As one of the least dense cities in the world, Brisbane has seen a concerted effort towards intensification of the urban fabric to condense the population and handle rapid growth. With globalized, homogenous design and a lack of attention to community, culture, and local diversity, the city and others like it are becoming ‘worldified’ and indistinct in their urban character. Through a new process of experiential cognitive mapping, the designer can broaden their perspective and gain an understanding of the landscape through the eyes of the community and synthesize the valuable latent heterogeneous character of the urban fabric. With a full empathetic understanding of the shape and depth of landscape we can define and preserve the valuable existing character of Brisbane and meet the new cultural, needs of the quickly growing population.
The implications of rapid growth and globalized homogeneity can vary widely due to the scale and amount of people who are and will be affected in the city. To my mind, so much change has already happened within Brisbane, much of it contentious and yet the city moves on and communities adapt. Whether it be the now very normalised powerlines and infrastructure, loss of ecologically valuable green space, the complete domination of the streetscape by vehicles or even just the juxtaposing visual effect of larger buildings, change has happened and will continue to do so.
My vision is for a process that creates empathy for landscape, in order to understand the context of past and present. All this should be done with the mindset that people and their landscape identity can be changed and had been changed. By understanding the broken parts of the urban fabric fully and with an empathetic perspective, we can begin to stitch together a new urban character amalgam out of the disparate pieces. Not only is this landscape amalgam valuable, its heterogeneity can be used as cultural capital and expanded into the culturally or aesthetically low performing areas of the landscape to meet the future cultural aesthetic needs of the city and its inhabitants.
The nature of human perception creates attachments and narratives based on our experiences and point of view, often ignorant of context outside that view and the context of our lives. As a result, the established landscape becomes deeply personal and wrapped up in our personal identity but is also limited in scope creating a ‘landscape identity’ which we often share with a community of the same views. With homogeneity of culture and demographics the landscape identity is weakened as it lacks perspective and empathy for those outside of its definitions of landscape.
In order to combat this, perspective must be widened and conceptual boundaries should be broken down to allow for a full understanding of landscape. With the use of an empathetic lens and systems of mindful mapping we can experience the landscape differently, improve our sense of place, understanding of the attachment to it and finally shape our own narrative identity.
The output of this process and the experiences found therein can allow the designer, in this case myself, to widen their landscape identity to improve their understanding of the landscape and become far more mindful of its culture, character and fine details that might be missed. This allows for a stronger context of place for design, construction and community outreach.
Psychogeography is rooted in writing, poetry and art that seeks to reject the habitualisation of the urban context and it’s hard lines and systems to challenge established, systemic perceptions. Using the broad roots of psychogeography in my process, I created a work flow of:
1. INPUT – The lens with which to view the landscape
2. TYPE – The form of movement through the urban environment
3. REPRESENTATION – What art style and form the data collected is represented by
I followed 4 versions within my report with a high level of variance in these three factors as well as the empathetic perspectives they gave me, the designer. All versions of my process include a walk through the city (recorded for time and direction) photographs to collect the data, and a stream of consciousness style diary to include thoughts directly as they come to preserve the perspective and mindfulness that comes with the process.
Old and new, falling apart or pristine, if we can have a vernacular in less than 100 years this is it.
It’s not perfect but it reminds me of home and so is part of the sense of place.STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Drudging in the rain, walkers look downcast but the subtropical landscape shines.
The amount of green and intercostal space between the building is even more striking when it rains. Feels like it’s holding together the neighborhood.STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
The powerlines are one of the only consistent forms throughout the landscape as if they string up and hold together the urban fabric.
The character here may not be what everyone wants but at least it’s something unique in the context of Brisbane.Stream of consciousness
With the limits of a student project, the number of interviews, experiential perspectives and applicable outcomes is limited. However
with a strong process, this framework can be applied to other landscape to define character by broadening perspectives and in that sense. This is an example outcome of the process from a smaller data set and mapped with a single, original but empathetic and now broadened perspective.
With the caveat of implied subjectivity, I am happy to say both the output of mapping and the process of data collection have significantly increased my depth of landscape perspective dispelled some ignorance. I believe this variation in perspective is key; from a looking at the landscape through a mindful or forensic lens to hearing the direct perspectives of other who live here, there is the potential to learn much from our fractured landscape if one can have empathy and patience for it.
Christopher is a British-Australian born in Brisbane with a passion for the aesthetics, culture and community of urban landscapes. While rooted in both construction and art growing up, his further passions for science and psychology made a career in design a natural choice, allowing for a focus on how design experiences make us feel.