FIG Peer Review Journal


Planning for the Greatest Good: A Case Study of William Light's 'Plan of the City and District of Adelaide, South Australia', and Potential World Heritage Values (4505)

Kelly Henderson (Australia)
Miss Kelly Henderson
PO Box 59
North Adelaide
Corresponding author Miss Kelly Henderson (email: khenderson[at], tel.: +618 212 0797)

[ abstract ] [ paper ] [ handouts ]

Published on the web 2010-01-14
Received 2009-11-19 / Accepted 2010-01-14
This paper is one of selection of papers published for the FIG Congress 2010 in Sydney, Australia and has undergone the FIG Peer Review Process.

FIG Congress 2010
ISBN 978-87-90907-87-7 ISSN 2308-3441


Adelaide, South Australia's capital and seat of government, was established as the 19th century antipodean Ideal City of the English Philosophical Radicals, following extensive analysis of the causes of successes and failures of human settlements spanning the history of western colonisation, including Greek City States, Spain's colonization of the New World, and the development of the United States of America and Canada. In facing future challenges, Adelaide provides an inspirational model representing the culmination of an important interchange of human values on town-planning, public health, governance, surveying, and cadastre and land management. Planned and surveyed by Colonel William Light, South Australia's first Surveyor-General, in accordance with Jeremy Bentham's principles 'for the greatest good' and 'vicinity-maximizing-dispersion-preventing', the survey of the district of Adelaide is also expected to be the first implementation of a co-ordinated cadastre. William Light's 'Plan of the City and District of Adelaide' exemplifies key principles and methodologies for the successful implementation of a sustainable, environmentally sensitive urban and regional spatial plan, offers guidance for current and future generations, and sets an aspirational benchmark for surveyors and planners. Poor modern spatial and land use planning in South Australia contrasts with the State's origins and exemplary planning heritage. Light's sensitive response to philosophical dictums and the physical opportunities and constraints arising from climate, topography, and practical requirements has engendered a plan which has been enjoyed, revered, and stoutly defended for generations, with a pervading sense of significance which remains attributable to Light’s intuitive act of creative genius. Set betwixt hills-face and harbour, spanning a river valley, laced with a unique figure-eight of open space, Adelaide demonstrates a rare rapport between the genius of place and plan. Today Light’s city remains a permanent testimony to a man who had the sense to recognise, and the ability to respect, the genius of the place, and is expected to have the potential to meet at least four of UNESCO's World Heritage criteria.
Keywords: Cadastre; Land management; Spatial planning; History; William Light; Jeremy Bentham; Adelaide; ideal city