I was fortunate enough to visit a major Adelaide construction site – the South Australian Health and Medical Research Facility (SAHMRI) on North Terrace recently. I had some involvement in the early days of brief preparation and have maintained a tenuous connection over the last couple of years (mostly a semi-emotional connection as opposed to anything more tangible). This tour was several steps up in interest from the previous visit some months back. Lots of fantastic construction sights, including spending time in the Cyclotron vault: surrounded by two metre thick concrete construction and a two metre thick door ‘plug’ that belittles a bank vault door by a serious margin. It was fantastic to see the boxed out $4.5M machine that will in a few months be one big radioactivity producing monster in the deep basement heart of this profoundly interesting building.
Construction sites are good places to photograph (I have photographed a few now). Mostly, they’re not terribly poetic or exciting; however at times, there are some genuine scenes of a place in transition that strike a chord and afford the opportunity to make a statement that maybe even borders on profound. Apart from the opportunity for candid images of (mostly) blokes, the higgle-piggle of scaffold or stacks of timber and steelwork can make for compelling images. I take particular delight in portraying the engineering-heavy dungeons of these places – the darkly lit rooms full of plant, ductwork and machines. SAHMRI offers this in spades: three subterranean levels of concrete basement lined with pipes, tubes, conduits and ducts as well as the vast panorama of the upper levels – superb views across the northern half of the Adelaide CBD and beyond. The views across the new Royal Adelaide Hospital construction site are truly remarkable. There are a lot of people down there…
For an architect, a site visit is often more about solving problems than revelling in the visual interest. Furthermore, I’ve found that an under-construction building can often be more visually appealing than a finished product. The dynamism of facades with architectonic forms jutting in various directions, pieces left bare, the skeleton exposed in areas; these are all elements that give me pause for enjoyment. SAHMRI is destined to be an impressive building. It has the monetary and political heft to drive that inevitability. But a part of me wonders whether it could possibly get any more beautiful and intriguing than it is right now?