When people talk about the Perth riverfront most people think about the proposals over the last decade or so but development concepts have been flowing through since the 1800’s.
An exhibition being hosted by AUDRC (the Australian Urban Design Research Centre) shows many of the plans, in chronological order, providing a fascinating insight into our changing expectations over the decades. AUDRC is affiliated with the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts at the UWA.
Early iterations showed lots of green space as the parklands included in the original city plan had been subdivided to cope with an early land shortage. Concepts became more elaborate as the city grew and more land was reclaimed along the foreshore.
In 1870 the existing foreshore was very shallow and long jetties needed to be constructed out to where it was deep enough for the boats to dock. Road transport was very challenging as the carts got bogged in the deep sand so, with a tiny population of just five thousand people, Perth began the massive project of reclaiming foreshore land in a process that went on for nearly a century.
Extending the foreshore out into the river was primarily a function of trade, not amenity, but the parkland became a valuable bonus for a rapidly growing community. Adapting areas for settlement was standard practice, for example Lake Kingsford was drained to become Forest Place.
AT the AUDRC exhibition, probably the proposal that captured most people’s attention was the man-made island which was to be created from materials dredged to make the Swan River deeper and therefore more accessible for river traffic. Designed in the 1930’s, the aerial perspective showed an art deco styling to the road layout for the island which would provide more land within easy reach of the CBD.
The plans from then on became more elaborate but it really wasn’t until this last decade that the potential of the foreshore to create a new identity for Perth as a modern international city began to be realised.
We are currently witnessing a development process on our foreshore which has been over one hundred years in the making. It will have a significant impact on the way we see ourselves and how we are seen by the 700,000 overseas tourists that visit Perth each year.
If you are interested, the exhibition is open weekdays until Friday 15 November at AUDRC – 1002 Hay Street, Perth.