Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Garden of Machines

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posted on 2022-07-25, 03:01 authored by Oliver Jordan

Ports are often the origin of many coastal cities. Once simple trading posts, interfaces of land and oceanic connections, have since bloomed to match industrialized global cargo and fishing industries that fuel their growing cities. The shipping industry, which has existed in its rudimentary form for thousands of years experienced its greatest catalyst of growth in 1956 with Malcom McClean’s invention of the modular shipping container. Since 1956, sea-faring vessels have continued to grow in size and numbers. Current statistics estimate the 2017 global fleet at over 93,161 vessels, 50,155 of those as cargo bearing and responsible for 90% of all consumer good transport by weight (UNCTAD, 2017, p. 166). Due to erosive conditions, an average lifespan of 27 years decommissions increasing numbers of ships per year (Lorange & Fjeldstad, 2010). Resultantly 1200 steel ships are sent to be recycled yearly (Jansen, 2014). Of these, coastlines of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan Turkey and China account for 95 percent of all demolition (UNCTAD, 2017, p. 34). EU regulations and international laws on transboundary movement of hazardous wastes ban ships registered under specific flags from depositing on these shores, yet through ‘flag of convenience’* registration practice, this is easily avoidable. Paired with corrupt political infrastructure, this often results in less developed countries hosting graveyards for the world’s decommissioned fleet, despite the over-capacity and lack of proper ship-breaking infrastructure. In most cases the ship scrap and recycling industry is unrecognised by local government, allowing yards to also avoid environmental and labour regulations and exploit workers with little to no safety precautions in place (YPSA, 2012). The workers risk fatal injury daily to strip steel bulk by hand with acetylene torches, exposing an array of lead, PCB’s, asbestos and other harmful substances (Jansen, 2014). Through breaking, pollutants leak and toxify entire coastlines, destroying unprecedented volumes of marine life (Gwin, 2014). As the global population grows, so does economic scale. As the scale of maritime operations evolves, more waste is produced and port space becomes overtly stressed. Currently at 7.55 billion people, the UN predict a 2.4 billion overall increase in population over the next 33 years (UNDESA) and the current percentage of goods transported by sea at 90% of total volume at 10.6 billion tonnes and set to rise 3.2% annually between 2017 and 2022 (UNCTAD, 2017, p. 15). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s research into port hub-cities understand the parallel progression of growing city ports. Eventually, the growth of a port hub city, around the port nucleus, no longer requires the immediate hinterland connection. Improvements in freight transport, allow ports to shift away from main cities, often forming a satellite city, continuing economic growth and enabling valuable real-estate to be recaptured for public repossession and development (Lee, Song, & Ducruet, 2008, p. 380). This research portfolio proposes that through speculative design-lead research, architecture can mitigate the damaging waste of marine globalized industrialisation by accommodating and innovating sea vessel recycling networks in coordination with the growing port city model. Using Auckland Harbour Port as an exploration to address New Zealand’s waste as a case study for other global port cities, this research argues for a cultural shift in marine recycling and coastal city growth. * The flag of convenience system allows ship owners to register their sea craft under the flag of any country permitting and the right to do so is often sold. This allows ship owners to adopt sustainability and legal practices from the registered country. This enables obvious reduced operating costs and allows for environmental practice, elsewhere ruled illegal or fined against, to be undertaken (OPENSEA PRO, 2017).


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains All Rights

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

861199 Basic Metal Products (incl. Smelting, Rolling, Drawing and Extruding) not elsewhere classified; 861303 Nautical Equipment (excl. Yachts); 880205 Port Infrastructure and Management; 970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design; 870105 Urban Planning

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Abreu e Lima, Daniele