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Process and product in the foundation and laying out of Adelaide

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While there is adequate documentation on the reasons for the selection of the site of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia in 1836, there is little on the origins and authorship of the distinctive plan and layout of the city. Consequently much attention has been given to this issue, on the assumption that the design reflects the inspiration of one man- the Surveyor-General, William Light, or his deputy, George Kingston. Careful examination of primary sources suggests that the design of the city cannot be considered independently of the associated decisions concerning the choice of the region within which to plant the capital, and the selection of the actual site. In particular, the layout of Adelaide results from the application of a notional orthogonal design to the opportunities and restrictions offered by the land forms and run of the river at the chosen site. The characteristics of the notional plan can be inferred from a number of sources and individuals, and from the actual layout of Adelaide. The process results in opportunistic and creative alterations to the plan as the city was progressively laid out in detail. Corroboration of this method occurs in the use of a similar process in the layout of Palmerston (later Darwin) in the Northern Territory a generation later. However, the outcomes were not as felicitous as in the case of Adelaide.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1998-07-01

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