Melanie Dodd, Architect Victoria, Spring 2010 Article Review
Written by Anna ----
Melanie Dodd posits the need for fundamental shift in mainstream sustainability discourse for architecture. She comments that current modes of discourse focus on technological, numerical and measurable values, disregarding the importance of cultural complexity in our communities and the need for cultural shift. This pigeonholes the manner in which architecture and design act sustainably within the community, and inhibits design solutions that support cultural shift.
Project Example: Hastings, Mornington Peninsula, 2007+ Muffaus in partnership with the Neighbourhood Renewal Initiative
Dodd uses the example of Hastings, Mornington Peninsula to discuss how a shift in architectural approach can offer design solutions that identify and address cultural issues that underpin sustainable communities. The design practice involved – Muffaus – are the Australian arm of a collaborative art and architecture practice committed to a more provocative way of understanding and addressing broader social and cultural processes of architecture in urban places.
This project operates across several scales. At a large scale it addresses the broader definition of architectural participation in sustainability: shifting public, community and political aspirations for intervention and change. At a middle scale, it talks about bringing together a range of users and community groups in consultation over a single urban space or issue. At small scale it discusses tackling cultural shift through local amenity in real and sometimes marginalised places of the public realm, ‘places of friction, fragmentation and difficulty’.
The example projects address a small watercourse corridor that runs the north of the township of Hastings, currently compromised by rubbish and neglect caused by adjacent residential areas. These projects focus on the use of overlaying multiple program on a site to create a sense of Community and Place at a difficult site, addressing both environmental and community pressures.
These projects support community involvement from stakeholders to local community groups and residents. They include local schools, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council and Melbourne Water.
Community are involved through a series of workshops that address the issues and underlying activities resulting in neglect and vandalism at the project sites. The workshops encompass a series of studies: spatial narratives through film/ workshop/ public event and web mappings. The underlying questioning being:
‘what do you do and where do you do it?’
By including the community in forming speculations and addressing opportunities, small-scale incremental moves and do-it-yourself strategies are developed that encourage participation that facilitates inclusion, pride of place and ongoing support and maintenance of the project solutions.
Challenges and Opportunities
Small-scale projects can often manifest in direct opposition to dominant political sustainability agendas. Dodd suggests that a shift is required towards valuing ‘imperfect’ aspects of our urban realm and considering ways to manage adaptation and adjustment over time, to accept and manage chaos rather than attempting to clean it up and remove it.