After enjoying a small bar tour in Perth, my recently arrived friends are joining me on a Perth Walking Tour also run by Oh Hey WA. There are four of us and another Sydneysider who, like us, only booked late last night. We’re lucky. Next day bookings usually cut off at 7pm.
Robyn greets us with a delightful dimpled smile. Bright blue plastic ‘Oh Hey WA’ earrings dangle from her ears. She begins by describing the place where we are standing. Yagan Square is named after a Nungar resistance warrior and connects Northbridge, the fun party side of Perth with the more serious business side.
The silver shape above our heads mirrors the shape of the lake that once stood in the area. Much of Perth City was a swamp before Europeans reclaimed the land. Circular perforations allowing sunlight through the structure, imitating the sun shimmering on water. I remark on the abundance of kangaroo paw planted in around the city. Robyn explains that kangaroo paw is Western Australia’s state flower.
We walk to Forrest Place and stand under what locals call ‘The ‘Cactus’. It’s a favourite meeting place. Our group agrees that ‘Cactus’ is a good description for the amorphous green structure that the artist, James Angus called ‘Grow your own’. Around us, a line poem embedded in the paving, refers to the history of this area. It was once a swamp, then a town square and meeting place.
It seems strange to see an H&M store in what was once a post office. Robyn asks us what’s different about the coat of arms attached to the building. The kangaroo and emu support the shield, but instead of looking across to each other, their necks are craned to look towards the treasury building. The story goes that the sculptor suspected he wasn’t going to get paid fully for his work, and made the animals look (perhaps accusingly) at Treasury.
In a laneway we hunt for cute little characters hidden in a leaf mural. One sprinkles water from a watering can. Another races along on a skateboard. We poke our head into a little alcove. Alongside a water pipe and hidden in a corner, two more characters add fun to the black paintwork.
The mock Tudor entrance to London Court is based on the Liberty Building in London. Initially it was built to provide accommodation, but now it’s rented by commercial businesses. Robyn directs us to look carefully at the plaster work. The plasterer has carefully disguised his name (B Burford 1937) into the plaster work. Unless you know to look, you’d never notice it was there.
The City of Light
One night in 1962, all of Perth was lit up at 11pm. When astronaut John Glenn passed over the city during his orbit of the earth, he could see Perth from space. Since then, Perth has been known as the City of Light. Many laneways now have light installations as well as murals as part of a laneway activation project.
We wander through a couple of pedestrian malls, admiring the art deco architecture and other heritage listed buildings. A sculpture of Percy Button cartwheeling across the path provides a bit of fun.
Perth has Changed
Robyn mentions how Perth has changed. There are lots of new hotels, some of which have rooftop bars. It’s a pity our time here is so short. I wouldn’t mind going to the 18th floor of the QT for a cocktail and view of the city at night.
The clock installed on the Town Hall was once able to be seen from across the city. It provided people who didn’t own a watch with a means of knowing the time. Being on the North West Corner, it also gave them a sense of direction.
Inside the State Buildings I line up with my friends for a coffee. The Telegram coffee shop is located in a mock safe with the original safe pulley system used in the Treasury building operating the door. It’s a also bit of fun.
We ask Robyn about the building in front of us. Last night we noticed that it was lit up with colourful lights. It’s the Council House and often gets lit up in different combinations according to events happening in Perth at the time.
Public Art in Perth
Perth is full of interesting public art. Rules now state that any new building work costing over $1M must include 10% of the cost of the building for public art.
We pose for photos next to life size ‘Big Red’ kangaroos and take a walk through Stirling Gardens. The Bell Tower, hidden between two taller buildings, houses bells gifted to Perth for Australia’s bicentenary. We admire the beautiful wood, stone and metal exterior of the new Ritz Carlton before exploring Elizabeth Quay.
There we find ‘Spanda’, a tall ribbon like sculpture representing ripples or vibrations. The aluminium work ‘First contact’ by Indigenous Artist, Laurel Nannup, depicts the arrival of the first settlers by sea. We feel a need to run our hands across the surface. This morning it’s cool to the touch.
We Enjoyed this Perth Walking Tour
The tour ends with yet another laneway transformed by street art. Since the laws changed to allow small bars, night life in Perth has changed. The change has been exciting and has renewed the city.
This Perth City Tour certainly covers a lot of ground and provides a great introduction to the history and culture of Perth.
Note: I joined the tour at my own expense.