Handling Heritage: Curating Culture & the Quay

Elizabeth Quay is without question the biggest urban renewal project to hit Perth in our lifetime. The projects marketed-underlying aim is to ‘reconnect’ the river and the city.

“The river. The city. Together again.”

 – Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority vision statement for Elizabeth Quay.

source: metropolitan redevelopment authority website cover image

The primary focus of criticism surrounding the development has been the money spent, the inadequacy of water testing and consequential closure of the waterpark, and the architectural value of the place. There has been – and will be, many debates regarding the vendors, management and environmental impact of the site. Any major development usually involves contention in these areas and should involve a discussion.

What is interesting to question regarding the quay is its referencing of the swan river – the key focus of the brief. Is the reintegration of the river into the city a homage to the past or is it a superficial front, allowing the development of high rise towers along the foreshore?

Without the perceived focus on the river in the scheme, the project would be simply a high rise mixed use development in one of the most – if not the most attractive locations in Perth.

The swan river, as many of us know, use to run much higher into where the city now stands, and is a sacred site for Indigenous people. Although the proposal aims to celebrate the river, does the planning of a 51-storey luxury residential tower illlegitimise the intention to reconnect the city and the river, with the tower blocking views to the river and creating increased waste to pollute it?

The planning of the quay is centered around tourism and creating culture, attempting to iconify the place on an international platform. The approval of large luxury residential towers and the current price of eateries at the site, reduce the demographic of patrons that can use the Quays facilities. While it is easy to criticise the focus on tourism and the wealthy, the site currently is costing $11,000 a day to run. Without private investors, tenants and tourism the site would simply not be sustainable economically.

source: artist impression of Perth+ twin tower development

Plans to run a cable car from Kings Park to the quay haven’t been taken of the table and would link the place directly, and conveniently to the already established tourist destination.

The successfulness of the Quay as a key civic centre and tourist destination will be determined over time. The re-connection of the river with the city has perhaps already been compromised, though the visual disconnection of the approved tower and the environmental impact of the development on the ecology of the waterway.





MRA. “Elizabeth Quay.” Accessed 19/09/20187. https://www.mra.wa.gov.au/projects-and-places/elizabeth-quay/vision/planning-approvals

Perth Now. “How much does Elizabeth Quay cost to run?” accessed 20/09/2017. http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/how-much-does-elizabeth-quay-cost-to-run/news-story/990bdaf0f6adf2e93936dddf83c8413d

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