The Shadow Plans
The Shadow Plans are six painted panels which show how we can create
ecocities if we develop and adopt a clear set of ecological planning
and development guidelines.
Urban sprawl becomes urban shrink, with urban sprawl gradually
retracting around higher density centres, the health of rivers,
creeks and the marine environment is restored, land is revegetated
and rehabilitated, food is grown closer to the city and native animal
and bird populations increase.
The Shadow Plans span some 300 years, from prior to the arrival
of Europeans, who arrived and began altering the landscape in 1836
to 300 years from the date of European colonisation in the year
2136. The plans are 'snapshots' along the timeline and the dates
have been chosen to best describe the process that might take place
in the Tandanya Bioregion under a shadow planning approach.
The first of the panels shows the River Torrens Catchment as it
was (to the best of our knowledge) before Europeans came to the
Tandanya Bioregion, home of the area's indigenous people, the Kaurna
('Gowna'). The entire landscape is covered with natural bush and
vegetation, the creeks and rivers are healthy, the coastal wetland
systems are expansive and the ocean is a healthy blue. Information
concerning the state of the bioregion before Europeans arrived can
be found in various books about the history of Adelaide, especially
'Natural History of the Adelaide Region'.
The second panel shows Adelaide at present. The colours were chosen
to give a graphic representation of the relative health of the environment,
consequently the contrast between 1836 and 1996 is striking. This
contrast is a good point to use when people claim that the shadow
planning process is radical; over a mere 160 years almost the entire
original ecosystem of the bioregion has disappeared - that is radical.
2036 - 2112
The next three panels show a progression from 1996 to 2136.
The third panel shows the first seeds of the shadow planning process
being planted; parks begin appearing along the creeks, some urban
food gardens and woodlots appear, urban sprawl has been halted,
the parks along the hills face zone have grown a little...
The fourth panel is the year 2076 and is the 'key' panel. This
is the half way mark between the old practices of 1996 and the shadow
planned bioregion of 2136. There is a mixture of old and new land
uses, urban sprawl and higher density urban centres, settlement
and nature. It is now clear that green corridors are forming within
the old urban areas and that correspondingly the urban areas are
'contracting' into established urban centres, the future ecocities
The fifth panel, the year 2112, is the last transitional stage
between 1996 and 2136. At this time the shadow planning process
has been accelerated with the wider acceptance of shadow planning
principles. There are still some remnants of the old city but most
of the bioregion has been transformed into a place where the city
is establishing a balance with the bioregion in which it exists.
The last panel is 2136. The urban centres identified in 2036 have
grown into individual ecocities, walkable urban centres linked by
light rail, each with their own character, their own industry and
Implementing the Process
Here are some of the steps which need to be taken to implement
these Shadow Plans:
Water courses become 'backbones' of future green corridors
Existing urban centres become future ecocities. In many cases
these urban centres have grown from the original villages around
the Adelaide Plains and so the progression from village to ecocity
is a natural evolution
Selected main roads within the existing city are marked as
future multi transit corridors. The main roads once carried
trams throughout Adelaide; in the shadow planned future some
of these 'roads' will carry light and heavy rail, and a main
road. The light rail line may even be a monorail
The ecocities are linked by these multi transit corridors;
people can walk to their local train station and catch a train
to any other city. Each city could also be served by its own
The physical footprint of many of the cities is influenced
by the transit lines running through them; hence a linear arrangement
The plan shape for each city has been designed to show individuality;
the shape does not indicate a specific function
Each city has its own particular climate and microclimates,
its own soil types, water availability and solar aspect. Hence
each city will have its own particular industries, eg. cities
around the foothills may specialise in orchards, valley cities
may have many vineyards, hills cities may produce building timber
and coastal cities may farm seafood and marine products. Trade
between cities and other bioregions will be through the highly
efficient multi transit systems
As you can see from the 1996 and 2136 panels on this page, there
is still work to be completed...
The top right hand corners of the panels will show the date of
each panel, and will have a key showing how Adelaide is progressing
towards becoming an ecocity. Native animals and flora will be indicator
species, measuring the health of the bioregion.
These will take the form of simple 'cartoon like' animal graphics,
which need to be applied to every panel. Indicator species are species
whose presence shows the health of their habitat eg. a frog lives
in a creek; if the creek is polluted and unhealthy for a frog to
live in then the frog will leave or die. If an indicator species
is absent then it its habitat may be in poor health.
These indicator species are yet to be determined and research needs
to be undertaken to chose suitable animals. Some plants would also
be good eg. seagrasses. The same animals will be shown through every
panel; the graphic can be divided into a grid of nine squares -
if that species's population is in poor health then most of the
squares can be blacked out, leaving only a little of the animal
showing. Through the shadow planning process the health of the animals
habitat should improve, thus the animal can be gradually 'revealed'
on the journey to 2136. A good cross section of animals should be
chosen, including some feral species. Land and marine animals should
The Shadow Plans are focussed on the River Torrens Catchment using
principles that can be applied to any bioregion in the world. While
the catchments of the Sturt River and the Little Para River can
be seen at the edge of the panels, the focus of the panels remains
on the River Torrens.
The Shadow Plans illustrate how a conventional city can be evolved
into an ecological city over the long term, while providing a guide
to implementing immediate practical, on the ground changes. Shadow
Planning is an invaluable tool for communities and governments (especially
Local Government authorities, through their Local Agenda 21 plans)
to establish workable short term goals in order to realise a long
term goal - becoming an ecological city.
