First Award | Institutional
- Project Info
University: Pratt Institute
Country : New Zealand
In May 2014, the New Zealand Government released plans that in the wake of a major Wellington disaster, parliament may temporarily shift to its other major city, Auckland. This thesis instead proposes an alternative governmental ‘outpost’ on the outskirts of the Wellington region that would function as a Disaster Research Centre while maintaining a flexibility to support a temporary ‘crisis parliament’ post-catastrophe.
This notion of the ‘outpost’ was inspired by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and recognises the importance sub-centres have had on supporting the city as it slowly recovers. While this thesis tests a specific scenario, it becomes an example of establishing a resilient polycentricism between the city and its hinterland.
Identifying the blurry volatility of a ‘peri-urban’ condition, this thesis investigates architecture’s role at the periphery, and asks: what can architecture do in offering a new model of density in these usually sprawling fringes? How can architectural form convey a sense of solidity and stability in times of disaster while embodying a necessary programmatic contingency? And as a final provocation, this thesis asks whether big architecture can be used to strengthen the big landscapes of New Zealand. This is in response to design and planning guidelines in New Zealand that continue to encourage an inert architecture that is driven by camouflage, miniaturisation, and dispersion. Rather than be apologetic and subordinate to the idealized landscapes of a nation, this thesis explores architectures agency in reclaiming a project for the city, in structuring a compelling alternative to the existing urban realm.
These questions are tested through design-led research and culminate in a developed design presented as ‘Plan B-Hive’, a play on words that refers to the existing parliamentary building’s nickname. Within a large quarry, the extreme scenario is matched by an extreme site. The vast and idiosyncratic site allows an investigation of a topological shift to the more stable foothills of a region, away from the risks of the coast. As a scheme of ‘megarural’ proportions it is a bold, formal provocation for greater density in the hinterland. In repairing the brownfield quarry site with a research centre, it marks a shift from fordist to post-fordist mode of production, and rethinks a future more dedicated to preparation and resilience than unsustainable extraction.
The thesis explores a confluence between the political and formal mechanisms of architecture and the possibility they hold in structuring urban space in compelling ways to project a forward-thinking urban realm.
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