In the Heart of the City

Brisbane, city scene from southbank looking across the Brisbane river to the ever growing stacks of high rises
Brisbane, city scene from Southbank

Brisbane is growing rapidly. Like many cities worldwide the buildings are reaching up higher and higher to the clouds.

Our visits to the city centre have been few and far between, mainly driving past to the the airport. Rarely do we venture to the inner city. Even more rarely do we see it as a tourist, and then we head to Southbank  Parklands which was the  traditional home of the Turrbal and Yuggerah people. Now this area is the cultural centre of the city. It is here that the art galleries,museum, theatre, conservatorium,markets and eating spots are to be found, as well as the man-made “Streets beach”. It is also the location for various festivals throughout the year.

The epicurious garden Southbank Parklands ,Brisbane.
Epicurious Garden, Brisbane

On this visit we discovered Epicurious, an organic  garden established within the Parklands to enable people to experience and learn about gardening. Midweek free samples are available with volunteers on hand to assist with advice.

Epicurious vegetable and herb garden, Southbank.
Epicurious vegetable and herb garden, Southbank.

What a wonderful concept to bring awareness and connection to nature, and to encourage healthier lifestyle options.

Ibis and bearded dragon in the heart of Brisbane city
In the heart of Brisbane city

Close by to Epicurious is a rainforest area, where a huge fig tree provides a tunnel though it for children to explore, and a rock pool is a haven for wildlife.If you look closely there is a bearded dragon on the rock to the right of the ibis.Perhaps best of all this area of the Parklands offers an opportunity to find peace in the very heart of the city.



Nature, Art and the City

Tree sculpture comprised of colourful human silhouettes in Singapore
Perchance a Family Tree?

Singapore not only proved to be inspiring through its promotion and use of green initiatives but also for the art that was to be found throughout the city, ranging from  the traditional religious themed subjects to modern sculptures placed in the streets and public gardens.

Traditional Hindu Sculpture,Singapore
Traditional Hindu Sculpture,Singapore
Large sculpture of a bull in Gardens at the Bay,Singapore
A Powerful Statement- sculpture Singapore

Many of the buildings seemed more like art forms, displaying functional beauty.  One example is this commercial centre that lit up and interacted with the noise of the traffic at night, forever changing , still, yet in constant motion as the colours of the many hexagons of its outer surface changed. Although a  static form it  interacted, responded to and even played with the environment.

This hexagon facade is a light show at night,mall Singapore.
This hexagon facade is a light show at night,mall Singapore.

From the beginning of time people have needed to create and to share their wonder, their stories, their delight with nature, as well as their spirituality.  From the early cave art to this day art plays such an important role in communication of ideas, in education and in sharing and stimulating imagination. On the other hand art has also been used to misinform to impose  power, and to keep people in control. It is a powerful tool.

Golden Buddha,Chinese Temple,Singapore
Golden Buddha,Chinese Temple,Singapore

At  Gardens by the Bay  sculptures were abundant and used throughout the garden. It was hard to take in all the WOW! factor, and all the beauty. Powerful, pensive, ethnic, clever pieces  carefully chosen ad placed to titillate the senses as well as  being used to enhance and interact with nature and the spectator. Whatever the theme each one was so well placed it made you stop, look, and really notice what was happening at that point.

Sculpture group in Singapore strategically placed in the mist garden, one of many stunning artworks on display throughout the gardens.
Point of Veiw

All in all there was  much to admire and although there were some wonderful initiatives and architecture, the character, colour and richness of the old city is being swamped and replaced with an over emphasis modern, new, big and  on shopping. Globalisation and Westernisation seem very much the main influence .

Old and new singpaore- Scene showing temple in china town against modern city buildings
The old and the new in Singapore.

The once vibrant Orchard road could be any mall in any country offering the same  brands  available in every  city.  It would have been far more interesting to see  colourful, noisy chaotic  markets; once prolific and rampant roadside gardens,  as well as a greater input and variety of indigenous culture. There is still China town and Little India but the very strong feeling pervaded was that they too would be modernised and become just another shopping “brand” experience.

Bus Stop Orchard Road- says it all- moving with the times.High rise and large corporate enterpirses replacing the market gardens and ethnic businesses
Bus Stop Orchard Road- says it all- moving with the times.

The other thing that struck me was that although nature was introduced into urban planning I wondered where the “wilderness” was as everything was so carefully structured and presented- nature tamed and presented as a neat package. Nature in the raw is chaotic, exuberant, in constant flux and change, aspects that we do need to encounter and appreciate to fully engage, interact and understand.  Disconnection from nature has contributed to the present crisis the planet faces. Introducing nature in a planned way is admirable but we need also to save and maintain wilderness areas.

Carved lions prowling a stone wall,reminder of past residents of Singapore
Wilderness now.

Introducing the awareness and importance of working with nature in a planned way as Singapore has is to be commended but we need also to save and maintain wilderness areas. As the city grows, the forest declines, ,concrete carparks and freeways covers the earth and pot plants replace the understorey. Fake rocks and waterfalls become reminders of what once was, as are strategially placed sculptures that distract as well as represent lost species.

Replacing the Rainforest.Singapore cityscape.
Replacing the rainforest. Singapore City scape.

Does one stand in awe or lament?

England calling.

London Taxi cab no longer black but decorated with flag and logo
London Calling

How pertinent this patriotic cab seemed when that first encounter with the city was made,  so London, so British.

As is often remarked a picture tells a thousand words. For me this picture of the taxi cab says a lot about London, her charm and history. It also intrigued me to discover, with a little disappointment tinged with nostalgia, that the legendary black cabs have succumbed to modern touches. Many are coloured and are used for advertising . There were some black cabs remaining which, in comparison, looked rather dignified and seemed to uphold a tradition that goes with the pomp and pageantry that is linked to the city.

Guard at Buckingham Palace,London
Guard at Buckingham Palace,London

That tradition that links present to the past we, purely  by chance, witnessed at Windsor Castle with the changing of the guard. Even though the actual enactment took little more than two or three minutes there was great excitement. A large crowd had massed on both sides of the street, not quite sure what was about to happen. Coach after coach spewed out tourists from every corner of the globe. Cameras were primed as police and guards prowled the perimeters telling people to keep behind the yellow lines that were painted on the road. “Perhaps”,the whisper went round, “the Queen is about to appear”.

Crowd gathering at Windsor Castle.U.K
Windsor Castle.U.K.

The Queen was elsewhere but her guard loyally and dutifully executed their traditional duty and marched out of the arched entrance gate and down the street.

Grenadier guards band
And the band played on…

As the band played the crowd seemed suitably impressed to have witnessed a “real’ British tradition. Seconds later the procession had disappeared, the queues grew larger and still coaches kept coming as people hoped to see inside the castle and get a glimpse into a life of privilege, and a long history so removed from their own reality.

However, just around the corner we did find Her Majesty and a two popular young members of the Royal family, their portraits painted on a phone box with a request with to post photos but  have misplaced the scrap of paper with the name of the artist and would love to acknowledge her.

Phone box in Windsor with painting of Queen Elizabeth
A Royal Call