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Tracking the Transformation of Adelaide’s Urban Landscape

Adelaide's Urban Landscape
Photos: Realm Adelaide

Adelaide’s urban landscape is changing. From east to west and north to south the view across the CBD is a shifting kaleidoscope of building and commerce. As a new year kicks into gear, we take a look at the highlights on our horizon and talk to the architecture pros about the challenges and changes to come. From sky-high residential pads to riverbank revivals and CBD redevelopments – it’s a concrete jungle out there.

High East End Hopes

Austin Street is a hive of activity. Adelaide’s tallest building (for now) is upon us. All 40 levels of it. When it’s done, the residential apartment tower will boast 314 apartments and two double story penthouses, the likes of which the CBD has never seen. You need some mean dosh to score a penthouse (but if you’ve got a spare $5.5 million, views don’t get better). Designing such a structure was quite the task. Architectural firm Elenberg Fraser was tasked with the mammoth job and project architect James Harbard was at the helm. “We started this project a very, very long time ago,” he says from his Melbourne office. “I think [people] may be shocked that it’s getting off the ground. A lot of people didn’t think that it would actually happen.”

Adelaide Architecture

CBD living is changing. “The perception within Adelaide at that time was that no one was doing large residential towers, which is what’s happening [now]. It’s something that was only really happening in Melbourne and all the proposals for residential living in Adelaide in the CBD were hybrid buildings [a mix of residential apartments and commercial offices or accommodation].” Realm is purely residential. “That was quite a game changer in the same way that Eureka Tower was for Melbourne, 10 odd years ago.”

James has noticed a shift in perception. “I think we were perceived as ignorant when we originally proposed this building. People thought, ‘These guys do thousands of apartments in Melbourne and think they can get away with doing the same thing in Adelaide but it’s not going to work’.”

As of mid-December 2017, 85 percent of apartments were sold.

“No one expected us to sell quality apartments in Adelaide but we did. The reason I think we sold that volume and managed to get the project off the ground was the quality of the design. It was laboured over far more heavily than some of the previous submissions within Adelaide. The fact that it was a purely residential tower was a very important part of that, because nobody had seen anything like it.”

James grew up in South Australia and lived in Willunga until 10 years ago. His parents still live in Adelaide and he visits often. He says private development had been stagnant for the past 20 years. “The public sector boost on North Terrace has really helped the city. The design quality of some of the stuff done at SAHMRI and the university building… it’s really boosted that whole area.”

Realm’s interior designer Camille Guss is Melbourne born and bred. “James and I have been on the same team for a while, and it’s great to have someone who knows the local market and grew up there and knows what people want.”

The building, built above Renaissance Arcade and historic Assay House (built in 1858) is designed with a nod to history. Assay House was where Australia’s first gold coin was made. The old building is being restored as part of the project. “We’re making sure it’s still very much a part of the building,” Camille says. “The architecture is almost like a rough golden nugget, then the gold gets refined throughout the building until it [visually] gets to a coin. We’re sort of playing on that history… how, during the gold rush era, they took the gold nuggets and pressed them into gold coins.”

Inside, Camille went for neutral tones. “We’re putting really nice high-end, high-quality finishes throughout the building and a nice natural palette so that they’re not off-putting. People can still feel like they can come to the apartment and make it their home.” The tower will also have two wellness and entertainment retreats. “People will actually be living in these apartments as their home.” No Airbnb here, folks.

So, who is buying them?

Adelaide Architecture

A mixed bag, according to Ben Small, director of sales in South Australia. “We’ve got everyone from first home buyers, a lot of investors, young professionals and downsizers. We have so many downsizers in here who have never lived in an apartment and some have never stepped foot in an apartment. We’ve had a few [international buyers] but just for the lower levels and purely to go to university – that’s it.”

People are looking for the lifestyle an apartment offers. “The lock and leave. In early stages of retirement travel is a big one. They’ve got a five-to-six-bedroom house and the kids have left so they don’t need a big house or a big garden. Being in the CBD is a huge factor. To be within walking distance [to bars and restaurants] is great. We also have people from the Barossa Valley and Victor Harbor way who purchased in here just to have a city base.”

The building is set for completion during December 2019. James is keen to see how locals react. “People tend to come up with their own vernacular about buildings.” Like ‘The Cheesegrater’ and ‘The Gherkin’ in London. “Ultimately people will come up with their own way of talking and speaking about the building.”

realmadelaide.com

Go West

The West End is changing and David Lloyd is watching it happen. University of South Australia’s vice chancellor works out of an office looking over the SAHMRI building and an evolving UniSA landscape. The Irish-born import worked at Dublin Trinity College before moving to Adelaide five years ago. “When I came for the interview, Adelaide Oval was under construction in terms of the re-development, the footbridge wasn’t there, the Royal Adelaide Hospital foundations had gone in, and SAHMRI had only just been started.” He pauses for breath. “The Adelaide Medical School wasn’t there, the [UniSA] Health Innovation Building wasn’t there, and the Convention Centre extension wasn’t there. The change in five years has just been incredible.”

Adelaide Architecture

It’s an exciting time for the west end. “UniSA has been down this end of town for about 20 years. When they got down here there was nothing here. There was a railway yard and a couple of small businesses but really, it was empty. People told the institution it was crazy to come down [here].” He grins. “We’ve now got about 11,000 students down this end of town and we want to grow that number. The population in the RAH is huge, [and that has] implications for the city. You can see them: the train line extension is because of the way in which the centre of gravity has moved.”

Since City West Campus was established 20 years ago, UniSA’s investment in the west end totals more than $1 billion. Further investment is on the horizon.

“It’s not just big buildings and fancy buildings,” he says. “It’s about making the place vibrant. One of the studies we’re really keen on is, ‘How do you get pedestrians from, let’s say, Adelaide Central Market down to the RAH?’ People are going to go from point A to point B…  where are they walking? How are they crossing North Terrace? How do you get through the laneways? What gets activated? I can see a huge amount of potential down here, it’s great.” David has also noticed an increase of residential development. “Even down this end: student accommodation and higher end accommodation as well.”

UniSA has two new buildings on North Terrace. The Health Innovation Building and a science engagement centre called the Museum of Discovery. MOD includes a lab and will host interactive exhibits on a bi-annual basis. “It’s free for the public and is targeting 15 to 22-year-olds. We think visitors will come and engage with it, so it becomes part of the tourist economy. That building, at 30,000 square meters, is the biggest thing the institution has ever built.”

Adelaide Architecture

Watch this space. Currently in the works is Pridham Hall, where Hindley Street’s Cargo Club used to be. “It was designed to be our graduation venue and a sports facility so it’s going to have a pool, a gym, studios and exercise equipment. Plus, a capacity to seat 2000 people at graduations.”

The facility was designed by a joint venture between Scandinavian architects Snøhetta, South Australia’s JPE Design, and the JamFactory. “Those three came up with the design and the interior design,” David says. “It’s the first commission Snøhetta have had in Australia. They did the Memorial Plaza for 9/11 in New York, so they’re world-class architects. This is a signature building for them and very difficult to build in terms of the design and it’s going to just be amazing. It’ll be open for graduations in April or May 2018.”

Smiley Fritz

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