City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

The city is conceived of radial opposites

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In the previous piece about Brisbane’s traffic systems, I deployed a David Malouf quote that seemed to indicate that the city’s trams were a part of an imagined urban infrastructure, resonating long after their demise, as if citizens still perceived the city to be marked up with ghosted tramlines. Here it is again:

“The city is conceived of in the minds of its citizens in terms of radial opposites that allow them to establish limits, and these are the old tram termini: Ascot/Balmoral, Clayfield/Salisbury, Toowong/The Grange, West End/New Farm Park, to mention only a few; and this sense of radial opposites has persisted, though the actual tramlines have long since been replaced with ‘invisible’ (as it were) bus routes. The old tramline system is now the invisible principle that holds the city together and gives it a shape in people’s minds.” [David Malouf, ‘A First Place: The Mapping of the World’, Southerly, vol.45, no.1, 1985. Found in The Third Metropolis by William Hatherell]

I decided to draw this out, interested as to how that might be rendered. Taking a poetic rather than literal interpretation of the tram lines, as seemed appropriate to Malouf’s idea, those radial opposites across Brisbane can be imagined like this:

Brisbane with Malouf's tram map

Malouf tram map motif

What I find appealing about this is that three of the four radial opposites do appear to be like a series of sutures, binding the city together across the zig-zag scar of the Brisbane river – somewhat as Malouf described, an invisible principle that “holds the city together”.

Malouf's tram map sutures


One response to “The city is conceived of radial opposites”

  1. nick Avatar

    a forgotten principle for those not old enough to remember trams, or who haven’t read David Malouf. pitty though, brisbane needs a few more lines.


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