more modern buildings, although I feel that many older buildings have so much more character than a rectangular structure. I nearly said rectoid, but the Urban Dictionary quickly put a stop to that.

It's true that buildings such as the SA Water House and the Commonwealth Law Courts  are eye catching, and stand out from the repetitive masses of plain concrete and glass structures, but I don't get a feeling of warmth or joy from seeing them.  Perhaps it's my age, although I am certainly not as old as some of the buildings that I appreciate.

One gets a sense of the history of Adelaide as you stroll North Terrace from Gawler Place to the Adelaide University. There must have been a diverse collection of architects, but all of the buildings are grand and imposing, designed to catch the eye of passers-by and impress. Wander the grounds of Adelaide Uni  and you will see even more fine examples, although there are some that were built between the 1920's to 1960's that are just plain boring,  more like some schools in Adelaide.

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There are also some great examples of unusual heritage listed architecture at the Waite Uni of Adelaide campus, not to mention the beautiful Arboretum and Conservation Reserve.

Port Adelaide is positively packed with fascinating quirky old buildings that ooze the history of Adelaide, tempting you inside to learn some of the things the buildings have seen over the last hundred years. Initials, names and motifs for long gone organisations and people litter the facades of these places.

What were the A.W.B Buildings used for when they were erected? A strange crest, possibly Freemason adorns another place at the start of Dale Street.  The words discount lounges can just be discerned under flaking paintwork on Butler Street's corner with Commercial Road. Who remembers the name Golden Port Tavern (also once known as the Globe Hotel), hiding beneath a coat of thick brown paint on St Vincent Street? How long is it since a chemist occupied Kirby Building, as seen engraved along the top of the building.

Doubtless the Port Adelaide National Trust could answer some of the questions above. Or you could simply search the National Library of Australia's excellent online Trove of historical information.

Who knows, if you ask me a question I may write about it for you on Weekend Notes.

There is a splendid variety of architectural styles in the Port but many of these are not protected under heritage legislation in any way.

history architecture, architects, history of adelaide, adelaide architecture, in adelaide, schools in adelaide, about adelaide, uni of adelaide, adelaide university, adelaide uni

Sadly you will not find in Adelaide anywhere near the number or variety of older buildings that the Port has. That number is rapidly reducing as the Weatherill government begs developers to do what they will with any part of the city, rather like a greedy whore who has not yet realised that each transaction devalues her worth.

Adelaide City Council has had information on the heritage of significant buildings for many years, but past planning ministers have refused to listen to pleas for preservation. The current Government regime appears no more sympathetic, indeed I predict they may well find ways to tighten existing legislation protecting our heritage to discourage more listings.

Let me make it clear I am not against development in Adelaide. It is an essential part of Adelaide's growth.

However there are ways to redevelop Adelaide in a manner sensitive to its heritage. Ways that allow Adelaide to develop its personality, rather than become a uniformly rectangular collection of structures that will date and become ugly long before they are due to be renewed.

Here is an example of a building whose facade has been preserved, enhancing the streetscape while creating a pleasant atrium inside. Once the Salvation Army's People's Palace, the facade preserves a link to the past while enabling the present and future to do what it will. Why can't we have more creative designs like this around Adelaide?

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Thursday, 18 October 2012

In the Beginning

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I have long thought that Adelaide is underrated as a city.

After living in London for five years and travelling to other cities in Europe, US, Africa and Asia I have always been content to call Adelaide my home. Many others do not, exhibiting the classic Adelaide Cringe and happily bowing to the perceived superiority of the Eastern states.

"Adelaide is boring" they moan. But I believe being bored is a state of mind, not an attribute of a place.

For a long time I have felt that Adelaide hides its highlights very well, burying event announcements on small signs at busy street corners and in classified advertisements in  newspapers that are no longer read.

Several years ago the government funded a local community group to set up a website to list Adelaide events, but this initiative failed because the group was not interested in looking at ways to collect event information.

After exploring a few dead ends I eventually located a website that I thought went some way to putting their finger on the pulse, and subscribed to its newsletter. It gave me some good ideas but I decided I could do better, and started writing for Weekend Notes myself in May under the profile name Dave W. It has been a blast!

Today I reached a milestone - 150 articles in a little less than 6 months.

Not only do I now have tens of thousands of readers every month, but I have also seen the website improve and grow and provide me with even more ideas of things to do. My days are never boring, and it's hard to find time to do things I should do (like housekeeping!). Instead I am out meeting people, attending events, exploring new places, and tasting foods that I haven't tried before. My writing also gives me enough pocket money to buy new toys like fancy cameras and electronic gadgets which I love. 

I hope that my articles on Weekend Notes give other people as much pleasure as it gives me in writing them. In some small way I'd like to think I'm making Adelaide a less "boring" place.

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