NATIONAL Geographic believes by 2050, 70 per cent of the world’s population will be living in urban environments. The luckiest of which will live in small and ‘smart’ cities. When they asked where these smartest cities were, they started with a list of 50 possible candidates. As they dwindled it down to the final 18, one city consistently made it to the top of the list: Adelaide.
Adelaide is the capital of South Australia and is located centrally at the base of the country. With a population of just 1.2 million it is positioned geographically and philosophically with what it needs to future proof itself - creative thinking.
Adelaide’s creative thinking is borne out of its colonial history. Unlike the other capital cities of Australia, British free settlers and not convicts founded Adelaide. Built on the Adelaide Plains the city was first occupied by the Aboriginal tribes of the Kaurna people. It was surveyor Colonel William Light who took their knowledge of floods and resources to map out the city with open spaces and parklands.
Adelaide was mapped out by Colonel William Light, built around parklands and open spaces.
However it was the settler’s commitment to freedom and progress that the documentary’s producers believed set Adelaide apart from the rest. So when they wanted to find the modern day innovators and free thinkers they co-opted local producer Mike Piper of Piper Films.
Piper is based at the Adelaide Studios, the home of the South Australia Film Corporation just outside the CBD. Over the past 35 years Piper has produced and directed many multi-award winning television programs that have screened worldwide. He has a long history of working with the documentary’s creators NHNZ and National Geographic.
His brief was to find Adelaide’s creative minds and work out how they made Adelaide a smart city. With years of experience telling the stories of the people of the city this was not hard.
“It was important to use people from the universities as ambassadors,” he says. “I already knew some of the people from that area so I had a word with them and put them forward.”
While the academics of Adelaide are creating innovative work Piper believes they are also far more relaxed than those he has encountered around the world.
“I think it’s probably because of Adelaide's lifestyle, it is a lovely place to work from and to live in,” he goes on to say. “We’re very lucky that we don’t have the level of anxiety that other people living in other bigger cities have, I think it has a lot more freedom, there’s a lot more space to move around.”
Adelaide's lifestyle means a freedom from the anxiety that other big city thinkers can face.
Professors and researchers featured in the documentary are not only carrying on the tradition of freethinking but are doing so in unique ways. When Dr Martin Luerssen, Research Fellow and Chief Technology Officer at Flinders University began exploring ways technology could assist the state’s ageing population he created Clevertar.
Clevertar is an animated avatar that assists people in their home. It reminds them to take their medication, exercise and eat well with life-like interactions through computers and tablets.
The creative thinking behind Dr Luerssen’s Clevertar is just another example of how Adelaide fosters an environment for testing new and innovative ideas. Throughout the documentary we meet artists, architects, cultural researchers and chefs who are continuously applying freethinking to the ways in which Adelaide adapts itself for the 21st century.
According to Dr Luerssen the fact all these creative thinkers live in Adelaide is no accident.
“In order to be creative you need to be able to live a good life and in Adelaide you can live a good life,” he says in the documentary. “You don’t feel strangled by the sheer population around you.
It's no accident that so many creative thinkers live in Adelaide - "In Adelaide you can live a good life."
“The size of the city is just perfect to have both the kinds of expertise and talent that you can draw from. Adelaide is a place that new ideas can come out and flourish because we’re not that traditional we’re not that stuck in the old ways, we have to innovate and we do.”
Piper agrees that the lifestyle and proximity of Adelaide is conducive to the ingenuity behind it.
“I think we are very fortunate just with the geographic location of Adelaide because we are centrally located at the bottom of Australia which means we can reach most parts of the country very quickly and easily and that’s what a lot of businesses in Adelaide do,” says Piper.
“There’s an old adage that says if you can make a go of things in Adelaide you can make a go of things pretty much anywhere and that’s been proven over and over again.”