We need to approach projects, places and people with an open mind. This is easier said than done, we all come with our education, our past experiences, our project deadlines and not to forget, our project budgets.
Pre-research, planning and pre-developed methodologies and approaches are all important as long as they don’t take over from what a place or community may be trying to tell us.
Chow:Hill Associate Bridgit Day and Senior Landscape Architect Leigh Wilson attended the recent New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA) conference - The Rising Sun-Arriving, Settling & Place-Making in Tairawhiti. It was two great days of field trips exploring place making in Tairawhiti - Gisborne. Tai (the coast) - ra (where the new sun) - whiti (shines).
Several questions were raised, one which has always resonated with me: 'What contributes to the making of memorable places which belong here and nowhere else?'
Place making - what do we mean by this?
For me, in our profession of landscape architecture, it’s more than designing a place to be 'memorable', it's about the opportunity to experience a place and its community and to be part of a team facilitating expression of the hidden layers unique to that place and community. For me it is always about people and their relationship with the land, our responses to place. Place making is about the past but also the future, in creating opportunities, built or not built, for communities to continue to express themselves and their relationships with the land.
We will always have change. Sometimes change occurs so fast places of significance have been lost and people's relationship with the land broken. Cook's Landing, a National Historic Reserve, is a prime example of this. Through reclamation the original shoreline no longer exists. This site is also believed to be the landing place of the Horouta and Te Ikaroa-a-Rauru waka (canoes), which carried Māori settlers to the district around 1350AD.
A key challenge for us as designers is the facilitation and creation of places that are true to their site, context and communities. How do we maintain and strengthen our identity in our ever-changing social and physical environments?
The range of projects, places and people that we engaged with over the two days clearly reveal there is more than one response to place and place making and that there is no 'right' response. The overriding contributors to the success of these projects were collaboration and relationships.
Here are my impressions:
Day one we visited Orongo / Nick's Head Station and Rhythm and Vines, Waiohika.
Both are extremely successful, supported by collaboration and strong relationships, yet both completely different. At Orongo / Nick's Head Station (Young Nick's Head - Te Kuri a Paoa) we explored the site with Thomas Waltz and Breck Gastinger of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects and Kim Dodgshun, Farm Manager. The project integrates agriculture, horticulture, ecology and cultural interpretation. Some of the design moves are so subtle many may not recognise them. Each of these subtle moves make a significant difference to how the site and its surrounds are experienced and understood. The qualities of this special lace and the people connected to this place have been uncovered and celebrated while working with and supporting the functions of a working farm. The result is beautiful - a designed response.
Rhythm and Vines, another unique place, grew from a great idea, a lot of hard work and again collaboration and the bringing together of people to share the vision. It has resulted in a landscape, which has changed organically over time to cater for an event which started with around 2000 people and now caters for 20,000. Not only the music but also the place itself have made this a special event that people return; it has grown and changed and will continue to do so as the landscape will need to change to meet new challenges. The organic growth and change, the less designed and controlled, is what work's to create a unique experience for the people who come and stay over the festival period - an organic response.
Day two we visited Long bush Ecosanctuary and sites of the Tairawhiti Navigations Project.
Long bush Ecosanctuary is a personal vision of Dame Anne Salmond and Jeremy Salmond, now shared and enlarged through a network of collaborators, Sarosh Mulla, Janine Te Reo, Megan Wraight and Steve Sawyer to mention a few. One of the aspiring parts of this visit was listening to Sarosh Mulla describe The Welcome Shelter, not just the intriguing design, a series of structures to form an outdoor classroom but the evolution and continuing stories of a grass roots approach where Sarosh has bought together a significant number of sponsors and volunteers who together have made this project a reality- from a zero budget to an existing place. This is a non-traditional approach and at the same time a very old approach.
The Tairawhiti Navigations Project is an exciting and challenging opportunity to share past stories and commemorate a shared history through interventions in the city landscape. A wonderful part of this field trip was listening to the voices and watching the expressions of Richard Brooking and Joe Martin as they described past events from different cultural perspectives, hearing and visualising them as one shared history. Physical aspects of this history have long been removed; reclamation has removed coastlines, dredging and channel modifications have removed historic meeting places. A challenge for many of us is how do we represent these past stories in a manner that isn't 'tokenism' but is both authentic and engaging, encouraging debate and discussion leading to new stories and histories, thereby adding richness to our communities - a narrative, storytelling approach.
April 9, 2014