Urban Reflections

by Purple Wyrm on July 29, 2018

A few weeks back I needed to do some banking.

Given that this is the 21st century and I’m not completely out of touch with the new information super highway style of doing business I handle most of my banking online, but for this particular task I needed to speak to an actual living human being in an actual physical branch of my bank. Given that my local branch no longer opens on weekends (boo!) I had to gird my loins and prepare for a trip into the wild northlands of Noranda – a place we natives of the Bayswater riverlands do not visit lightly – if at all!*

(* This is dramatic nonsense, but it reads well!)

My first order of business was to figure out exactly where the bank was and what buses I would need to get there. So I fired up a certain popular mapping service and plugged in the address. This showed me that the branch was located in a shopping center (that’s ‘mini-mall’ for Americans and other aliens) that looked oddly familiar…

Back in my high school days my mother worked as a nurse at a doctor’s clinic in a small shopping center in the northern wastes. I hadn’t been there in decades, but I rapidly realised that this was the location of the bank! What a surprising development!

Except… as I looked closer things began to nag at me. Sure, there were parkland and playing fields to the south, but I seemed to remember a road ran through them straight to the centre? And I didn’t think there was a major road running down the east side of the carpark? The more I looked the more I realised that while the shopping center was incredibly similar to the place my mother worked, it wasn’t actually it!

Racking my brain turned up the fact that the clinic was located in Eden Hill, not Noranda. Scooting around the map a bit soon found the place, five kilometres to the south east. It’s no longer a shopping center – it’s been turned into a slightly suspicious looking church – and a chunk of the carpark has been reclaimed for housing, but the list of similarities between the two places are remarkable.

* Both sites are on the south side of a major road east-west road.
* Both sites slope downhill from said major road.
* Public parks are located on the the other side of said major roads.
* The main buildings are located at the south of their large carparks.
* Another building sits (or sat in Eden Hill) at the north west corner of both sites.
* A park and playing fields are located to the south of both sites.

It’s as if both shopping centers were cloned from the same original template, then altered slightly to fit the local conditions.

This reminded me of a something similar I noticed many years ago. In two separate places in Perth for many years you could stand at a major intersection, facing an art-deco theatre. Beyond the theatre to your left was an Italian restaurant. Beyond it on the right was a Geláre ice cream store. In the same direction (a bit further on for one of them) was a branch of Grill’d burgers, and just across the road from both theatres (in different directions though) was a Dôme coffee shop.

The theatres in question of course were the Regal in Subiaco, and the Astor in Mount Lawley. Both were originally movie theatres, the Regal converting to a stage theatre in the late 70s and the Astor following suit maybe ten years ago – which would have made the similarity even more striking if the Mount Lawley Italian place hadn’t moved a few years earlier.

I don’t think any meaning can be drawn from this, apart from a general commentary on how all cities are shaped by the same needs (and perhaps that Dôme, Grill’d and Geláre branches are everywhere), but it’s still kind of weird to spot these kinds of recurring patterns – as if we’re living in a procedurally generated simulation (if you never hear from me again please assume I have been taken away by late 90’s Hugo Weaving).

Oh, and in the end it turned out I could do the banking I needed to do online anyway, so I didn’t have to journey into the wilds of Noranda – which is good because the weekend bus services up that way are appalling.

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