Friday, 3 July 2009

Brisbane's CBD is not just a scaled-down version of Sydney, with its proximity to water, city gardens close by and classical Old Parliament House within walking distance. It's a far more usable city centre. And there are nowhere near as many dark, corporate-looking suits!

The old has survived much better here than in the southern capital. Massive post-modern skyscrapers sit comfortably beside buildings constructed 100 years ago. And because there are not so many tall buildings you can actually see the old buildings, which are not bookended amid towers of concrete and glass, as they are in Sydney.

The City Hall building, constructed in the mid 1920s, offers a curious blend of styles. Its stripped classical exterior is married with some proto-Deco elements. But it is the gothic architraves of the entrance hall that really knock you off your feet. You walk through the stone doorway and are confronted by three white vaults set with gold-painted hollows. It's an architectural dream, a folly, a fine statement of independence.

You can see more right here, than you can in Sydney. The Queen Street mall gives you plenty of opportunity to stand unmolested in the middle of the carriageway and gaze contentedly down surrounding streets. In the photo below, taken where the mall ends, you can see a gothic apartment building nestled against a heavy concrete building built within the last 30 years.

Across the river, to the south, lies a cultural precinct that is, I believe, unrivalled in Australia. The Queensland Art Gallery, built in the 1980s, is now partnered with the Queensland State Library and the Gallery of Modern Art - both completed in 2006. The precinct offers visitors a handy method of spending the day immersed in freewheeling relaxation without the necessity of moving from parking place to parking place, or walking from spot to spot, as is the case in Sydney. For $14 you can park all day here!

The Gallery of Modern Art sits serenely above the Brisbane River, a brown, sluggish stream often girded by banks of tall apartment buildings. New pedestrian bridges will enable future generations of Brisbanites and happy visitors to easily cross from the bustle of the CBD to the more relaxed environs of South Bank.

If you walk down Edward Street toward the river you pass through lovely, trendy streets - all named after queens - and eventually reach the City Gardens. Walk through here and you can see the modern collection of buildings that form the Queensland University of Technology. Mixed among them are the Old Parliament House building - a classical gem - and the imposing Parliament building - a Victorian pile of epic proportions.

If you pass along George Street in a northerly direction you reenter the CBD and have plenty of opportunity to sit down and sample a cup of Brisbane's fine coffee. This is an excellent way to finish your short tour of the Brisbane CBD!

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