High rise box living in Australian cities

This is obviously the serious problem of cities across Australia at the moment. This, combined with the future problem that the aim is to create hugely increased populations which Australia cannot sustain.

The developing disaster is most obvious in Melbourne. But Adelaide, Perth, Sydney (Brisbane?) all follow. We are supposed to think it is inevitable. What a crock.

In particular the point must be made that Australia has decided to follow the Asian high rise pattern of most people living in small boxes in badly built ghetto highrises. An extraordinary decision, perhaps brought on by corrupt dealings between politicians and developers. There is presumably a big connection with inferior Chinese building products commonly used.

The obvious and preferable option would have been to follow European design principles of medium density mixed buildings, typically 5-7 floors high. Decent amounts of space and light are always part of the developments even those of more modern vintage which are frequently ugly from the outside.

How ironic that Adelaide is called the Urban Forest when it is stripping itself of those inconvenient assets as fast as possible both in order to assist in big business’ building objectives and also to cater to the ‘that tree might fall on me’/that tree is….brigade.

The good thing about Adelaide is that it is way behind the catastrophe as developing in Melbourne and maybe there is the possibility of doing something about it if we can find politicians who are independent of the business behind building development.

One point worth noting that in Europe nobody as a rule wants to live in the more modern medium density apartments either because of their ugliness and the fact that they tend to be in outerlying areas. They live there because they can’t afford to live in the older, gracious apartments in the older more central parts of the city.

Links.

By retrofitting our capital cities, we’re forcing residents to live with planning failures discussing some of the catastrophic decisions being made in our cities.

Backyard blitz having an adverse impact on our health, planning expert warns

To investigate planning policies that deliver positive social outcomes in
hyper-dense, high-rise residential environments. Report by Leanne Hodyl – 2014 Churchill Fellow Hodyl_L_2014_Social_outcomes_in_hyper-dense_high-rise_residential_environments_1

The Housing We’d Choose includes a downloadable report on what Australians want in housing, report is 2011.

Transport-Oriented Development – US site but the ideas have been brought to Australia.

Activity Corridor Intensification in Perth and the role of Design Based
Research A 2013 report on this development strategy in Perth.

Melbourne Activity Centres – trying to make suburban life attractive enough to stop pressure on the city centre. Looking at their timeline for Broadmeadows, one cannot help thinking of Elizabeth in Adelaide. Can governments create such things successfully?

City Futures Research Centre (UNSW) has a large list of resources including a literature review of a couple of hundred pages:

Healthy Built Environments LiteratureReview_FullDocument

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On national anthems and Australia and Switzerland: peas in a pod.

I’m amazed at how similar Australia and Switzerland are. Switzerland has been a party to Western civilisation since the Romans had an interest in it. It’s teensy, it’s landlocked by large countries which are sometimes friends, sometimes enemies. Australia has been a party to Western civilisation since the late 1700s, it’s enormous, it’s sealocked and surrounded by countries which are sometimes friends, sometimes enemies. Oh, and New Zealand.

But they have a lot in common. Switzerland is isolated despite its location. It professes, like Australia, to believe in a fair wage for workers, a principle that makes me happy.

And most recently this. The Swiss are like us. THEY don’t know their national anthem either. To be precise, we had God Save the Queen and the Swiss had their own words set to – God Save the Queen! Even they figured that was pretty weird and they changed the whole thing in 1981, but they picked a baddie and there is movement afoot to do something about that.

Speaking to AFP when the competition [to provide options for a new one] was launched, Pierre Kohler, president of the jury, said of the current anthem: “Nobody knows the words! Anyone who tells you they do is a liar. Or else we manage the first few and afterwards we go ‘la, la, la’.”

Most Australians will know exactly how that feels. I can remember being on stage with a large Australian bridge contingent at the end of a tournament in Indonesia maybe early nineties. At the Victory Dinner there was a band and each country was expected to sing their national anthem. Between us, the Australians didn’t know more than a line or two.

The Sensitive New Age Cowpersons did a brilliant version of how Australians sing Advance Australia Fair. Unfortunately I can’t find it online and I don’t have a way of uploading the audio to this blog.

However, here is their suggested replacement:

I’m curious to hear the Swiss equivalent!

