Paradise lost: A critique of lost urban sites as didactic testing grounds for landscape architecture
The traditional approach within landscape architecture to rejuvenate a distressed ‘lost’ urban site is to cap the problem with a more desirable landscape. This thesis argues that such an approach simply creates a ‘green bandage’ to the problem without actually resolving the real issues behind the disfunction of the space: that is, the social and identity issues of the site and how to reconcile them with a physical space. Elements of urban ruin and degeneration can become active participants in an urban narrative that engages the history of the site and its place within the evolution of the urban context. Time plays a significant role in the understanding of such sites to create methods of developing landscapes as a system which is never static, and is always reflective of the layers of history beneath its transient surface. The proposed site for this thesis design research investigation is the Clifton Street Car Park, situated in the inner urban spaces of Wellington, New Zealand. It is a site that represents a multitude of identities, none of which actually engages with the reality of the history and actuality of the site. The site is a direct response to the overlaying of the standardised urban grid to the east, suburban grids to the west and a rift caused by the government’s failure to complete the motorway extension. It is a site that should be important to the functioning of a city; however, it acts as, and is therefore perceived as, a lost site, a placeless place. The principal objective of this research thesis is to challenge why these in-between spaces so often remain tinged with placelessness and challenge how to deal with the space in a way which will enable the city to actually benefit from such sites through their ability to deliver spatial narrative in the urban context and to facilitate a new typology of design.