Inner Circle

Evolving Brisbane

The world now recognises Brisbane for its burgeoning food scene, growing troupe of artisans and energy fuelled by subcultures.

Evolving Brisbane
If you have a more artistic bent, lose yourself in the installations and exhibitions at QAGoMA. The A$100 million complex opened in 2006 and has since inspired the imagination of young and old.

At first look, Brisbane may seem like any other Australian city – beautiful, blue skies, superb weather and friendly locals. It is the cookie-cutout ‘new city’ – a skyline dotted with new residential towers and high-street chain stores. But despite its sunny personality, and the shiny newness of its architecture, there is also a hip anti-establishment undercurrent that proclaims more substance. 

Brisbane is a city of hybrid, multiple personalities. In the midst of massive urban renewal since the mid-1980s, in which much of its architectural history was lost to property developers, the city has a ‘stick it to the man’ sentiment reflected in its civic and cultural life. This mix of personalities helps the city make its way, and it is the spaces in between that originality and ‘hipness’ flourish.

One City, Many Personalities

One has to venture no further than inner city Fortitude Valley to find evidence of this split personality. The Valley has had numerous incarnations since the 1990s, and the city’s club scene is most concentrated here, where beer gardens sit alongside mega clubs and cosy live venues. At the other end of the spectrum is freshly gentrified James Street. New kid on the block McArthur and Ann has been developed with the young sophisticate in mind; foodies will appreciate the fantastic restaurants, fresh food markets and wine bars.

However, often the most interesting areas evolve in the spaces between the shiny and the grimy. Winn Street Laneway is an example of such an evolution. A veritable hotbed of creative hipsterdom, Winn Lane was developed to provide space for first-time independent retailers. It is now home to clothing boutiques, cafes, bookstores and salons. Standouts include The Outpost for an edited selection of independent menswear designers and Kunstler for a well-curated array of design magazines and books.

The Zoo epitomises Brisbane’s rebellion against development. More dive bar than concert hall, it hosts international musicians and local up-and-coming artists. In 1996, the club faced imminent closure by the local council, but in true Queensland style, an army of vocal supporters banded together to save the space in a fight that lasted the best part of a year. To this day, their names remain engraved on the stairs leading up from the street.

For another example of how Brisbane utilises its ‘unwanted’ spaces to great effect, the city’s own take on the food truck craze, the Eat Street Markets, is industrial chic at best. Set beside an undeveloped stretch of river alongside the cruise-ship terminal at Portside is a conglomeration of international street food hawkers, each housed in a shipping container. Renowned Brisbane entrepreneur Peter Hackworth says the markets are modelled on “the hustle and bustle” of Asian food markets “where you can experience the most fantastic regional dishes for next to nothing”.

Speaking of great finds in unusual places, Traders Hotel, Brisbane too has a trick up its sleeve. Who would have thought it would be possible to house a number of beehives on top of an inner-city hotel? In demonstrating its commitment to CSR, the hotel has turned a ‘so crazy, it might work’ idea into a viable proposition. Producing far more honey than they can use in the kitchen, it now has souvenir jars of golden deliciousness available at the reception.

The Original Rebel

The original Brisbane hip zone, Paddington, is a hilly urban suburb on the west side of the CBD, dotted with cafes and quintessential Queenslander cottages. Visitors adore these quaint homes raised on stumps, but their unusual design is more function than form. Built to survive floods, Queenslanders are sought after by locals and expatriates alike. These cottages initially housed the working class and migrants, and served as share houses for students from the nearby universities at a time when student protests were regular occurrences.

Much of Paddington’s street cred stems from these days of raging against the police state regime, and some relics still exist. Leftys Music Hall on Caxton Street was, in a former life, a notorious live music venue that hosted Brisbane’s most loved punk bands of the 80s and 90s, The Saints and The Go-Betweens. Even corporate executives would love the quirky atmosphere, complete with taxidermy, live honky-tonk music and craft beer. Paddington remains a vibrant and fiercely independent neighbourhood with award-winning cafes, homeware shops and boutiques.

From Ugly Duckling...

Any talk of regeneration would be remiss if it omitted Brisbane’s real Cinderella story, the South Bank Parklands and Cultural Centre. Situated across the river from the CBD and a short walk from Traders Hotel, Brisbane, South Bank is Brisbane’s favourite playground. From swamp to convict gardens, it has transformed from industrial wasteland to world expo site and world-class cultural precinct. The Queensland State Library has won awards for its architectural design and is a wonderful place to settle into plush leather seats and browse international magazines while enjoying the river views.

If you have a more artistic bent, lose yourself in the installations and exhibitions at QAGoMA. The A$100 million complex opened in 2006 and has since inspired the imagination of young and old. An element of its success has been the GoMA’s children’s programme, which invites them to create their own artwork in a purpose-built studio space. They also host events outside opening hours for adult visitors, with exhibitions accompanied by music performances and guest speakers. 

There is much more to Brisbane than meets the eye. By simply scratching the surface, visitors can discover unique, constantly evolving public spaces. Some have survived a number of reincarnations to emerge all the better for gentrification, while others have survived the struggle against overzealous development and celebrate the success of their rebellion.

 Make a booking at Traders Hotel, Brisbane Back to Destination 

Showing 1 comment

  1. Jean-Pierre Pardo: 5 years ago

    Hi :) Thank you for the post abour Australian Place, it is nice to know things about the country. I can't travel abroad for many reasons, primarily because my boyfriend is ill and can't leave Manila. I appreciate all the knowledge that I can get from Australia & its culture for my boyfriend is from Sydney: he' s Filipino-Australian. I am happy to know that food is getting popular in many places, it is good to know that people lean on food rather on bad addictions & vices. I enjoy luxury eating.. I invest money on good restaurants around my area. I also look for good services and fine interiors with properly mannered people on eating establishments I patronize recently. I love fine dining, but I can appreciate casual eating in some occasion & practical reasons. I prefer eating on restaurants that has waiters/ waitresses on them :) I don' t like much to fall in line for fast food eating. I enjoy VIP seats & treatment, hehe :P But true, I think it' s good that Brisbane gets to be part of the food aware generation that we have now globally. Here in Manila, there' s a lot of young & hip people who are getting into the food circle, especially the ones who can afford to have luxury eats. I am looking forward to a society of food intellectuals here and abroad, for I think it is better than indulging in drinking alcohol & smoking cigarettes. Bottomline: I think food, clothes & homes are hip & cool, I indulge in luxury for them-invest my money to enjoy good buys of such.. my basics. Thank you Jesus for the paper because I get to have these luxuries :D

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