Between 1965 and 1975, my family owned a bach by the Opihi braided river, 25 minutes north of my hometown of Timaru. Old Super-8 camera recordings taken by my grandfather reveal the mnemonic characteristics embedded within the site: playing cricket in the field, swimming down at the river, playing at the river’s edge.
By 1975, the bach was demolished, subsumed by the dairy farm encompassing the site and the riverscape. This unique ecosystem of the river landscape, which is home to hundreds of native birds, insects and fish, has been compromised through farm runoff, and suffocated through the implementation of stopbanks that alter the physical course of the river. No remnants of the bach remain. Instead a pivot irrigator is positioned directly on the old footprint. The sense of personal loss that surrounds the site, and the degradation which has occurred through human intervention, has created a tension within the landscape.
This research explores these tensions between human and landscape through an architectural lens. It employs an iterative ‘design as research’ methodology to unravel the mnemonic and ephemeral qualities of the landscape, and asks how architecture may allow a view of this degradation, and the site itself, from a new perspective.
Prior to the design experiments, a literary context was developed that contextualizes the research within the discourse of key theorists who discuss architecture, art and the Anthropocene. Three case studies were then analyzed which depicted how creative practice relates to the surrounding landscape and the deeper underlying ephemeral conditions embedded within them.
Then, through a number of design techniques including photography, drawing, collaging and physical modeling, three design experiments took place: an installation, mid-scale proposal and a public-scale proposal, which sequentially developed in scale and architectural complexity.
These design experiments are carried out through a personal lens, embedding the personal mnemonic characteristics of the site within my architectural responses. It is directional, not prescriptive, in how architecture could intervene with these ecological issues, unraveling the complexities and tensions held within the site.