Kieran, Firstly, congratulations to Sue Dugdale and Associates for securing …

Comment on Distinction of design reflecting a sense of place by Mike Gillam.

Kieran, Firstly, congratulations to Sue Dugdale and Associates for securing the Tracy medal, a rare architectural victory for Alice Springs.
Re. cultural information and the mall. To my mind, your considered story reinforces the need to clarify Arrernte cultural sites and songlines highlighted in the mall.
I was asked to provide a reference for designers and artists commissioned to work in the Parsons Street section and I recommended further anthropology to expand interpretation of the site and uplands visible to the west.
The “grandfather tree” and “tree of knowledge” cited in your story is also a part of the epic kwekatye boys travelling north story – information noted on a small sign in Parsons Street.
Range features to the west are more complicated and include multiple and overlapping sites and songlines. While important ‘wild dog’ sites occur in the Alice Springs town area I’ve not heard of these western uplands referred to as “dog dreaming range” – this may well be correct, partly correct or a case of multiple truths, regardless, as stated in my brief to the NT Govt: “… Highlight the presence of mountainous features to the west. At approx. 3.5 km a low ridge (euro sacred site) is visible and behind this feature at 9 km a distant bluff, possibly associated with Utnerrengatye (totemic caterpillar) dominates the horizon. (custodians need to check and verify this information) …”
Finally, the moth wing shade structures in your article reference the ever popular Yeperenye. I did not specifically reference this caterpillar and moth in my work, partly because it’s well and truly acknowledged within the contemporary language of place (eg. Yeperenye shopping centre and Yipirinya school) and given the incredible richness of Arrernte creation stories I thought we should avoid being unduly repetitive.
With the placement of moth wing shades in the street-scape I think it may be useful to consider these as generic representations of hawk moths, specifically the four, possibly five species that represent three very important and distinctive totemic caterpillars.
The Arrernte and scientific names for these caterpillar ancestors are Utnerrengatye (Coenotes eremophilae), Ntyarlke (Hippotion celerio) and Ayepe-arenye or Yeperenye (Hyles livornicoides and Agrius convolvuli).
Surely it’s time we recognised the importance of these additional Arrernte totems. Of relevance, one of the artists working on a moth shade canopy sought this information from me and so I know it was her intention to include these three caterpillar ancestors in her work and I believe the Latin names as well.
I certainly encouraged this inclusive and bilingual approach. Perhaps I’m nit-picking but given the close proximity of the new Tourist Commission offices I think Alice Springs should try to provide our cultural tourists with a richer understanding of place and in Todd Mall and Parsons Street our looking glass can reveal ancient Arrernte, ancient Latin and early European.

Mike Gillam Also Commented

Distinction of design reflecting a sense of place
Kieran, Clearly the cultural and scientific information I’ve provided is not easily conveyed and certainly not by plaques.
I’ve not seen Pip’s sculptural stenciling but agree wholeheartedly with your reasoning: “Discerning a precise meaning is less important here than the realisation that there is meaning.” If informed locals or guides are needed to fully unravel the stories of the street that’s great!
I’ve never seen David Attenborough fazed by complexity but he is a great communicator and always finds the essence, the means and the words to pay tribute to his subjects.
I should add that research for a book on the Hawkmoths of Australia is underway and the authors intend to highlight the cultural significance of local species to Arrernte people.
Believe it or not, there are a great many hawk-moth aficionados around the world and many of these special interest groups seem to fly under the radar of tourism planners.
And Kieran, I would suggest the assiduousness you apply to critiquing art and design in central Australia is without equal … Anna Georgia Mackay is a fortunate intern and judging by her efforts in this edition (Time spent joyfully), a deserving one.


Recent Comments by Mike Gillam

Melanka building would obscure unequalled backdrop
While I broadly support the views of the writer, I’d like to correct what is clearly a typo.
The building height limit in the CBD is 14 m. not 8.5m, and for the record, I won’t be making a submission to the NT Planning Commission, a Statutory Authority advising the NT Government on planning matters including building heights in Alice Springs because I don’t regard the public consultation process as genuine.
Recent calls by the Chief Minister for expressions of interest in the development of land at Whittaker Street, just outside the western boundary of the CBD and in an area with a LOWER height limit, makes a mockery of this public consultation.
The artist’s impression shows a building that dramatically exceeds the stated limit for this area, from memory, not even 14 m but currently 8.5m.
Of course, the nature of legislation, regulations and town plans may be subject to the extraordinary powers granted to the responsible Minister who can always find some justification.
In closing I would give credit to the NT Planning Commission for its recognition of the value of protecting some critical east west sight-lines across the CBD.
However the town’s future shape and collective massing of buildings will be determined to a large extent by the uncoordinated actions of individual developers and politicians in the decades ahead.
Ultimately this is a game of chance and DESIGN, that elusive collective vision for Alice Springs, appears to be taking a back seat in the process. As a struggling tourist town we can and should do much better.


Festival broadens ambitions of Alice Cinema
At a time when the town’s commercial centre is under great stress we are very fortunate to have such dynamic and progressive people directing the cinema complex.


A funny thing happened to me on the way to the tip …
Delightfully zany, elegant, rigorously conceived and resolved, an asset to the landfill and the town. Congratulations to the artist for her uncompromising effort and those on the Town Council who placed their faith in her and dared to make this happen. I hope the obvious quality of this public art has raised the confidence of decision makers and they feel vindicated to do it again with equal rigour. Perhaps in time, as the town’s artistic side is further highlighted and revealed we may regain some of our reputation as a tourist mecca.


Dancers take over after dark
Not denying there is an equivalent need for the hard core stories but surely this is the Alice Springs News at its very best.I’m kicking myself for missing the event.


Residency is at risk, says heritage group
Hal, where to start…If you peddle misinformation some readers might hyperventilate. But I think you’re ignoring the elephant in the room here…no-one likes their time being wasted and that’s how I feel trying to unravel your torrent of opinion and innuendo. Time prevents me from responding to more of your posts. It’s not simply that you distort reality by describing The Residency as “…current inactive state…” or that it’s preposterous and insulting to say, “Have you considered that Heritage Alice Springs’ dogmatic approach to these matters contributed to the Old Riverside not being given Heritage listing?” What an outrageous example of shoot the messenger by some-one who has not seen the nomination by HAS. But wait there’s more, “…I often think the heritage crowd exceed their brief…” Really? They’re the main reason you can cite the example of the Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame at its fantastic heritage location. And again, “…We don’t have very many buildings worth listing. Too many tin sheds, and who really cares…” Your regard for vernacular architecture including sheds is out of step with rising national interest and ignores much of the development history of Alice Springs.
PS Re. leasing the Residency for use as a cafe, I reiterate the issue of onsite car-parking. From memory, 6 parks are required for every 100m2 of net floor area and any alfresco dining areas – so I’m guessing this site would have to at least double the existing parks – this reasonable condition may be waived by the Minister BUT it’s in the best commercial interests of cafe owners to provide viable parking to lessen the impact on the street during periods of peak trade. And no, the idea that a new venture would be allowed to free-load on existing public car-parking is unlikely to win much support. The RFDS has it all, why try to replicate that experience with less at the Residency?


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