Surfers Paradise has built a reputation in the national imagination as a uniquely enticing destination. A history of exotic neon signage, flamboyant architecture and risqué entertainment invites the visitor to an other-worldly urban landscape by an extraordinary strip of beach. Much of this appeal has also been built on a street tradition that is rapidly disappearing. In a climate of an awareness of the need to create distinctive urban spaces that defy the globalisation of urban design, and the prospect of further intensive development of the strip, 45 architects, landscape architects, planners, developers and Council staff recently came together to discuss the issues.
The seminar had as a visual resource, the current exhibition presented by Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Streets of Gold – Photographs of Gold Coast Streets by three major Australian photographers spanning three generations – Jeff Carter in 1957 and the early 60s, John Gollings in 1974 and Trent Parke in 2006 and 2008. Each came to the coast with a specific project in mind to capture the nature of the Gold Coast street, and their photographs tell us much about not only urban form but the way it shaped patterns of interaction and behaviour.
Before breaking into working groups, the audience heard from Local Councillor Susie Douglas, who placed the seminar in the context of current considerations on the City Heart project, and City Architect Philip Follent who identified the key features of the urban character and highlighted the potential of the major development site of the existing Transit Centre.
Melbourne Architect Tony Styant –Browne, who instigated the 1974 study of Surfers Paradise with renowned urban photographer John Gollings, discussed how they looked at the then just published Venturi –Scott Brown Learning from Las Vegas and decided to apply the method to Surfers Paradise. Curator Virginia Rigney looked at the photographs and what they tell us about the street and the role of public art. Ned Wales of Bond University Mirvac School of Sustainable Development commented on signage policy in California and lessons for here and, finally, Neil Beattie, manager of one of the most eclectic bars in town – the Swingin Safari commented on the creation of a cultural pub where unexpected and entertaining things happen.