Tactics for Forsaken Territories: Infrastructural Catalysis Within Disturbed Residual Spaces
The perceived dichotomy between the industrial and the ecological or amenity has led to a loss or misperception of identity and value of industrial landscapes. Conventional industrial precinct greening moves or the design of parks within these spaces fail to establish any sense of identity or contribute to the growth and development of these environments. Looking beyond the notion of a park as a respite from the urban condition, the challenge lies in developing parks that capitalise on what is perceived as negative and exploit it as amenity.
In search of a strategy, the discourse on the relationship between landscape and infrastructure and the ensuing paradigm shift in the way we understand infrastructure, is examined. What has conventionally existed as a mono-programmatic object for the sake of managing a technical problem is being redefined into a multi-layered spatial field, performing over time as well as space. However care must be taken in how we go about redefining the notion of infrastructure; when we keep broadening its definition it begins to lose significance. If infrastructure is to be reinterpreted from a rigid object to a field that is able to engage with open and unpredictable systems, rather than defining what an infrastructural thing may be, it becomes more important to define how something might perform or develop ‘infrastructurally’. Much of the discourse surrounding landscape infrastructure focuses on the efficiency that is to be gained by the layering of multiple flexible systems or employing it as a means to remediate a site. While many contemporary landscape infrastructure projects seek to reintroduce the ecological histories that have been suppressed by urban development, their attempts to do so often erase much of what is too readily dismissed as negative, and with it meaningful social histories and qualities that may be exploited as opportunity.
In focussing on the disturbed and residual spaces and the opportunities these territories offer, this thesis seeks to explore the potential of designing infrastructurally to not only reintegrate these forgotten spaces in the urban fabric of their industrial context but to coordinate their development and/or their deterioration in such a way that they become fundamental to the area’s identity and growth.
Drawing on Stan Allen’s propositions for infrastructure and reinterpreting them through the lens of landscape as a catalytic infrastructure, an architectural strategy is proposed that capitalises upon the qualities found within the abandoned landscapes of the Seaview/Gracefield industrial precinct in Wellington, New Zealand, and recognises them as an opportunity to develop the concept of park in this context into something that reflects the important social histories of these sites while also presenting a proving ground for future operations. These spaces aim to question the way in which we assess infrastructural efficiency, their performance valued not just in quantitative output but also in qualitative terms.