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Creating a respectful and cultured city


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Colonel Light got it pretty right – but more should be done to recognise Adelaide’s traditional owners, argues Iris Iwanicki in the second of our series asking design and development thinkers how they would plan Adelaide.

I don’t think I could do a better job than Colonel Light.

Adelaide’s  city plan is a legacy – a part of our heritage – which establishes a unique character different from other Australian capital cities, each of which have their particular patterns of organic growth and pockets of planning.

The surrounding belt of Parklands he left us with provides the lungs for the city and should be strenuously defended from further encroachments that are hard-surfaced.

The progressive landscaping of the River Torrens area was a conscious effort by the city fathers to beautify the riverbanks and reverse the initial devastation of the natural landscape. We have now a colonial landscape which nevertheless celebrates our origins and culture.

Read Daniel Bennett’s attempt to out-do Colonel Light here.

One thing I would change would be to ensure that the Kaurna culture is respected in the use of the Parklands area through acknowledgement of the Indigenous owners’ way of life in spatial designs, commemorative structures, and ceremonial and meeting places designated to enable their cultural identity to be celebrated.

My city would be renowned for being a respectful and cultured city, an accessible city for everyone, a beautiful city, a child-friendly city and a city of accommodation.

I would prioritise the retention of significant heritage buildings; these vistas and spaces will be the city’s main drawcard in a world of globalised design. Development should be encouraged, but not in a manner that destroys the city’s unique identity.

Given the distinctiveness of the Adelaide City Council area – with clear demarcation between residential, commercial and retail areas – new technology and communication systems could permit a more eclectic mix of activities, both recreational and occupational, while keeping the overall morphology of city form.

The challenge is to keep environments as healthy as possible, with fresh air, noise control and accessibility encouraged by maintaining a safe, walkable and cycle-friendly city, with plenty of frequent public transport – rail, bus and tram.

Full marks to the State Government for concentrating on updating our public transport systems and indicating how the city could develop around public transport lines within the city.

Iris Iwanicki is state president of the Planning Institute of Australia. In the first article of this series, landscape architect and urban designer Daniel Bennett suggested that Colonel Light’s design of the city ignored much of what makes Adelaide unique.  

How would you plan Adelaide? Email your ideas to


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