Added later:

My goodness, I had no idea how influential God Save the Queen is as a piece of music. It has been used for many national anthems over history. I’ve lifted this from Wiki:

“God Save The King” was the first song to successfully be used as a national anthem. (The Spanish La Marcha Real and the Dutch, Het Wilhelmus, are older but took longer to become popular. Japan’s anthem Kimigayo has lyrics which are older still, but a more recent melody). Its success prompted a number of other countries to pen similar anthems to help construct a concrete national identity – many of which used the same tune:

The first German national anthem, Heil dir im Siegerkranz, used the melody of “God Save The King”.
The national anthem of Imperial Russia from 1816 to 1833 Molitva russkikh[90]
In Switzerland (Rufst Du, mein Vaterland or Ô monts indépendants, until 1961).
“God Save The King” was used as the national anthem of the Kingdom of Hawaii before 1860
E Ola Ke Alii Ke Akua, from 1860 to 1886 the national anthem of Hawaii, was set to the same melody.
The American patriotic hymn “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, the lyrics of which were written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831. The song is often quoted – alongside “Hail, Columbia” – as a de facto national anthem for the United States, before the de jure adoption of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the 1930s.
Norway‘s royal anthem Kongesangen uses the melody.
The Swedish royal anthem Bevare Gud vår kung between 1805 and 1880, used the melody.
Liechtenstein‘s, anthem Oben am jungen Rhein uses the same melody – so the same tune was therefore played twice before the Euro 96 qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Liechtenstein; likewise when England played Liechtenstein in a Euro 2004 qualifier. (When England plays Northern Ireland, the tune is only played once).
Iceland‘s de facto national anthem in the 19th century was Íslands minni (“To Iceland”, better known as Eldgamla Ísafold), a poem by Bjarni Thorarensen[91] set to the melody of “God Save The King”. This lasted until the current national anthem was adopted, first by popular consent and later by law. The tune remains a popular one in Iceland and many different texts—serious, satirical and comical—have been set to it.
The melody is also used as a hymn tune by Christian churches in various countries. including by the United Methodists of the southern United States, Mexico, and Latin America, among other denominations. “Glory to God on High” is frequently sung to the tune, as is “Since I Have My Retreat” in the Protestant Church of Korea.

The Ren & Stimpy Show uses the tune for the anthem of the “Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen”.

In addition, it has been used by a large number of classical composers including Bach, Hayden, Beethoven, Paganini, Debussy, Strauss, Liszt to name a few of the more famous ones.

One wonders why Australia didn’t just change the words and keep the music when they decided to pull away from using England’s.

Personally, much as I love the Sensitive New Age Cowboy’s version, I like the idea of Up There Cazaly as the anthem. It is so very Australian, it’s stirring, we all know it.

I noticed a clip on youtube that has the words and in the background a selection of amazing but typical Aussie Rules marks. There just isn’t a game like it. The others are all for pussies.

Adelaide: can it really be liveable?

Adelaide’s going through a transformative period at the moment, a key feature of which is the decision to promote medium density living in areas close to the city. In theory it offers a way of living which is completely different to that of the town historically. In particular it will encourage the cafe nature of Melbourne’s inner city suburbs. At the moment these are largely impossible to sustain in a town known for its low density living and almost total reliance upon cars.

One can see it is moot whether it will work, or whether the attractive qualities of the inner suburbs which include beautiful large homes on large blocks will be destroyed to be replaced by ghastly developments like the high rises which are rife in Melbourne and seem to be gaining an ascendancy in Adelaide too.

But at any rate, supposing it does work, it is by no means sufficient. One of the problems Adelaide faces to a far greater degree than Melbourne or Sydney is the width of its roads and the relentless pressure of heavy traffic on those roads. This applies even to small stretches of roads in inner city suburbs such as Unley Rd and King William Rd. The traffic is visually and aurally offensive and it is dangerous to pedestrians. If a pedestrian can’t easily and safely cross from one side of a road to another, the idea of high street just doesn’t work.

InDaily recently raised these issued in a piece that discussed the idea of radical decreases in speed limits in such areas. One of the readers was mystified by the observation that this would actually make traffic flow better, but the explanation was obvious. If car traffic is travelling at 30kph instead of 60kph, pedestrians can cross the road without needing to do so with the safety of a crossing protected by a red light for the cars. They don’t need such large gaps in the traffic to make the trip. They don’t need to make cars stop in order to cross the road. READ THAT car drivers!

Medium density living can only work if the speed limit on main roads is radically reduced. Otherwise you are subjecting the residents to visual torture, aural distress and physical threat. Small business, which will be a key ingredient to making all this work is also threatened.

Every time I come back to Adelaide I’m saddened by a CBD and inner-city which is utterly dominated still by the needs of the car. Ugggh. A small section of Prospect Rd has been brave enough to try to reverse this trend. Let’s see other parts of Adelaide support the philosophy. Without it, transforming Adelaide will never happen.

Stockholm vs Melbourne and Adelaide

I keep wondering why European cities seem so full of stuff – cultural, consumerist, the lot – compared with Australia. Why is it that Adelaide feels so empty compared with Stockholm when they have very similar populations? Why is it that Stockholm has a wonderful public transport system and Adelaide’s sucks? Why is it, if tripadvisor is a useful guide, that there are 1358 restaurant listings for Adelaide, 1976 for Stockholm. That’s the easiest thing to attempt to measure, but I imagine that everything would be pretty similar – cinemas, theatres, music venues. The lot.