The colours for the shadow plans have been chosen
for two reasons. Firstly they are intended to show as closely as
possible the natural colour of the subject eg. dark green for natural
bush, blue for water etc. Colours were also chosen to represent
the relative health of the subject eg. light pink was chosen to
indicate low density urban sprawl - when compared with the deep
red for ecocities the light pink looks 'washed out' and unhealthy.
The differing shades of blue for water also indicate the relative
health of that environment.
The idea of using the colours to indicate health came
from the 'City as an Organism' studio. The city is a living organism
and the vitality of its colours shows the state of its health. Hence
the 1996 panel looks pale and 'unhealthy' whilst the 2136 panel
is full of rich and healthy colours.
Suburban to urban...
light pink - low density
urban. 1995 is ALL light pink. Light pink areas will gradually
disappear over the next four panels. The 2136 panel shows
no pink areas but some may still be appropriate in small doses...
dark pink - medium density
urban. The beginnings of ecocities, these areas begin in the
urban centres with a corresponding reduction in the outlying
deep red - higher density
urban / ecocities. Established most commonly in the urban
centres of 1995 but may shift slightly.
River, sea, creek...
light blue - water. In
1836 the water is a slightly deeper blue because it is still
clean. In 1996 the blue has been made lighter in reflection
of our mistreatment of the water systems. From 1996 onwards
the water gradually becomes healthier, the blue eventually
reaching the same shade as in 1836.
lightest blue - salt
pans. In 1996 the salt pans near the Port River provide one
of the few wetland habitats in Adelaide. This area will be
absorbed over time into the coastal wetland system of 2136.
- indicate marine aquaculture, found in coastal areas.
These will begin appearing around the fourth panel.
yellow - sand dunes.
1836 & 2136 show healthy dune systems along the entire
coastline. 1995 has minimal dunes, their reinstatement is
a gradual process through the next four panels.
black - in 1996 black lines represent roads only.
In 2136 they represent the major combined transit corridors
carrying roads, light and heavy rail. The road systems within
the ecocities will be shown with other drawings.
orange - orange lines
in 1995 represent rail. These will be absorbed into the new
multi transit corridors of the future.
Where we work and play...
light brown - rural:
unsustaining agriculture (includes crops, orchards, grazing);
urban: industrial wasteland
dark brown - industrial
light grey - salt fields
and associated industry
light green (urban) -
urban parks, fields, airports etc. Most abundant in 1996,
the function of these spaces will be absorbed within the mixed
use zones surrounding each ecocity and will also be a standard
component within the city itself.
light green (non-urban)
- healthy sustaining land use. These will start appearing
in the third panel in the form or small urban gardens. Their
locations must be chosen such that they will be within the
boundaries of the light green areas in 2136.
light green - pine plantations.
Mainly found in 1996, these plantations will disappear through
the next two panels. Their function will be absorbed within
the mixed use zones around each city, the tree type will also
be replaced by native species.
dark green - healthy
bushland, areas of natural vegetation relatively unharmed
by human activity. One of the aims of the Shadow Plans is
to create linkages between such areas in 1996, firstly by
establishing 'green corridors' along the creek and river lines,
eventually reaching the stage in 2136 where the green corridors
have become the dominant feature of the landscape.
darkest green - healthy
mangroves. To be found around the Port River in all years,
the mangroves will gradually move inland in time with sea
level rise. Mangroves will also be established in the western
wetlands (where West Lakes was before the land was reclaimed).
The Shadow Plans are
based on an idea of Richard Register of Ecocity Builders in Berkeley,
California, who founded Urban Ecology in the US in 1975. During
his visit to Adelaide for the Second International EcoCity Conference
in 1992, Richard became fascinated when he learnt that the Australian
government opposition ministers and cabinets are known as 'shadow
ministers' and 'shadow cabinets' - like alternatives waiting for
a chance, waiting for their time to arrive.
In 1987 Richard Register
wrote 'Ecocity Berkeley' in which the ideas of shadow planning are
explained in an accessible way. Many of these principles have been
applied to the River Torrens shadow plans and the book (available
through Ten Speed Press, Berkeley) is compulsory reading before
embarking on the shadow plans work (the book has heaps of great
pictures so it won't take long to get through).
In 1994 in the Bachelor
of Architecture course at the University of South Australia, Paul
F Downton ran a design studio for level 3 called 'The City as an
Organism'. Students were asked to look at the city as if it were
a living organism and they began by investigating the creeks of
Adelaide. The water courses of any environment are like the veins
and arteries in a body, and the health of these water courses greatly
reflects the health of the surrounding catchment. After investigating
the creeks the students began constructing scale relief models of
the River Torrens Catchment, extending from the coast all the way
to the source of the Torrens near Mt Pleasant. The aim was to build
six identical panels upon which a progression of the shadow planning
process would be shown.
Constructing the panels
proved to be a huge task and by the end of the first term they were
still incomplete. The second term saw students involved in their
own visions of what a part of Adelaide might look like after many
years of shadow planning. Some students took to the hills and designed
hill top cities with soaring walls and tall spires, others stayed
on the plains and transformed the suburbs into compact and vibrant
ecocities. The end result was a wide range of interesting and diverse
ecocities and settlements that all existed within the same water
Since that time the panels
have been worked on by volunteers and trainees at the Centre for
Urban Ecology. The ideas begun in 1994 have been applied to the
model bases with biological paints and there is now a clear and
obvious progression from the first panel to the last.
The paint used in the Shadow Plans is the non-toxic
'Bio-Products' paint. Urban Ecology Australia thanks Bio-Products
Australia Pty Ltd (phone +61-8-8339 1923; fax +61-8-8339 5799)
for donating the paint for the Shadow Plans.