Sunday, March 20, 2011

Adelaide's Rundle Street Architecture - A Change of Pace

For all the going's on in the world, there's often no place like home. And home for me is Adelaide. Good ol' Adelaide. Now, Adelaide is a relatively young city, having been founded in 1836, and as a "free colony". That gave us a few things - most notably the distinctively "proper spoken english" with it's fuller, more rounded vowel sounds, as well as a much larger proportion of German Lutheran settlers around the outskirts of the city. The nature of the colony was also such that we never really out-grew our colony status... and to this day, Adelaide has a "big country town" feel that is often noted by inter-state visitors.

It also has Rundle Mall... the central shopping district of the CDB. A throw-back to the 70's when Malls were a novel invention to post-war Australia. A street for pedestrians. Add to that the 70's architectural modernism as encapsulated by the Mall's Balls (the two silver spheres shown above).

The architecture of Adelaide owes a lot to the period of it's founding, and indeed there remains a few relics of that time - including a fountain cast in the late 1800's. This is always a mecca for kids in summer... though it used to be filled with a white foaming substance (I don't even want to imagine what sort of chemical they used to put in there). Thankfully, it's now a more "normal" if coppery colour.

So Rundle Mall (which extends on to Rundle Street to the east) is the heart of the city. Looking at it, you might not be that impressed. And for good reason. It's meant to be a casual place for spring and autumn with plenty of outdoors walking. In winter and summer, pedestrians are always clambering to find shelter or shade respectively. Indeed, around late February you can see that in the later part of the afternoon, the Mall gets quite shaded anyhow.

Now I am no architect - amongst a great many things that I can safely say I'm not. But I do like looking at buildings as a way of reading the history of a city. And Adelaide has a fairly traditional, though slightly off-centre architectural heritage. I was hoping to take you on a quick walk down the Mall to see some of the more notable, though often unnoticed buildings. Actually, after I went looking... even I was quite surprised at the heritage that I had been walking around in - and the very unusual styles that pervaded the early buildings of Adelaide.

The Regent Arcade (below), like the Adelaide Arcade (next below) have a lot of style... ok they're not quite on the same scale as the QVB in Sydney, but they're grand old buildings that have been given a nice facelift of  late.
Regent Arcade
Adelaide Arcade in particular has a very nice style - which I will have to photograph next time I'm in Adelaide with my camera (not that often).
Adelaide Arcade
Yet beyond these obvious buildings, the real interesting story for me begins not at street level, but rather higher up - where the original buildings stand above the newer facia with a some kind of greek-like tragic pose. The styles are varied - but elaborate is an underlying theme. There is no real order to these photos - and no real story to the architecture... as I said, I'm no architecture expert.

And as you move into Rundle Street proper, it is actually a bit like walking on to a stage from an old historical movie (admittedly I'm showing a biased sample here). Still, you get the feeling of what sort of architectural skeletons can be found without too much effort in Adelaide's central business district.

One of the nice buildings is the old Adelaide Fruit and Produce Exchange building, or market. Though it's days of being a market have recently been replaced by trendy apartment living (not shown here) - there remains some of the old character. The east-end of the city really had a beautiful (and sometimes bohemian) feel to it. That's now replaced by the cafe set... still pleasant, but lacking much of the real honest personality.

The one building that I missed to photograph is the Adeliade Beehive building at the other (western) end of Rundle Mall - this building was owned by John Rundle (ah - now it's starting to make sense). I'll add that to my list of photo projects to do.


  1. So nice to learn about your city! Thank you so much for the lesson and the pictures. What a beautiful place! Maybe I'll show up on your doorstep someday.....

  2. Thanks... it's been hard to do much blogging about anything other than the situation in Japan (and our trip there)... but life has to go on.

    Adelaide's a nice place... and worth a visit if you're spending any time in Australia. Not exactly tourism-central however. I'll try and throw more up about Adelaide after my trip over to Japan.

    And as for doorsteps (and Shiga). Ditto.