I wandered around Stockholm thinking it felt like Australia – by which I mean Adelaide and Melbourne – and nothing like Australia. English being an important language helped create that illusion, no doubt. But also, if in a smaller way than in Australia, Stockholm has that coffee shop feel that makes Melbourne in particular, but Adelaide too, special.

The differences between them are two-fold. One is that Stockholm is geographically much smaller than Adelaide. Same population, but mainly in apartments. Australia can’t, alas, have it all ways. It can’t have a population living in houses with gardens, and have that sense of built-up urban liveliness and have a great public transport system. The last two come from living in tiny areas with no gardens. The other thing is that Europe’s both small and decentralised. A theatre group, a musician (etc) can cruise around Europe dropping in at many different viable venues. Australia is a long way away from anything and each city is a long way away from – anything.

I love coming back to Australia, but I’m now put out by the way it takes an hour to get from one inner city side of the city to another. Paris and London – let alone the teensy places like Edinburgh, Dublin, Seville – are completely walkable. I don’t mean the ‘burbs’ but the inner parts, the parts tourists want to go to. That just isn’t possible in Australia. So whereas the moment you stop off a plane in Australia, you are struck by the flatness of it all, due to the low density living, and flatness means emptiness, places like Stockholm seem cozy. I imagine even when it’s six foot deep in snow it still feels cozy.

And maybe that makes it easier to go to things too. In Australia people are driven by a car subservient mentality – if they can’t drive, they won’t go. In Europe you don’t need to think like that. You walk to the theatre, you hop on a tram to the opera. The place in Australia that best emulates this is the inner city of Melbourne. Readily usable public transport for the inner suburbs, based on a tram system, and lo – a thriving live culture scene. You can go to the theatre every night in Melbourne and not be stretched for what to see. In Adelaide there is almost no live culture, no music, no theatre and lo – no public transport either. Maybe as the extraordinary transformation continues to take place which is converting the city centre into a high density residential area, this will change. But since I understand a lot of that population to be overseas students, then again, maybe not. There is certainly a developing vibrancy in the city centre in Adelaide which I haven’t seen since my childhood days there.

Let’s drive home the point with a few stats.

South Australia is almost 100,000 sq km, which covers the size of several small European countries: say Holland and Denmark, or Holland and Switzerland – I say several because you could throw in those countries that are the size of Melbourne. But most of the land is at best semi-arid and other than its capital, no town larger than 25,000 people. Almost all South Australians live in Adelaide. The density of population in Stockholm is going on for 5000/km. In Adelaide it isn’t even 700/km. In Melbourne, 430/km. Interesting that Melbourne nonetheless has a thriving innercity. Adelaide is over 600 kms to the next city, with nothing in between. In Europe there’d be whole countries set in those distances, with nice cities of a viable size for the support of live culture. And the distance from Adelaide to the next country? Thousands of kms. The tyranny of distance. It’s hard to imagine anything ever beating it.

The average size of farms in South Australia is over 500 hectares. To put that into a figure you might understand at the moment, that is maybe 600 FIFA regulation soccer grounds. The average size of a farm in Switzerland is 17 hectares and in Sweden 37. The biggest farm in South Australia (also in the world) is over 23,000 sq km. On the list of sizes of European countries it would come in at the same place as European Turkey, ahead of Slovenia and Montenegro. Turkey has 74M people, though I don’t know how many live in ‘European Turkey’. Slovenia has 2M people. Montenegro has 650K people. The population of Anna Creek station? About eight. Not 8M or 8K. Just – eight. Are you getting the message yet???? Australia is EMPTY!!! Of course, it is also incapable of sustaining these populations. Except for camels, that is.

Still call Australia….

…home.

I was just reading a post by Luce on how friendly Australians are and the cultural shock of it for a European. It reminded me of my first trip to Europe in the mid eighties. Grimness, reservedness, politeness, standoffishness prevailed. Airports and planes particularly. After eight months or so away, the flight back home started in LA, and as it got closer to Australia, more Aussies picked it up and you could feel the mood change. As we flew into Sydney harbour people literally crowded around the windows and cheered. I don’t see that happening anywhere else I’ve ever been too in Asia, North or South America, Europe, the UK.

Australia is a special place. May this never change.

Malcolm Turnbull fights the good fight.

I have never been so ashamed of politicians in Australia as right now when the leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, is being defied by his party on the matter of climate change. Picture a 2-party democracy in which both parties are agreed that effective climate change is vital. We might have that, here in Australia, unlikely as it sounds, but for the irresponsible, ignorant Liberals who are using the issue for political effect. Shame, Tony and your cronies. Shame.