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The old Royal Adelaide Hospital next to the Botanic Gardens has long been a feature of our lives. Every one of us knows someone who has been at the hospital for some reason, and it holds happier memories for some than others. The old RAH has been a significant part of the history of South Australia since 1856 and continues to be even after the new hospital opened.
Premier Stephen Marshall recently announced a new future for the old hospital. It came after a series of public consultations and design competitions for the old RAH since 2013, and his plans ignored them all. His vision is to transform it into an innovation hub for entrepreneurs by Christmas, although like the infamous Multi Function Polis the details are murky.
The Open Day was an opportunity to see selected parts of the old hospital under the watchful eye of tour guides. Apparently, SA Health is not keen for the public to see how much equipment has been wasted, so access was severely restricted. The event was carefully stage-managed, with Renewal SA assiduously seeking visitors views at every stage. Plenty of entertainment and activities for kids was on offer - even free samples of whisky to leave visitors with a pleasant taste.
A limited number of visitors were able to take a free tour, starting with an entertaining historical overview by Adelaide's Haunted Horizons. From there we were whisked to the demolition Observation Deck: the former Revive on Five Cafe on the fifth floor of the Robert Gerard Wing. From the balcony, we had a bird's-eye view of earthmoving equipment decontaminating the soil remaining under the now demolished Hone Wing. It's a good vantage point to watch workers begin the preliminary dismantling of the East Wing, and appreciate how close to the Botanic Gardens the hospital buildings are.
Deceptive Green Theme - None of the Site Will Be Restored To Parklands
The foyer of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital has been imaginatively decorated with plastic plants and green lighting to remind visitors how close to the parklands we are. This green theme is particularly disingenuous because previous government promises to restore part of the old hospital to parklands have now been scrapped.
The Heritage Listed Margaret Graham Building is For Lease
All the State Heritage listed buildings are being kept and adaptively reused, as is the Eleanor Harrald building which somehow missed out on a listing. Open Day visitors were permitted to see the ground floor of the Margaret Graham building which has been tastefully redecorated. There were more than a few comments that "it never looked like that when I worked here". Despite the smell of fresh paint being unmistakable, this beautiful building will be tenanted quickly.
The Eleanor Harrald building has not been redecorated yet. Instead, visitors were treated to Future Thinker panel sessions intended to inspire a more creative world, and create forward-thinking industries. Some in the audience seemed shell-shocked, but perhaps it's not what they expected from the open day.
I must have missed the media release, but Renewal SA also pushed the re-branding of the old hospital on the open day. Rather than the old Royal Adelaide Hospital, the new name proposed is Lot Fourteen. I wonder how long it took some trainee creative to read those words on a Lands Titles Office plan or Google map, then imagine it as a brand for the future?
Personally I feel the proposed name shows an appalling disrespect for the nurses and doctors who worked over so many years to save lives at the RAH. It diminishes the contribution the institution made for so long to South Australia. It also takes away the memories of those who have lost loved ones here. However, others will form their own opinion.
What I am really looking forward to hearing is how the future hospital site will benefit all the community. There's exciting talk of an indigenous cultural gallery, or some other form of art gallery. I have also heard a Museum of Adelaide proposed, which would be a wonderful concept. It's folly to throw this opportunity away on luxury apartments for the wealthy - the land belongs to everyone and needs to reflect the community uses of our cultural boulevard.
What do you think?
Take look what we were thinking about the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site five years ago in this article.
Hello Dave.This site has to be developed as an impressive cultural site,blending in with the rest of buildings along this side of the eastern portion of North Terrace.It has to look attractive and have spaces inside and out that will beckon visitors.. day and night.It could be made to blend in with the Botanic Gardens and could have an Orangerie for music concerts and the like in a garden setting.This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a magnificent set of structures that will be admired for generations to come.