Combining socioeconomic benefits with cultural significance: An intervention that develops and upgrades two schools and their communities

Swallowcliffe Schools: An Intervention to tackle vandalism within a dismal public space.

date 1995

A collaboration between a team of six artists and architect Patricia Les came together to redevelop two schools on the outskirts of northern Adelaide. Davoren Park is an area that faces economic hardship, which is socially disadvantaged that lacks even the basic of amenities, which is plagued by vandalism. Therefore, having works that were ‘art for art’s sake’ was not the ideal solution for a place as such. For this reason, the collaborative team decided to focus on the basic infrastructure needs when redeveloping the schools, focusing on built forms, flooring, safety rails, security fencing and rainwater heads. This, in turn, developed into artworks of their own. A wide variety of materials were used from bricks, galvanized iron and painted steel that transformed and enhanced the aesthetic value of the schools and area that reflected the spirit of the locals and, in turn, lifted their public image. The sense of community cohesion in the face of adversity gave shape to a strong identity that formed the basis for planning and design outcomes while working with the local community.

The redevelopment has since transformed the local vicinity, where an evaluation conducted by the Australia Council showed how the project has brought significant cultural change, which saw a reduction in vandalism on a daily basis to something that occurred twice every six months. From a geographic context, property levels rose where people became interested in their children attending the schools, which subsequently led to attendance levels rising creating local pride and ownership. A significant cultural change for the better is represented and has been founded on the strengths of the past – those of the built forms and those of the local culture.
The project has been a significant success, winning numerous awards from the National Community of Environment Art and Design, to winning other prominent State awards.

The project has since seen various spin-off developments with the re-development of the local centre to the schools pedestrian crossing. Integrating artworks within a public place has been recognized and continued by the local community ever since.

Image: © Margaret Worth 2016 (pending permission)