Walking through town last week, Daniel took me into another one of the city’s abandoned construction sites. Adelaide has an appearance of being a bustling small capital, though I always seem to notice the proliferation of empty shops and buildings, and missing teeth of demolished sites. It reminds me of Auckland in the early 90’s, when the over-enthusiastic trashing of historic architecture all through the city centre met with the stock market crash and left the place with wasteland carparks, a prefabricated ghost-town.
I like the vacant pointlessness of it, the undelivered grandiosity. It mocks the conceits of the entire city in its absence. Actually, this is all you have to look forward to and either way it is not a livable city.
Letter-hyphen-town has been what most cities I’ve lived in have been reduced to since Emile in Zürich shortened it to Z-town. Adelaide being A-town in my imagination, it was sort of poignant to find a zine of the same name, an archaic, photocopied, cut-paste typewriter and xeroxed pre-blog self-publication devoted to the unseen bits of Adelaide, urban archaeology for the geekiest of miniscule travelers.
At the worst party in the world on Saturday, I met the author, who looks like Ben Lee, has a small orange bicycle pinned to his lapel, and enthuses on three things: bikes, urban architecture and zines. I heard he’s done his Ph.D. on zine culture, which didn’t surprise me at all.
So amidst the still continuing rain, and following his instructions, today I peered through the temporary fencing of Gouger Street’s own impromptu wetland. Even with quantities of plummeting water, the swamp hasn’t risen to the normal tide mark that stains the girder-propped concrete structures at the deepest end of the evacuated block, but besides the detritus of the dissembled architecture, the inclined concrete shoreline, and litter tossed over the fences, this is a wetland.
The water is stained a tannic rust colour, reeds and other flora that dwell in the intermediary landscape between water and earth cover the mounds of the extracted basement, and I was told also it’s not uncommon to see birdlife, frogs, and other wetland dwellers populating what was once just a hole in the ground.
He’s published I think three zines devoted to these urban voids, places where no one really looks, or gazes just slide over, so in my spare time I think I’ll be doing a bit of exploring.
Later, Alison and I went to Port Adelaide for an exhibition her sister is production manager for. Again more wetlands, a bank manager’s residence only recently excavated since the internal stairwell was concreted in some years past, and now is something of a tomb undergoing restoration, then instructions to go … that way … vague waving on finger in an easterly direction towards the woolsheds.
Port Adelaide for whatever reason befalls a city wherein its existence is owed to the continual flow of merchandise through its boundaries and that current falters, is a town of colossal ghost buildings, vacated, ossified warehouses, windows glazed over from abandonment like cataract-ridden eyes. The canyons of the woolshed warehouses, vast brick and glass houses of empire are only alive where wattle trees are beginning reclamation, all decorated with ‘For Lease’ and ‘For Sale’ enticements.
If it was closer to Adelaide, it would be to the city what Brooklyn is to New York, and perhaps with twenty years of lifestyle gentrification encroachment and its supporting population it could be … for a short time a place for artists. For now, it’s just rusted out Al Capone stretch limousines up on blocks guarded by a pair of rapacious attack goats.