The Glenelg St site as a part of the wider South Bank and South Brisbane area has seen its function and identity evolve greatly throughout its history. The area was first colonized by European settlers c. 1825; the main purpose being a convict settlement. This beginning marked a change for the low-lying swamp land that had previously been used as a meeting place for two tribes of aborigines (Turrbal and Yuggera) and some conflict between the new and old inhabitants ensued.
Twenty odd years later saw the progression from convict to free settlement. Development continued and the South Bank area played a major role as the port and business district for Brisbane; receiving ships and exporting goods produced throughout Queensland (e.g. cotton, wool). The 1870s – 1930s marked a boom period in the commercial and industrial activity of Brisbane and as a result of this, hotels, restaurants and pubs had established themselves.
Despite the positive growth of industry during this early period, the South Bank went into a period of decline during the 20th century and adopted a reputation for disrepute and undesirables. The CBD had since been moved to the North Bank to avoid flooding and despite the construction of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in the 1970s the area remained in poor standing.
Expo ’88 was the turning point for this neglected site. This event began a transformation of identity and post-Expo ’88 plans for a parkland were considered from a few different architects. Southbank Parklands opened in 1992 and has continued to evolve in the years since to become a major entertainment and leisure centre which draws people from a variety of demographics. Educational institutions are also present as are some industrial elements (e.g. Pauls factory).
The South Bank area has evolved significantly since its early days; from convict settlement to booming commercial and industrial hub, to a rough and ready area of ill-repute, to a community based leisure precinct drawing both locals and tourists. The topography has shaped planning (flood prone areas were originally working class residences while higher land was home to the upper class) and given recent natural disasters the area will continue to evolve respective of these influences. This is a site with a rich history but one who’s current face reflects little of it’s past.