Opinion: Are We Missing A Key Ingredient In The Riverbank Precinct?


By Gerald Matthews, Matthews Architects.

What is it about the southern banks of river cities all over the world? It seems governments and developers alike are all drawn to them – from London to Melbourne, Brisbane to now Adelaide, they’re attracting huge attention and investment in the quest to rejuvenate cities.

Adelaide has a once in a generation opportunity to make the Riverbank Precinct truly world class. I do, however, have fears that the order in which it is currently being pieced together is back to front or at least neglecting a few crucial steps.

The land north of North Terrace, which runs between the Morphett Street Bridge and King William, has inspired passionate debate for years. There are continuing arguments about what it is and whether it’s part of our parklands or whether it’s part of the city.

The key question that needs to be asked is: what should it be? So first, let’s have a look at how we have arrived at this point.

Firstly, we have Old Parliament House, which I don’t like but that’s largely because I am a contemporary architect. That aside, the building exists and I’d certainly prefer that it remain.

I’m a fan of the Adelaide Festival Centre. I think its white cubist forms counterpoint the city behind it nicely. The centre’s proposed upgrade and expansion is a positive step forwards.


Next we have the Casino, which has been flagged for an expansion for some time. Its neighbour, the Adelaide Convention Centre, is expanding and will hopefully be finished soon.

And finally, amongst all of this sits the enormous new office tower that the Walker Corporation has proposed and divided opinions with.

The building will sit behind Old Parliament House, between the Casino and the Festival Plaza. I think most Adelaidians, who know the area well, are scratching their heads wondering how it will fit.

Now you may have noticed a trend – the current state of play for our Riverbank is that everything is either expanding or planning to expand. But there’s another piece of the puzzle we’re hearing very little about – the Adelaide Railway Station.

After decades out in the cold, trains are sparking interest for Adelaide again – a trend being felt around the country. For the first time we’re taking the idea of high-speed interstate rail seriously.

Our current Railway Station passes underneath the Riverbank Precinct and this is why the expansion of the Convention Centre has been significantly more complex and costly than it might have otherwise been.

The truth is that planners have missed a crucial first step by overlooking the future of the Railway Station and I think it’s worth analysing this because without understanding why it happened and its consequences, we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes.

Here’s what I think should have happened, starting from some time around 2010...Cue the time machine.

Riverbank Precinct, Adelaide

Step 1


Gerald Matthews is the Director Matthews Architects. He started his career in 2000 and has since gained valuable expertise in strategic design, project feasibility studies & spatial psychology of living & working environments.

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