Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

Build a bridge and get over it

Waldorf And Statler. Picture: Supplied Source: News Corp. Australia

AT the age of 33, there are certain things about the world I should probably accept. Like that people can build structures much bigger than themselves.
But any time I visit a city as old and sprawling as Rome or New York, a single thought jags on the prickle bush of my mind.
I can't help but spend too much time wondering how the great cities of the world, these hulking honeycombs of steel, glass and concrete, are even possible.
Too big, too complex, to fully wrap one's mind around.
"But...how did they?... When did all this?... Look at all the...."
I'm a lot of fun to travel with.
Last September, I returned home after spending a year in the US.
And lately I've caught myself pondering the same thing I've thought about in London or New York.
"How on earth did Adelaide get built?"
Not because Adelaide is one of the great engineering wonders of the world. But because, it seems, she's had to fight the moaning classes for every new brick and girder.
I love our city, but we're a cautious lot and seldom let change come marching in without a fight.
Someone says "development" and we can almost hear our property values come crashing down, while traffic, noise and crime surge skyward.
We're sometimes right, but not always.
In 2005, we worked ourselves into a lather over the new Commonwealth Law Courts. It was, we reckoned, "Adelaide's ugliest building".
"Revert (sic) your eyes!" one doomsayer cautioned on an online forum at the time.
We stood our ground over the Victoria Park Grand Stand, sneezed all over the new RAH and failed to give way to the new trams, which we called a colossal waste of money.
"Woopee!! A tram from nowhere to nowhere that cost $100m" one correspondent scoffed.
Now, the government is building a bridge and, predictably, some of us just can't get over it.
But if history is any guide, we will.
We are the Statler and Waldorf (the doddery old theatre critics from the Muppet Show) of Australian cities.
Statler: That was the worst thing I've ever heard!
Waldorf: It was terrible!
S: Horrendous!
W: Well it wasn't that bad.
S: Oh, yeah?
W: Well, there were parts of it I liked!
S: Well, I liked a lot of it.
W: Yeah, it was GOOD actually.
S: It was great!
W: It was wonderful!
S: Yeah, bravo!
W: More!
S: More!
Brand guru Ken Cato touched on the public's fickle tendencies by way of defending his controversial new SA logo, unveiled earlier this month.
"A number of people are just going to dump on this, say 'What's that about'," he told adelaidenow.
"But five years from now they will be the ones that remember how they were the only one that thought it was really good".
Time will tell.
The bigger point, I think, is that, on so many new ideas, our default position is to activate the NO siren and set our bleat-o-meters to 11.
South Australians are right to hold the government to account on major projects, especially when such vast amounts of public money are at stake.
But maybe, just maybe, now and then we should give ourselves permission to accept that a new hospital, or bridge across the river, or public transport service might actually be good for our city and not a sign of End Times.
Don't you think?
This column was first published in The City Messenger and on advertiser.com.au