Ebb to Flow: The Awakening of a Neglected Urban Waterway
The revival of urban waterways and the potential they have to reshape communities is a global issue that deals with the fabric of human interaction and nature. For nearly all communities across New Zealand, the local waterway has been heralded and adorned by many of its residents. Yet the reality is that this is often done in vain. It is not enough to watch over our creeks, streams and rivers with tender eyes, they need to be felt and embraced by human touch. A stream that lacks interaction falls into the quagmire of cyclical neglect.
Using the Porirua Stream as a case study, explorations into accessibility,infrastructure, barriers, topography and hydrology are conducted to achieve the ultimate goal that turns the estuarine corridor into the beating ‘heart’ of the community; the engine of its life and soul. Not just figuratively but in reality, the Porirua Stream must become a system emulating this vital organ in the way it functions and its role in the larger context of its surroundings.
Infrastructure, buildings, and extensive vegetation encroach onto the perimeter of the Porirua Stream and has contributed to the atmospheric, sensual and physical divide which consequentially plagues the city.
Restructuring and redefining the multitude of barriers is needed for establishing new opportunities to build a usable and successful riverfront. Rather than parting the urban network, the possibilities for bridging communities through streams is a way to reshape entire communities.
Considering the vital importance of community life, it is important to transform the river domain through small scale and strategic interventions with significant impact, rather than creating massive changes that allude to a blank canvas with apparent disregard for the real ‘on the ground’ human experience. Strategic interventions deal with overlapping issues simultaneously to manage varying conditions and constraints.
The historical manipulation and prioritization of hydrological systems for economic toil, has rendered the modern urban waterway as mostly ‘dead space’, ill and ignored. Streams are left suffocated by the encroaching urban sprawl. The impact these conditions have left on a small city centre is known through their vulnerabilities to flooding and poor water quality. To survive, the stream needs to claim land back and have space to breathe.
The investigation exposes the importance of considering an entire watershed and observing the stream as a complex network, rather than a linear passage. The importance of the ‘human experience’ was paramount through the exploration of spatial values that the stream offered.